Many Super Bowl enthusiasts take their game-day spread very seriously, but web editor Brett McNally takes his meal planning to the next level. Every year, he designs a menu based on dishes and foods with a connection to the two cities of the teams playing in the Super Bowl. “I love watching football, and it’s an excuse to cook a big meal for the family since we are all together,” he says. “I enjoy creating traditions with the family in fun and unique ways.” A self-proclaimed picky eater, McNally cooks for the family regularly, and often tries to get his 11-year-old and 15-year-old involved. “Super Bowl gets me out of my comfort zone and creating new dishes I’ve never tried before.”
The tradition started off small in 2012. “I originally began because it was a good way to set up a competition using the food and not having the same traditional game-day foods,” says the Waterdown resident. “I thought of the idea when the New York Giants played New England, so it was New York strip loin versus New England clam chowder.” New England has made it to the big game several times since, but the clam chowder has been banned from any future menus: “My family has asked to never have clam chowder again: there was a run where we ate that a couple times and it isn’t a fan favourite.” McNally enjoyed trying to predict who would win the game based on which food was better. “I went with the Giants that year because I’m not a fan of clam chowder!”
His kids love the tradition and ask every year what he’s making — and they’ve even started to cheer for teams they know have good food to make the Super Bowl. McNally usually makes most of the food from scratch. Some cities and meals, however, have ingredients that are harder to find than others. When Denver made the Super Bowl, for example, he had a tough time finding bison. A local game-meat shop came through with some frozen options, thankfully.
Over the past decade, he’s gathered a pretty good list of teams and cities and potential food options. “Most of the research is done online and a few friends provide input. I search for foods that originated in the city or have a connection to that city. Sometimes I go by the state if I’m not finding a lot that appeals to me,” he says. “It’s fun to tell my kids about the facts and get them interested in the history of the different cities.” Some of the more memorable things he’s served include Rocky Mountain oysters (bull testicles) for Denver, and Popsicles for Los Angeles (the frozen treat was invented in California).
His personal favourite was the spread he whipped up in 2019. New England was represented by Samuel Adams beer, a clam bake, fluffernutter sandwiches (peanut butter and marshmallow fluff), Toll House chocolate chip cookies and Cape Cod potato chips, while Los Angeles options included a French dip and hot fudge sundae for dessert, accompanied by California white wine, Shirley Temples and Orange Julius. “It was a lot of work and (our kids) had two hockey ice times that day. It’s tough to cook that many components to the meal and have it all ready at the same time, and adding other family responsibilities into it makes it even more difficult,” he says. But it was a total touchdown: “My kids loved the fluffernutter sandwich and loved how many desserts we had. They also don’t mind the lack of vegetables!”
He’s hopeful that sometime he’ll be able to design a meal for his favourite team, the Detroit Lions: “Not sure when that will happen, but I hope one day to get to eat Better Made chips, Detroit-style pizza, a Boston cooler [ginger ale and vanilla ice cream float] and Faygo pop.”
McNally’s tradition has become a bit of a thing in his community: every year, people ask what he’s making and want to see pictures, and they message if he hasn’t shared the meal by kickoff. “Everyone says it looks delicious. But the real feedback comes from my family. They love having a big meal that’s created just for them and are so excited trying food from different cities,” he says.
Despite many requests for invites, the guest list remains exclusive: family only. “This meal brings us together as a family because it’s something special just for us. They see the joy it brings me creating the meal and know I’ll do my best to get them to try something new they will like. We have a rule that everyone needs to try everything on the menu even if they don’t like it,” he says. “I like how it’s just our family and it’s something special we do.”
Here’s a sneak peek at McNally’s Super Bowl menu this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City-style ribs (the city has its own distinct style of sticky, sweet sauce)
McDonald’s Happy Meal (from roots in a Guatemala franchise, the first branded “Happy Meal” was rolled out in Kansas City in 1979)
Russell Stover chocolates (its first factory opened in there in 1928 and all company operations have been in the city since 1932)
Kansas City ice water (a vodka, gin and citrus drink)
Cheesesteak (Pat and Harry Olivieri created it in 1930s Philadelphia)
Herr’s chips (based in Nottingham Pennsylvania)
Philly soft pretzel (legend has it the soft pretzel originated here)
Hires root beer (introduced here in 1876)
Breyers ice cream (founded in 1866 by William A. Breyer, who made and served his hand-cranked ice cream, delivering via horse-drawn wagon)
Kansas City-Style Ribs
1 rack of pork back ribs
5 cups of oak or hickory wood chips (soaked in water)
Kansas City-style BBQ sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp chili pepper (more if you like heat)
1.) Remove membrane and any excess fat from ribs
2.) Spread rub evenly across all parts of ribs, starting with back
3.) Let rest in refrigerator for 1 hour
4.) Prepare wood chips by soaking in water for 1 hour
5.) Cut 5 sheets of aluminum foil, approximately 10 cm wide
6.) Place approximately 1 cup of wood chips on each sheet, wrapping completely
7.) Place holes in the top of each aluminum foil package
8.) Place 1 or 2 aluminum foil packages directly on one burner, then place grill back on top
9.) Preheat BBQ (using only one burner) to 225 degrees
10.) Place ribs bone side down on side of BBQ furthest from the burner, or the top rack
11.) Cook the ribs for 4 to 5 hours, replacing wood chip packages as necessary every 2 hours
12.) Ribs are done when they are pulling away from the bone
13.) In last hour of cooking, baste ribs with Kansas City-style BBQ sauce every 15 minutes
14.) Remove from grill, let rest for 15 minutes
15.) Cut and enjoy
1 rib eye steak, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp each sea salt and ground pepper or to taste
1 tsp (15 ml) oil
8 slices provolone cheese
chopped peppers and onions if desired (1 medium size each)
4 hoagie rolls
2 tsp butter
1.) Preheat pan over medium heat.
2.) Slice hoagie rolls and butter each side.
3.) Toast rolls on pan, butter side down, until golden brown.
4.) Remove rolls from pan.
5.) Add 1 tsp oil to pan.
6.) Sauté onions and peppers if desired.
7.) Remove peppers and onions from pan.
8.) Add 1/2 tsp butter to pan.
9.) Spread steak evenly across pan and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes then flip.
10.) Season with salt and pepper.
11.) Sauté steak until done, add peppers and onions if desired back into pan, spreading evenly.
12.) Divide into 4 portions and top with 2 slices of provolone cheese then turn off heat.
13.) Let cheese melt cheese over steak, then remove with spatula and add to toasted buns.
14.) Serve warm.
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