The Seven Snackurai: A Gameday Special

An epic-sized Super Bowl Food edition of the Friday newsletter awaits you.

In Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 epic Seven Samurai, a group of farmers is beset by villainous invaders — bandits who plan to raid their small village and loot their crops after the harvest. The farmers, overhearing the plan before it gets underway, enlist the services of seven mercenary samurai to protect them from this evil. It’s one of the most celebrated — and imitated — stories in cinematic history.

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You, dear reader, also face down a looming evil.

This weekend, the bloated spectacle of the NFL’s championship game will arrive to dominate our cultural conversation. Perhaps you enjoy football! Perhaps you don’t. Either way, the lumbering beast of an event is coming take everything for itself. It will foist itself upon us, demanding not just our attention but our acquiescence. You must be prepared to defend yourself.

You must make some ridiculous food.

I can help.

Today, we’re going to assemble our own Magnificent Seven — seven highly-skilled and deadly Super Sunday snack foods that will help you survive the onslaught of the game.

But what if the game’s a dud? Or, what if I don’t want to watch the game at all?

I anticipated this question. Along with these Seven Snackurai, we’ll look at seven other great things you could do with your time this weekend that have nothing to do with the Chiefs, 49ers, Bud Light, J.Lo and Shakira, or FOX’s upcoming lineup of soon-to-be-cancelled shows.

Let’s begin, why don’t we?

7A) First, let’s turn the whole thing inside-out.

There’s probably no snack more associated with Super Bowl Sunday than Buffalo wings, and with good reason — they’re delicious. They present a few logistic hassles in a party situation, however. Who need an unsightly heap of bones piling up in front of their carefully-assembled spread? And the blue cheese has run out already!

[extremely infomercial voice] There has to be a better way!

There sure is. I’ve committed a heretical act of sheer delicious innovation here, creating boneless wings filled with blue cheese.

Click here for the recipe for Inside-Out Wings.

7B) Seriously, you could just watch Seven Samurai instead of the game.

It’s three and a half hours long, just about the length of a football game, and I can guarantee you that you won’t have to see Mr. Peanut die in it. Spoiler alert, I guess.

It’s currently available for $3-4 to rent on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes and elsewhere.

6A) Oh crap now he’s messing with nachos?

I may have gone a little mad with power this week.

Building off some of the same problems we diagnosed with wings, now let’s look at my personal favorite gameday food: nachos. But first, let’s be clear. Nachos are perfect. There’s no criticizing them. It is kind of a bummer, though, when you get to the bottom and all the toppings are gone, isn’t it? No one wants a blank chip.

I’ve solved this problem the only way I know how: by putting toppings inside, too.

Click here for Stuffed-Crust Nachos, and also please consider this:

There you go. These are Chicago style nachos.

6B) The essential American rock band carries on.

I’ve been a devoted fan of the Athens, GA-based rock band Drive-By Truckers ever since I picked up a copy of their album Decoration Day back in college. They’ve gone through ups and downs, numerous lineup changes and heartaches since then, but they keep plugging ahead, telling stories of American life in a way few others can.

As the world around us has gotten angrier, so have they: their 2016 album American Band turned two decades of subtextual message into supertext, openly railing against all manner of social and political injustice.

Their latest album, The Unraveling, releases today, and it’s damn near a masterpiece. (My pre-order copy was delivered a few days early, seemingly by accident? I’ve been listening all week, and I’m not complaining.)

A heartfelt, bleak and sorrowful lament for the world we’ve created, delivered by the hardest-working band in rock and roll, it’s absolutely worth your time.

5A) Alright, those first two foods were kinda complex. Give us something dumb and easy.

You got it.

The other weekend, I had a notion. (I’ve been known to have these from time to time. You might’ve noticed.) I wanted the delicious gooeyness of mozzarella sticks, but without all the frying. Baking them would just be depressing, though, and you can’t exactly grill a mozzarella stick.

[raises eyebrow coyly] Or… can you?

Now, of course, a traditional breading would burn or fall off. We need something better.

We need pepperoni.

I really can’t stress quite how good this was.

Click here for what I’ve decided to call Blanks in a Piglet.

5B) Hey, pal, where’s that cocktail?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered here. One of the best cocktails we’ve made around these parts is Maggie Hoffman’s Garden Collins, a perfect summertime mix of pisco, ripe cantaloupe, red bell pepper, lime juice and smoked salt. I loved it. I miss it. I miss summer, but I know well enough that a drink like that wouldn’t be the same with out-of-season produce.

But I could take the same structure and apply it to something for the indoor months. Something with the flavors of a beloved take-out dish.

Behold: The Sweet and Sour Manhattan.

Here’s what’s involved:

  • 2 ounces bourbon

  • 1 ounce pineapple juice. Want to step it up? I grilled a big chunk of pineapple (about 1/3 of a whole pineapple), then juiced it. Got some nice charred, smoky sweetness going.

  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth

  • 3/4 ounce green bell pepper syrup (made by running one large pepper through the food processor, straining out the juice, and mixing 2 oz of that juice with 1/4 cup sugar)

  • 2 drops soy sauce, very carefully added so as not to overdo it

Shake with ice, double-strain, and serve up with a pineapple chunk garnish.

I will tell you this about this drink experiment: I enjoyed it quite a bit. My wife, a devoted fan of sweet and sour chicken, noted that it did in fact taste very much like that dish, but in a way that did not seem like a compliment.

To each their own, satisfaction not guaranteed.

4A: Super Bowl Sunday is for gamblers. Let’s gamble.

Have you ever seen that super-racist Facebook meme featuring a bowl of Skittles, but three of them are poison? I’m not going to share it or explain it here, because it’s super racist. But it did give me a food idea.

An absolutely underrated snack food is roasted chickpeas. They’re crunchy, easy to make, and you can put virtually any seasoning on them — sweet, salty, spicy, etc. You could even make a bunch of flavors, and put them in the same bowl! Why, you could even flavor a small, visually-indistinguishable amount of them with dried ghost peppers, mixing them in as little flavor landmines!

Click here for The Gambler’s Garbanzos.

4B: [backing away slowly] You know, maybe I’ll just read a book or something.

Hey, that’s fine.

Have you ever read Americanah?

Image result for americanah book

This expansive, engrossing novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came out in 2013 and garnered tons of acclaim, all deserved. It follows the story of Ifemelu, a young Nigerian woman who moves to the United States to attend college, intertwined with the story of her childhood classmate Obinze.

It’s being turned into an HBO miniseries by (and starring) Lupita Nyong’o this year, so it’ll be back in the public eye soon. Catch up now!

3A: YOU, just trying to make conversation: hey there’s a lot of wacky Oreo flavors these days, isn’t there? ME: HEY I HAVE AN IDEA! YOU: dear god no.

You like cheese, don’t you?

And you like bacon, right?

Well, then it’s settled.

Click here for cheddar shortbread cookies sandwiched around bacon jam, or as we’ll call them, Savory-os.

3B: The story you might not know behind a song you almost certainly do.

You’re probably familiar the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic. If you were alive in the summer of 1998, it was inescapable. Did you know that there’s more to it than just the experience of the lights coming up in a bar after last call?

“Closing Time” is a classic, but it’s about more than just last call at a bar. Dan Wilson breaks down how Semisonic made the song, and how deeply personal its meaning is to him.
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[illustration by @thatlerms]
January 15, 2020

The band’s singer-songwriter Dan Wilson joined the podcast Song Exploder recently to discuss the song’s genesis and deeper meaning. It’s really a terrific and surprisingly emotional listen.

2A: A transition from our salty foods to our sweet foods.

There’s a lot of names out there for this: Avalanche Cookies, Turtles, Peanut Clusters, etc. The basic premise is simple: cereal, peanuts, peanut butter and white chocolate, bound together by melted marshmallows. Hard to mess that up.

Hard, but not impossible.

I mean, say, what if someone were to replace the peanut butter with Thai peanut sauce? What would happen then?

Magic would happen, that’s what. Click here for Thai Peanut Sauce Clusters.

2B: Here’s a longread that went places I didn’t expect.

There’s a great piece on Atavist Magazine right now by Vanessa Veselka titled “The Fort of Young Saplings”. It starts out as a personal story of her conflicted embrace of an adopted cultural heritage, but spins into a study of early 19th-century warfare?

It’s a good long read, but it rewards you for sticking with it.

1A: Finally, dessert.

I think if you were forced to pinpoint the culinary style of these Friday newsletters, it’d be somewhere halfway between a Midwestern potluck and a Brooklyn hipster joint.

Which brings me to our dessert.

Have you ever had pretzel salad? It’s not a salad, mind you. Nothing in the Midwest is. What it is, though, is a delicious layering of pretzel crust, whipped cream/cream cheese filling, and strawberry topping. Often that topping is Jell-O based. I don’t know about you, but I’m not crazy about Jell-O, so I decided to class up the joint a little.

Here’s a pretzel salad whose strawberry topping is inspired by the signature Strawberry-Balsamic pie at Brooklyn’s much-loved pie shop Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

Click here for Strawberry-Balsamic Pretzel Salad.

1B: That’s everything, right? I didn’t forget anything?

Oh, right. [pulls giant lever labeled “DOGS”]

First, twitter user @kivbot writes in:

really enjoy the newsletter! here's my girlfriend's dog, bentley. i get to watch him while she travels. bentley is a rescue from kentucky who's pretty anxious and likes to lick everything always. sometimes he looks like tilda swinton. this was not one of those times. still love him tho

GOOD DOG. As someone who’s also pretty anxious and lives in Kentucky, I feel a kinship with this dog.

Next up, Twitter user @JoeyBagOf___ shares:

my submission for our good dog, Boomer

HI BOOMER. What a great dog.

Thanks to you both for sharing, and thanks to all of you who made it this far through today’s overstuffed selection of delights. Remember, if you’d like to share your dog with us all, you can respond to this email or DM me on Twitter. I hope you enjoy your weekend, football-filled or otherwise, and please, share the results with me if you’re so bold as to make any of these foods!

I appreciate you reading and supporting The Action Cookbook Newsletter.

Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)