Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached Super Bowl week and that means the 2021 season is nearing an end.
As football fans, we will send it out in style with a super celebration deserving of the game itself. This inaugural edition of “The Fantasy Kitchen,” will focus on the star of any good football get-together – the food.
I love to, cook and if you’ve ever met me in person, you can probably tell I love to eat. I am fortunate to have an outlet to bring these interests together.
This year brings an unexpected matchup in the big game. At least, the Cincinnati Bengals weren’t expected to be there after winning just four games last year. The Los Angeles Rams, on the other hand, made several high-profile player acquisitions, both before and during the season, to push all their chips to the center of the table. With one game left to play, their gamble is close to hitting.
Whether rooting for the favorites or the underdogs, we all want to enjoy some high-caliber snacks during the game. Lucky for you, I have a few ideas that you can do at your house to impress your friends and family with your culinary abilities.
Homemade Chicken Wings
When I think of food that goes with football, the first thing that comes to mind is chicken wings. Now, it could be because I am personally a wings enthusiast, but I believe nearly any group can come together over a pile of expertly prepared wings. They are a crowd-pleaser because of their versatility. You can serve them naked, with a dry rub, or smothered in your favorite sauce. The possibilities are endless. All right, perhaps not endless, but the point is there are a lot of possibilities.
I own a smoker, so naturally, I’m going to start my wings on the smoker. You want to smoke them at a heat low enough to allow the smoke to penetrate, but not cook the wings too rapidly. Set the smoker to 225 degrees and put the wings on for 45 minutes to 1 hour. No smoker? You can use your oven.
For the perfect, crispy wings, you should really use an air fryer. After I take the wings off the smoker, I will put them in the air fryer at 375 degrees. They will take about 5 minutes per side to crisp up. Put them in for 5 minutes and then flip them, cooking them for an additional 5 minutes. But, this is the part where you get to be the judge. If they do not look crispy enough, do not be afraid to put them in 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Raspberry Root Beer Glaze
I like my wings saucy and I generally prefer Buffalo style. But for the big game, I wanted to kick it up a notch. Always feel free to use your sauce of choice, but I want to tell you how to make a terrific raspberry root beer glaze.
I gave it a trial run this past weekend. I was not making wings, so I decided to prepare a pork tenderloin and use the glaze on that. It turned out to be delightful. I may just do that again sometime.
For the glaze, I used Henry Weinhard’s root beer. It is a nice, craft-style soda, but you can use any root beer you like, just make sure it is not diet. You’ll need 1 cup of root beer and 1/3 cup of fresh raspberries. You will combine the two in a pan over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon of ketchup and 2 tablespoons of raspberry preserves. Stir the ingredients well and cook over medium-low heat until the glaze thickens.
It is going to take around 45 minutes, so be sure you allow adequate time. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat to accelerate the process. Over higher heat, you will run the risk of scorching your glaze, and then it will be useless. Avoid that at all costs. Remove the glaze from the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
When the wings are ready, brush the glaze onto them while they are still hot. It will be a little sticky so extra napkins and wet wipes are a must.
Now, I did promise to help you impress your friends and family. If they have not been impressed by the perfect wings or the root beer glaze, I have one more trick for you to try – empanadas.
No more pigs in a blanket of little smokies in a crockpot. We are stepping it up. You can do this with refrigerator crescent rolls. If you go that route, be sure to leave the crescent rolls in the fridge until it is time to form the empanadas. If the rolls get warm, they are much harder to properly separate and you will end up with a mess.
Once you have separated the triangles, you can roll them out with a rolling pin to make them slightly larger (and slightly thinner.) My wife’s critique was that the crescent roll empanadas had a high bread to filling ratio, so this is a good way to combat this.
Use store-bought pie crust if you want that flaky empanada crust. If using a pie crust, you will need to cut it. You can use a cookie cutter or a knife. It does not matter what shape you cut the crust into, but you will want it to be about 4 inches from side to side. I cut the pie crust into circles approximately 4 inches in diameter. Then I put a scoop of the filling (approximately 1/4 cup) on top of one pie crust circle and top it with another.
You can press the edges together with your fingers and use a fork to make them look like crimped edges. Once you have made them empanadas, bake them in the oven at 425 degrees for approximately 13 minutes or until golden brown.
At this point, you might be wondering what is in the empanadas. Well, that is the best part. It can be anything you want. You can use taco meat, barbecue chicken, sloppy Joe or just about anything. To get you started, I will share my simple beef filling.
Empanada Beef Filling
For this, you will need 1 small, diced onion, 1 lb of group beef, 1/2 cup of frozen peas, one teaspoon of dried thyme, and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano. Grab a frying pan and put it over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of your favorite cooking oil and add the beef to the pan. When the beef is browned slightly, add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add oregano and thyme.
Now you will need 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour. Toss that butter right into the beef mixture and let it melt, then add the flour and cook for about two-three minutes, stirring frequently. Add 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 beef stock (you could also use water.) Add the peas and cook until the liquid is absorbed and you have a bit of a gravy for your filling. That’s it. Pretty easy, right?
Now that you are prepared for your Super Bowl eats, let’s get to the game itself.
Super Bowl Fantasy Football Implications
With a Rams team built to win and an overachieving Bengals squad, this game should be an enjoyable one to watch. Here is what I will be focusing on.
Joe Burrow (Cincinnati, QB)
Cincinnati quarterback, Joe Burrow, seems like the coolest kid at school with his confidence and swagger. His play, as of late, has been pretty fire, as well. In his last five contests, dating back to Week 16 against Baltimore, Burrow has thrown 12 touchdowns against only two interceptions. Excluding the AFC Championship, Burrow exceeded 70 percent completion rate. He has averaged 362 passing yards in those five games. In short, his stock is on the rise because he has been at his best when the stakes are highest.
Neither team has a particularly strong pass defense, in fact, they have surprisingly similar statistics to one another when it comes to attempts, completions, yards allowed, and yards per attempt. If Burrow has the time he needs, he will be more than a handful for the Rams’ defense.
Early 2022 redraft rankings have Burrow all over the place, but generally, I see him ranked between QB6 and QB10. I will do you one better. I currently have Burrow as a top-five quarterback for the 2022 season and unfortunately, you would have to pay a mint for him in dynasty right now.
Cam Akers & Sony Michel (Los Angeles Rams, RBs)
The Rams have been through a lot trying to piece together a running game this season. After Cam Akers tore his Achilles tendon in July, the team traded for Sony Michel ahead of preseason Week 3. Darrell Henderson spent much of the year as the starter despite missing some time with injury and COVID-19, before being placed on Injured Reserve (IR) at the end of December.
Now, Akers has impressively returned well ahead of schedule and Michel has been productive in his usage, giving the Rams two capable backs for Sunday. Michel has averaged 4.1 Yards Per Carry (YPC) and scored five touchdowns on the season, yet his workload has been cut significantly since Akers returned.
Akers has carried the ball 54 times during the playoffs and is averaging just over 50 yards per game. Expect a two-headed monster in the backfield, with no tells because the Rams run the same plays regardless of which running back is on the field.
Akers may stand to be a bargain in redraft leagues in 2022. Exploring early rankings, many fantasy pundits have him outside their top-12 for running backs. I have a hard time putting ten different backs in front of him. If you can draft a potential top-12 back at below RB12 prices, you are getting a fine deal.
Michel, on the other hand, has a wealth of possibilities for next year. As an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), we will first want to see his landing spot before projecting his 2022 output. But for example, I would prefer Michel in a place like Atlanta or Houston a lot more than in a backfield already shared by Akers and Henderson.
My motto in the kitchen is “have fun.” For me, it is easy to keep. I sure hope you have fun in your kitchen preparing goodies for all your friends to eat. Oh, and if you have time, enjoy the game, as well.
Find me on Twitter @DaveFantasy for more life and fantasy sports content.