For Super Bowl fare, fly to the 'Floribbean'

By , Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

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.

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.

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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
Grilled Churrasco Steak With Chimichurri Verde

• 1 recipe Chimichurri Verde, (recipe above)
Two 1-pound skirt steaks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare the Chimichurri Verde, and then pour 2/3 cup of it into a resealable plastic bag with the skirt steaks. Reserve the rest of the sauce to offer at the table. Refrigerate for an hour or so.

When ready to make the steaks, prepare a hot grill.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and allow most of the oil to drip off to avoid too much flare-up from the grill. Now quickly grill to desired doneness. (Because they are thin and have been marinated, they cook very fast.) Says Chef Norman Van Aken, "I prefer no more than medium rare. Due to the slightly different thicknesses some parts will be medium so it's not hard to satisfy various requests from your guests."

Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with the reserved Chimichurri Verde on the side. Serves 4.

– from Norman Van Aken

Miami Wings

"Buffalo has nothing on Miami when it comes to savory chicken wings," says cookbook author Steven Raichlen.

2 pounds chicken wings, washed, blotted dry, and separated at the joints (discard tips)

For the marinade:

• 1 cup of your favorite hot sauce (Raichlen favors Dat'l Do-It Hot Sauce or Devil Drops, both made with Florida's datil chili peppers)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, combine marinade ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add the chicken wings and toss to coat with the marinade. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least four hours, preferably overnight. Turn the wings several times as they marinate.

Preheat a barbecue grill to very hot or preheat oven broiler with broiler tray 3 inches from heat.

Grill or broil marinated wings until golden brown and cooked, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serves 4 to 6.

– From 'Miami Spice' by Steven Raichlen

Chipotle Barbecue Ribs (crockpot style)

2 (3 to 4 pounds apiece) slabs of pork spareribs
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large onion (sliced)
Chipotle powder or puréed chipotle peppers
1 bottle of barbecue sauce

Cut ribs into serving portions (usually, two ribs). Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Place ribs on a broiler pan and broil for 10 to 12 minutes on each side or until browned. Drain as needed.

Place sliced onion in a layer in the crockpot. Mix chiplotle and barbecue sauce together. Place rib sections on top of onions. Pour a little barbecue sauce mixture over each section as you place it in the crockpot. Pour the rest of the bottle over the top.

Cover and cook on low for about eight hours.

– From Carlos Velez, owner of Taste Catering, Miami

Grilled Churrasco with Mango Nectarine Salsa

6 pounds of skirt steak (churrasco)
Salt and pepper
Garlic (minced), to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

Coat the steak with the salt, pepper, minced garlic, and olive oil. Cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, lay the steaks on a hot open-flame grill and cook to desired doneness. Serves 16.

Mango and Nectarine Salsa

1 cup diced mango
1 cup diced nectarines
1/2 cup diced red and yellow peppers
• 1 jalapeno, minced

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of raisins (optional)
1-1/2 ounces red onion, minced
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 basil leaves, chopped
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup V8 juice

Mix all ingredients and chill for at least two hours. Top the grilled skirt steak with the salsa.

– From Carlos Velez, owner of Taste Catering, Miami

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