Thousands of football fans will be flying in to the Big Easy for game day, amped on the impending gridiron match. But amid all the face painting and tailgating, they might not realize that they are visiting a culinary hotbed that's positioned itself as one of the most exciting places to eat and drink in the country.
Leading the charge is James Beard Award-winning chef Donald Link, a Louisiana native who champions the historic culinary culture of the area at his restaurants Cochon and Herbsaint. Link was tasked with creating the official menu for Super Bowl XLVII, which will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3.
For him and many other local chefs, the Super Bowl is the perfect time to showcase what New Orleans cooking is all about, which is why the menu includes local specialties like alligator chili, barbecue shrimp and grits, chicken and sausage gumbo, crawfish pies, po’ boys and Link’s sauce piquant. These dishes will be available to anyone in the stadium – not just those in premium seating.
“As a chef I love that we get to show off our city, our food, and our culture to the world,” Link told TODAY.com.
And rightfully so. The same vibrancy that fuels the city's jazz scene and its wild Mardi Gras celebrations can be found in its cuisine. A perfect example of that is sauce piquant, a spicy stewed dish with well-developed flavors – and it happens to make great game day fare.
There are other traditional New Orleans dishes you can whip up for your spread too, like po' boys, mufulletta sandwiches or jambalaya. Heck, you could even try your hand at making beignets – just don't expect them to come out like Cafe du Monde's on the first try.
“My mom made gumbo every Super Bowl and I carry on that tradition with my family and friends,” said Link. “I do a seafood gumbo with potato salad on the side.”
But we suggest kicking your game day grub with this recipe for chicken sauce piquant, adapted from Link's cookbook, “Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana.”
Here's how it's done:
Chicken sauce piquant
- 1 3 ½ pound chicken, deboned and cut into 1 inch pieces.
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 small poblano diced
- 3 stalks celery diced
- 5 medium roma tomatoes diced
- 2 cups canned tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 5 cups chicken stock
- ¾ cup vegetable oil or lard
- 1 cup flour
- 4 dashes hot sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
Toss chicken in spices, evenly coating the spice all over chicken with your hands. Wash your hands.
In wide bottom pot or Dutch oven Heat oil until begins to smoke slightly. While your waiting for the oil to get hot coat the chicken with the flour. Use a large mixing bowl and toss the chicken with your hands to make sure it all gets coated well. Shake all the excess flour off the chicken and pan fry over medium heat. Be sure to reserve the left over flour. When chicken has reached the desired color remove it from the pan with a slotted spatula leaving the oil in the pan. Most likely you will have to do this in two batches. We don’t want to crowd the pan with the chicken or it will not get the right color. The chicken should be side by side and not on top of each other.
Once all the chicken is out add the remaining flour and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes to make a nice medium brown roux.
Add onions, peppers, garlic, and celery and cook 5 minutes more. At this point add the tomatoes, chicken, dried thyme, bay leaves, stock, and hot sauce.
Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Serve over rice with fresh cut scallions.
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