TV personality, cook, and author Adam Richman has wolfed down a 7-pound burrito, violently spicy suicide wings, and a towering 12-patty cheeseburger on the hit Travel Channel show “Man v Food,” which he hosted from 2008 to 2012.
But Richman has posed as more than a glutton for our entertainment before that time and since then. And our football parties can benefit.The Brooklyn-born graduate of Emory University and the Yale School of Drama possesses the skills, talent, and charm that enabled to do other projects since then — such as NBC’s food competition show “Food Fighters” in 2014. Richman has authored America the Edible by Rodale Publishing in 2011, and Straight-Up Tasty by Clarkson Potter in 2015.
From this last book of Richman’s, we pulled two recipes that will make your tastebuds cheer as you watch the game with your friends and family this football season. But you need more in your game plan than those two decadent dishes. Passionate about food and entertaining in his personal life as well as professional career, it’s no surprise Richman is expert enough to give us a bunch of winning pointers to up our party-hosting game.
Remember, it’s not just about the food (or the game! Yes, we said it). When people come your home to watch a football game, it’s a gathering at the end of the day, he says. “You can’t lose sight that while it may not be a hearth — it’s a flickering box with a bunch of guys smashing each other on the grid iron — you still have to be the hostess with the mostess,” Richman says.
1. Know your crowd.
Plan according to the vibe you expect. You could have a crowd of calm, civilized, married couples or a bunch of jersey-clad bros, pacing, betting and talking smack.
For the calm crowd, you can have a potluck-buffet-style table so guests can go in the kitchen to fill their plates. But you still should have something for snacking in front of the TV. You can do a little more food that requires a fork and knife, or save that for half time. “You can ask more from your viewing experience than most people do,” Richman says, who once brought his grandma’s sweet and sour meatballs to a football-focused potluck. Pasta salad is another good idea.
For the rowdy crowd, focus more on finger food and communal dishes. Use disposable plates, utensils, and plastic table cloths. Set out an additional trash can within arm’s reach of the coffee table and couch. “People are more protective of their seat when they watch the Super Bowl,” so they’ll be more reluctant to leave their viewing spot, Richman says. “I’ve seen a friend demonstrate a tackle while holding wings with a dollop of blue cheese dip.” With that in mind, have easy-to-eat dishes for the guys who stand and pace the whole time, as well food for the guys who sit and relax and socialize during the game.
2. Make everything obvious and easy to eat.
Put everything out, including your disposable utensils nestled in Solo cups. You can get a big sandwich loaf and pre-cut the slices, marking them with toothpicks. But remember to make a big sign that says “Remove toothpicks.” It’s not as obvious as you think when all your attention is zeroed in on the action onscreen. “I’ve had to tell guys that,” Richman says, laughing.
Remember, people are multi-tasking. Most people are watching the screen and gesticulating wildly while eating and drinking. “There’s something to be said for acknowledging that ahead of time,” Richman says, and creating for your guests “the ability to absentmindedly pop something in your mouth while watching television and have a flavor bomb.” If you make a pizza at home, slice the crust so people can just grab it and eat. Do that with everything.
3. Put more thought into the drink situation.
“There’s this classic idea of beer and wings, and that’s great,” he says. But do more. “I’ll mix in with the alcoholic beverages some nonalcoholic beverages so the guy who doesn’t want to drink doesn’t have to go somewhere else and feel ostracized.”
Richman recommends a cool bourbon drink in a pitcher, a peach sangria, or spiked Arnold Palmer (lemonade-tea mix). “For people who want an alcoholic option that’s not beer, they appreciate it,” he says. “Again, know your crowd. If you know guys are into craft beers, you’ll drink it from bottles, or maybe they want a case of Coronas.”
Tie in the drinks with who’s playing on the field. “It’s a chance to customize the experience to that particular game,” Richman says. If it’s Cincinnati versus ‘Nola, consider offering Fat Head beer v. Abita beer or pitcher of Hurricanes.
4. Prevent a mess with good strategy.
You need to seriously consider the logistics of the event. Be a true entertainer: Let people know where the bathroom is, what towels to use, and where the trash is. Make everything self-explanatory. If it’s snowy or wet out, have a clear, designated place for people to take their shoes off so they’re not stepping on wet stuff the whole time.
Create a specific spot to go for beverages that’s not the fridge. Use a metal tub or cooler filled with ice and beer. If you’re doing the tub or cooler in the living room, spread out a vinyl, disposable tablecloth, or lawn-leaf bag underneath to protect the floor. “When people reach in this ice thing to get a drink, they’re bound to drip, and ice shifts and melts,” Richman says. “It’s a great way to avoid spillage ahead of time and prevent people from slipping or ruining your floors.”
Use a completely separate container, lined with a bag, for ice. A red Solo cup can be the ice scoop, and “literally take a black Sharpie and write on it ‘ice scoop’ because you don’t want people digging with their hands where ever they’ve been been, scratching and all,” Richman says. Or use a kids’s sand-sculpting shovel.
You probably want to recycle the bottles and cans. Richman lines one trash can with blue liner for recycling bottles and cans. “I always make it clear this is where the bottles go,” he says. It’s important to make this bin easy to reach from the TV viewing area, because you don’t want everyone to leave empty glass bottles on the edge of the coffee table where it could break with all the commotion, kids, and pets.
Provide antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer. “I’m not above getting a Purell and putting it on the edge of the table next to the Solo cups full of silverware,” Richman says. If people are going to reach in to get chips from the communal bowl, they’re more likely to wash their hands beforehand if it’s right there.
As for the bathroom, make sure you have backup toilet tissue and provide air freshener to keep your guests from being embarrassed or compromised.
5. Elevate the classics.
A big sandwich doesn’t have to be a cold-cut submarine like you get at corporate affairs. Your massive sandwich be a salmon steak BLT. Make wings, but flavor them with lemon pepper and Champagne. “You can play with elevated flavor profiles on the most mundane dishes,” he says. Place four cheeses in your grilled cheese, make your own tortilla chips for nachos, and top your pizza with Fontina cheese, speck, arugula, and truffle oil.
If you’re doing a buffet, create pasta dishes studded with big flavor, such as sausage and shrimp. The bulk of the dish is pasta, so you can feed a crowd with less expense.
Set up a charcuterie plate, with good local bread, cheeses, and olives. “People can find the combinations they like. It’s a customizable experience,” Richman says. “You can put it out in the first quarter, and it’ll still be good hours later; the meat might sweat a bit but it won’t go bad by the fourth quarter.”
People love dips and intense, crunchy foods when they’re anxious. That’s partly why fried food works so well as sports bar fare. Cut chicken breast into tenders, bread them, fry them, and serve with honey mustard and ranch dressing.
People love spring rolls and egg rolls, but you can be even more creative, combining those with everyone’s love of Southern barbecue: Crunchy, pulled pork egg rolls with dipping sauce.
“In the winter and at these games, you want something hearty and stick-to-your-ribs,” he says. Richman made both the recipes below for his friends, and they’re included in his Straight-Up Tasty cookbook.
Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwich Dumplings
White Wonder Bread, waxy slices of American cheese, and comfort food classics don’t conjure images of sophistication, and they’re not supposed to anyway. But this technique that puts a twist on this simple American comfort meal is impressive — and still easy to do. Get our Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwich Dumplings recipe.
Baked Gouda with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Serve an “ooey-gooey melted cheese and a nice crust” with a technique that’s not hard at all, Richman says. But it produces a wow-worthy result that will have guests digging in with appreciation. The creamy Gouda with the fresh herbs and acidic bite of the sun-dried tomatoes creates a winning appetizer that can work for an elegant dinner party as well as a rowdy football-viewing afternoon. Get our Baked Gouda with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto recipe.
— Head Photo: The Adam Richman.
Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She’s trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.