By Anna Brooks Photography by Ingrid Kuenzel and Dong Kim
With Edmonton hosting this year’s Grey Cup game, sports fans have a lot to cheer for this month. And as culinary aficionados, we know the best way to enjoy any kind of sporting event is with great company, a drink or two, and of course, fantastic food.
If you’re hosting on game day, we know it might be tempting to pick up a tub of cheese dip, some tortilla chips, and call it a day. To avoid a post-game cheese coma, we asked Alberta chefs their tips and tricks for spicing up football finger food. And if you’re not into sports, don’t worry – you can just sit back and snack!
Matt Phillips, owner and head chef of Northern Chicken in Edmonton (go Eskimos!), says one crowd pleaser that’s super easy to make at home, are chicken wings. Just toss them in hot sauce and butter (if you want to get ahead of the game, you can let them marinate overnight in the fridge), and pop them in the oven.
We know veggies probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind for football food, but Phillips says you can get more creative than just putting out the obligatory plate of celery sticks and dip.
“I love roasted veggies, it’s something different from everyone else’s veggie platters,” he says. “If you do a nice one with roasted carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes, it really gives finger food that extra elevation.”
When you’re hosting a crowd of rowdy Grey Cup guests, cooking among the chaos quickly gets overwhelming. Dieter Granson, a chef instructor with ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen, says the most important thing you can do is prep ahead of time. Cutting veggies and making accompaniments like guacamole, salsa, or seven-layer dip can all be done a few days in advance to save you time in the kitchen come game day.
“The last thing you want during the Grey Cup is to be in the kitchen cooking and cleaning,” he says. “A lot of things can be made beforehand and kept in the fridge. For something like pulled pork nachos, you can slow cook your pork a couple days ahead of time, and then all you have to do day of, is pop it in the oven and it’s done.”
Cricket and soccer were the sports Chef Salar Melli of Vintage Fork, in Edmonton, grew up with, but he still knows how to whip up some tasty football finger food. He recommends steering clear of dishes that are too bulky or messy- bite-sized foods that are easy to grab are key when your eyes are glued to the big screen.
“Food shouldn’t be distracting from the sport you’re watching, but it should still be part of the experience,” he says. “Anything canapé goes well, like a shrimp cocktail, devilled eggs, or even little roasted chicken skewers.”
Football and cooking actually have more in common than you think. Both use the same recipes for success: staying organized, and planning out the big day ahead of time. And if you stick to your game plan, you can pull off a dish as tasty as the ones Executive Chef Cole Glendinning serves up at the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire Hotel’s newest restaurant, Flower & Wolf.
Cooking and entertaining are hard for even expert chefs to multitask, and Glendinning says the trick is to distract your guests. Prep a few cold snacks the day before, or serve guests something easy like popcorn with a little rock salt while you work on your hot dishes.
“I want things to be as stress free as possible when I cook at home,” he says. “If you’re hosting a party of people, mix up serving some cold foods with some hot ones so you’re not over the stove the whole time. If you have lots of snacks ready to go, you still get to interact with guests during the game.”