By Judy Hevrdejs
Before you gather around the big screen on Sunday to honor the gods of the gridiron, take a moment to ponder one of the day's great elements: The Food.
When your pals aren't screaming about the quarterback's insufficient IQ, toasting a touchdown or sobbing over some lousy incomplete pass, they will get hungry.
Let them eat burritos
Actually, let them roll their own burritos, making plays as they work their way down a field of ingredients arrayed on a table: Touchdown (use every ingredient), Pass Play (scoot by the meat, stick with veggies), Halfback Option (skip around, choose what you want in any order).
Besides, Super Bowl XLV is being fought in Texas. That makes burritos — born in the Southwest, revered in the Lone Star State, foil-wrapped in San Francisco — a good fit.
The day's key play: Keep it simple
Take it from Victor Escobedo. He and his brother Miguel run a pair of Papalote Mexican Grills in San Francisco, where burritos lean towards a Mission District style (with rice and a foil wrap).
He'd limit the lineup to tortillas, a couple salsas plus five or six ingredients — perhaps grilled chicken or steak strips, maybe pork al pastor or a chili-rich stew of chicken or pork. Then rice and beans (black or pinto) done plain.
"Just season the beans with salt and pepper," said Escobedo, who last year tackled Bobby Flay on Food Network's "Throwdown." "People may say, 'It's just salt and pepper. There's nothing exciting about it'. No, the excitement is going to come from combination of everything being put together.
"You want nothing overpowering as far as flavor and quantity," Escobedo said. "You're putting a whole bunch of things together that are ultimately going to give you one unique taste. You don't want every element to stand out too much."
Pulling a burrito together requires a big flour tortilla — say, a 12-incher, as big as an NFL football — that's pliant, stretchy and wraps easily around whatever you put in it.
Add beverages (soft drinks and beer, can or bottle) plus a sweet finish (if you like): Brownies, spiced with a pinch of cinnamon, baked in a large pan and drizzled with a caramel sauce — vanilla ice cream optional.
And a theme? Cover a large long table with a white or (better) dark green paper tablecloth. Mark out football field demarcations. Set items at 10-yard lines. Play.
How to make a burrito
Coaching from Papalote Mexican Grill's Victor Escobedo:
Wrap: Offer large flour tortillas; some corn tortillas for tacos (for those who can't eat gluten). Warm on a griddle.
Fill: With 2/3 of the rice, beans, salsa and cheese, 1/3 of the meat; using just a spoonful of each ingredient for "a decent burrito that has all the ingredients."
Roll: "Have a circle in front of you with everything in the middle. Fold 1/3 from the right in, then 1/3 from the left in. Gently smash down the filling and roll up.
Here's a "Pro" lineup to get you started:
12-inch flour tortillas, warmed
Beans, refried or whole black beans, drained, heated
Pork al pastor or pork stew (al guisado)
Sauteed chicken or steak strips
Chopped lettuce or cilantro
Salsas: Savory and sweet, medium and hot
Pork al pastor for burritos
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
Note: Adapted from "Burritos: Hot on the Trail of the Little Burrito" by David Thomsen and Derek Wilson, the al pastor produces a firm pork. For a saucier, more tender version, consider the stew version that follows.
4 dried California or New Mexico chilies, stemmed, seeded
2 dried pasilla chilies, stemmed, seeded
2 whole cloves
3/4 cup each: white vinegar, water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each: cumin, freshly ground pepper
9 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless pork loin, cut in small cubes
1. Place chilies, cloves, vinegar, water, salt, cumin and pepper in a saucepan over medium heat; simmer until chilies are very soft, about 15 minutes. Pour mixture carefully into a blender container. Add garlic; puree.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Add blended mixture; simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Place pork cubes in a non-reactive bowl. Pour blended marinade over meat. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
3. Remove meat from marinade. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add pork in batches; cook over low heat until cooked through, about 15 minutes per batch. Place in a serving bowl.
Pork stew (guisado) for burritos:
1. Prepare the chili puree as indicated.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
3. Add pork; brown, stirring, about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer pork to a plate; set aside. Add chili mixture to pan; reduce heat to simmer.
5. Cook 10 minutes.
6. Add pork cubes and 1/2 cup water.
7. Cover; simmer 2 1/2-3 hours, adding water as needed to prevent sticking.
8. Transfer meat to a serving bowl. Reserve excess sauce up to 2 days in refrigerator or 1 month in freezer; use with grilled meats or tacos.
Per serving: calories, % of calories from fat, g fat, g saturated fat, mg cholesterol, g carbohydrates, g protein, mg sodium, g fiber.