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Spectator USA
Spectator USA
10 Feb 2023
Teresa Mull

NextImg:Dips: Chef Andrew Gruel’s answer to your Super Bowl party food dilemma

Does it seem these days that everyone you know suffers from a food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance (don’t ask me to explain the difference)? It seems inevitable that eating out in a group entails someone in the party requesting a menu item be made vegan, keto, gluten-free, dairy-free, tree nut-free, sulfite-free, etc. (I usually just hope the meal itself is free).

Blame it on seed oils, soil depletion, genius marketing, the Liver King — whatever. The fact is that our toxic world makes party-planning a royal pain. How do you accommodate a bunch of people whose dietary restrictions turn menu-making into a culinary Sudoku puzzle?

Fortunately for you, The Spectator associates with a lot of cool, accomplished, clever people — one of whom is Chef Andrew Gruel. His accolades include founding two award-winning restaurant groups, appearances as a judge on the Food Network channel, featuring on dozens of acclaimed television shows and publications (this write-up is surely icing on the cake!) and authoring an amazing Twitter account (among other things, see here).

Chef Gruel is the real deal, and he offers us the following free advice for making sure your food, and not the halftime show or commercials, is all anyone is talking about on Super Bowl Monday.

TM: What do you recommend people make for their Super Bowl party this Sunday?

AG: I’m all about dips and spreads and different things to dip in those dips and spreads. That’s the easiest approach. You can cover all kinds of different dietary demands or restrictions with various items to dip and things in which to dip. The idea is, if you’re building out a huge spread — let’s say someone is gluten-free, or someone is keto, you can dip bacon, you can dip chicken wings, you can dip vegetables, you can dip breads, you can dip crackers, you can dip anything. Just lay it all out there. Create a whole different spread of dips — and that’s 80 percent of it right there.

TM: What is your favorite dip?

AG: All my cooking kind of follows a similar formula where it’s very much starting with a foundation and the fundamentals and then layering on top with your favorites. So, break it down into three different styles, perhaps, and then go from there.

I’ll do one mayo-based dip; I’ll do one that’s a lot more vegetables with olive oil and Mediterranean-style flavors; and then I’ll do one that’s more alternative — maybe heavier and creamier, cheesier, or maybe sour cream and cream cheese, or maybe I’ll do one that’s like cashew cheese and alternative dairy products.

From there, once you have your foundation, pick your flavors. If you want something cheesier, work that into your cheesy base and just add in the flairs. Artichoke and spinach dip are classics, but what I like to do is think about dishes. I think about all the dishes I would otherwise like to serve, like a BLT or a bacon cheeseburger, and then work those into the flavors of the dips. You can do a double-bacon cheeseburger dip. Just take one of those bases, like a mayo base and mix in ground beef and bacon, maybe chopped tomato, whatever else you like on your burgers, and spread that onto some toasted brioche buns, so you have this deconstructed, over-the-top burger dip.

BLT, bacon, lettuce and tomato: maybe do that one with a toss of some hot sauce and a dash of mayo, maybe, but make it chunkier and more like a bruschetta, and you can put that on a crostini, so you have a BLT dip.

If you want to go healthier with more of a caprese-style salad, try chopped arugula, tomato, mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, vinegars — that’s another great dip right there you can eat with a fork or put it on bread or toast or pita chips.

You can even do a wing dip that’s actually shredded chicken meat and mix it in with Frank’s Red Hot, so it’s a reverse buffalo-style chicken but much easier to eat — no bones, no mess.

Play with it from that perspective, work the flavors.

TM: Sounds like you don’t even have to do main entrées if you make everything into a dip.

AG: Yeah, it’s really that simple.

TM: Pizza dip, is that a thing?

AG: Oh yeah! A hundred percent. Just marinara, mozzarella, a little bit of sour cream to pull it together and fresh parmesan. You can slice some pepperoni, crumble some sausage in there. Put it in a pie dish, bake it with mozzarella on top, and then just go to the grocery store and get the typical pop-and-bake pizza crust, twist them up, put them in a tall beer glass, and you have these long pizza sticks you can dip into the pizza dip.

TM: What’s the secret to the perfect burger?

AG: It depends. But if I had to pick one thing, it’s grinding or packing your own patties. The idea is you want them to be very loosely packed, because you create more surface area and that increases the caramelization or the browning, which is the flavor in a burger. That’s why a smash burger is so good.

Get ground beef and loosely pack them, and/or grind your own meat with a Kitchenaid or food mill and make your own burgers.

In the absence of doing either of those, I promote what I call the ice cube burger, where, if you’re cooking your burger a little past medium, but you want to maintain the moisture, you can put an ice cube on top of your burger. Basically the ice steams into the burger and prevents the outside from overcooking, while the inside is still cooking. It creates an evenly cooked burger, retains a ton of moisture, so you don’t have a dry exterior and a raw interior.

TM: Do you have a “hack,” for lack of a better term, for people going to the grocery store during these crazy times that could help us save money?

AG: I don’t know if the grocery stores are going to love me saying this, but if you’re going to buy mushrooms, pull the stems off of them. Anything that’s by weight, make sure you’re just buying what you’re going to consume. So much of that gets thrown away, sadly, that if you’re ripping the stems off of say, fennel bulbs, I don’t think that’s an issue.

Also, making sure you utilize all different parts. If I were buying fennel for a salad, for instance, and I had to keep the tops, I would make a broth out of it, or a stew. Soups and stews are the best way to string out flavors and dollars.

Another hack I would say is always go to the meat and seafood counter and barter with those people. They’ve got the opportunity to throw a 50 percent off sticker on there. Ask them, ‘Hey do you have something right now that you’re going to mark off 50 percent that I can buy today?’ Nine out of ten times, they’re going to hook you up with a deal. You just have to ask.

TM: Let’s talk dessert. Do people eat dessert during the Super Bowl?

AG: Dessert is always delicious. You want to make something easy. I love just melting chocolate and doing pretzels and dip chocolate, because that’s sweet and savory. Or s’mores are always easy and fun, because you can do them right on your stovetop. Turn your burner on and there you go. You can do a s’mores dip. That’s pretty easy. Take marshmallow fluff, warm that up, drizzle some chocolate or Hershey’s syrup over it, have a bowl of graham crackers and let people make their own s’mores.

TM: What about beverages? I know that’s a very personal choice, but do you have a favorite go-to beer?

AG: I was more of a beer-drinker back in the day, but now, not as much. That’s how life works, you know. Four kids. I’m not sitting on the couch drinking beer. But for events where you want to have a drink but you don’t want to have all the extra calories, I’m a huge fan of cheap beer and a dash of lemonade. Like a Coors Light and a dash of lemonade makes sort of a shandy-style drink. That cool, crispness — something that cuts through the beer with the citrus and a little acidity is really that simple, and there is no reason to do it with a fancy beer.

TM: Final question — what advice do you have for people as far as getting everything ready for when guests arrive all at once?

AG: That’s where you go with the dips. All your stuff is in the refrigerator. Have three or four hot dips, have them lined up on a sheet pan and then just blast them in the oven before you need them for thirty minutes, and have all your crackers and breads and fresh vegetables ready. I think crudité platters are a great way to introduce new flavors into this dip game we’re talking about here, so have that all cut ahead of time. But go outside the carrots and celery, red pepper world. Get radishes in there, asparagus spears, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel as I mentioned. Vegetables you might not otherwise know what to do with, just go ahead and throw them on the platter.

Learn more about and from Chef Gruel by subscribing to his American Gravy newsletter and watching his YouTube tutorials (just don’t do it on an empty stomach!)