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For Super Bowl fare, fly to the 'Floribbean'

By Jennifer WolcottCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / January 24, 2007



Your brand-new, 42-inch, high-definition TV is good to go. You've invited a dozen or so of your closest football-fan friends. All that's left is to plan what foods you'll serve during the big game.

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And with Super Bowl XLI being played in the vibrant, tropical city of Miami, why not give your finger foods a South Florida accent?

Some of the most exotic ethnic cuisines meet in Miami, a hotbed of fusion fare. Caribbean, Latin American, and Floridian flavors dance together, sometimes in an exuberant tango on the same plate.

Who better to help navigate all those choices than Miami's best cooks, some of whom have been innovating "Floribbean" foods (also called "New World Cuisine") for decades?

One of South Florida's most celebrated chefs, Norman Van Aken, hails from Chicago and is an avid Bears fan. He has mastered the art of the stylish tailgate picnic. In a telephone interview, Mr. Van Aken offers many ideas for hosts who might want to elevate game-time grub to a more sophisticated – yet still simple – spread.

His Grilled Churrasco Steak with Chimichurri Verde isn't as difficult as it may sound, and it's sure to score with revelers.

Another of Miami's culinary stars, grilling guru Steven Raichlen, suggests taking the tailgate indoors so that party hosts can keep an eye on both grill and gridiron. His latest cookbook, "Raichlen's Indoor! Grilling" tells cooks how to bring smoke and fire into the home.

But it's his 1993 classic, "Miami Spice," that is truly bursting with enticing recipes for "Floribbean" finger foods. His various types of fritters (cod, conch, yuca, and more), Florida crab cakes, or Miami wings (chicken wings marinated in lime juice, hot sauce, and soy sauce – see recipe ) would elicit cheers from any party crowd.

Miami caterer Carlos Velez is gearing up for at least three Super Bowl parties. "Most people want to eat light, since it's so hot down here, and they also want foods unique to Miami," says the chef and owner of Taste Catering. He's keeping it casual with lots of chicken wings, burgers, and skirt steak. But each will incorporate a sauce, a salsa, or a marinade that reflects the colorful cuisine of his city.

For example, Mr. Velez will serve his steak or "churrasco," as it's called in South Florida, on small dinner rolls with a light mango-nectarine salsa.

Sonia Farrow's South Florida catering company, Dominion Catering, has already taken orders for 60 tailgate picnics and four in-home Super Bowl parties. "Everyone wants 'grazing foods,' which are easy and won't steal the host away from the game," she says.

Some of the most popular choices are plantain chips, conch fritters, Cuban pork sandwiches, coconut shrimp, quesadillas, and, of course, chicken wings. Dominion Catering is just five miles from Dolphin Stadium, so the growing excitement is palpable, says Ms. Farrow. She is even starting to get calls for catered breakfasts on game day, even though kickoff isn't until 6 p.m.

Speaking of early birds, some cooks might want to get their work done hours before the pregame hoopla begins – especially if they want to catch a glimpse of Cirque de Soleil's pregame performance. For them, Velez has just the answer: First, dust off that crockpot you received for a wedding gift. Toss in a layer of sliced onions, a couple of layers of browned pork ribs (seasoned with salt and pepper), and pour over it your favorite barbecue sauce jazzed up with chipotle powder or puréed chipotle chilies. Cook it on low, allowing flavors and juices to simmer and meld for about eight hours. At halftime, your guests will still be licking their fingers and asking for more.

With such delicious finger foods from some of Miami's champion chefs, it's enough to make you think that it doesn't really matter who clinches the championship on the field.

Well, almost.

If you can't go to the game, you can at least get a taste of Miami
Chimichurri Verde

Chimichurri verde is the marinade as well as the sauce most favored by Argentines to give zest to meats and other ingredients of the classic gaucho-style asado, or roast.

1 cup minced Italian parsley
1 cup virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons cayenne
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin, freshly toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate. Will keep for up to one month.
Grilled Churrasco Steak With Chimichurri Verde
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