Skip the New England clam chowder and Philly cheesesteaks and pay homage to the host state of Minnesota with these Super Bowl-worthy snacks.

Beer-Battered Deep-Fried Cheese Curds. Photo © David Paul Schmit, excerpted from Dishing Up® Minnesota.

We know it hurts for Minnesota fans, but the Vikings are out. Minneapolis is bracing for this weekend’s onslaught of fans of the Patriots and the Eagles (the team that inflicted the final blow for the Super Bowl host city’s home team). That’s worth at least a few extra grains of salt in the wound.

But there’s solace and even a hearty serving of regional pride to be found in food. And while you could serve up clam chowder or cheese steaks at your Super Bowl gathering, there’s plenty of snack food fodder to be found in the vibrant and varied food scene of the Super Bowl host state, right? You betcha!

In Dishing Up® Minnesota, author Teresa Marrone describes the state’s cuisine as one “with divergent influences” ranging from native Dakota and Ojibwe tribes to Scandinavian and German immigrants from the 1800s and newer arrivals from Southeast Asia and Somalia. Minnesota’s food scene is, she writes “a study in opposites: traditional and contemporary, rustic and elegant, country and city. These threads are woven into whole cloth, however, by the bounty of top-notch local ingredients that appear in the best of each culture’s dishes.”

Thai Peanut-Caramel Popcorn. Photo © David Paul Schmit, excerpted from Dishing Up® Minnesota.

In other words, to get a true taste of Minnesota means being open to foods as numerous as the lakes that dot the landscape. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Vikings fan or even a football fan to take your taste buds on a trip to the North Star State. Whether you’re hunkering in for a good wallow, or hosting a crowd hungry for good food and a good game, here are a few tempting snacks that have some of the countless flavors that come from Minnesota’s unique mix of global cultures and agriculture ‚ including new twists on traditional favorites, from Thai Peanut-Caramel Popcorn to hummus made from navy beans (a staple crop of Minnesota’s Red River Valley) to a nacho-style riff on hotdish. No matter which team you’re rooting (or mourning) for, these bites are bound to be winners on a cold Sunday in February.

Totchos (Tater Tot Nachos)

Here’s another way for Minnesotans to indulge their love of tater tots. In this dish, crisp tots replace tortilla chips for a popular dish that would be equally at home dished up from a food truck, from a stand at the State Fair, or in your backyard. A guilty, messy pleasure! For additional heat, also add a few pickled jalapeño rings to each serving.

Makes 4 or 5 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef, preferably grass-fed
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ½ cup diced red or green bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon top-quality chili powder blend
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1¼ cups chicken broth, beef broth, or water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1¼ pounds (6–7 cups) frozen tater tots, preferably extra crispy
  • 2 cups shredded crisp lettuce, such as iceberg
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1½ cups shredded Colby-Jack or cheddar cheese
  • 2–3 radishes, thinly sliced, optional
  • 2–3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • Sour cream, for serving
  • Prepared guacamole, for serving
  • Bottled hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot, Cholula, or Tapatío, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F, or as directed on the tater tot package.
  2. Cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently to break it up, until the meat is no longer pink, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Spoon off excess grease. Add the chili powder, oregano, and cumin, and continue cooking, stirring until the spices are fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Stir in the broth and tomato paste. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the tater tots.
  3. Bake the tater tots in the oven as directed on the package. Meanwhile, check on the consistency of the ground beef mixture. It should be moist and slightly saucy, but not soupy. If necessary, increase the heat slightly to reduce the liquid.
  4. When the tater tots are golden brown and crisp, divide them among soup plates or wide, shallow bowls. Spoon the ground beef mixture evenly over the tots. Top evenly with the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, radishes (if desired), and scallions, in that order. Scatter some cilantro leaves over each serving. Dollop a scoop of sour cream and guacamole on one side of each portion, or serve the sour cream and guacamole on the side so each diner can add as much as desired. Have bottles of hot sauce available so each diner can add to taste; it’s nice to have more than one kind of hot sauce to cater to different preferences.

Beer-Battered Deep-Fried Cheese Curds

Wisconsin is better known for cheese production than Minnesota, but some curds are made in Minnesota — and we can also lay claim to very famous deep-fried cheese curds served at the Minnesota State Fair. Fresh cheese curds squeak when eaten. Curds lose their freshness (and their squeakiness) within a day or two, but they can still be used for deep frying, although squeaky curds are better. Choose good-size curds for deep frying, separating any that may have clumped together.

Makes 6–8 appetizer servings

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces cheese curds, room temperature
  • 1½ tablespoons cornmeal
  • ¼–½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup beer
  • A few drops of hot pepper sauce

Directions

  1. Begin heating the oil in a deep fryer according to the fryer directions; it needs to be at 375°F when you start cooking. Line a plate with paper towels. Place ¼ cup of the flour in a plastic bag. Add the cheese curds and shake to coat. Transfer the floured curds to a plate. Whisk the remaining ½ cup flour, the cornmeal, garlic powder, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the beer and hot pepper sauce.
  2. When the oil reaches 375°F, dip three or four floured cheese curds into the batter. Lift them out with chopsticks or tongs and let excess batter drip back into the bowl. Drop the curds, one at a time, into the oil. Cook for 1 to 1½ minutes, until golden-brown; use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer the curds to the paper towel-lined plate. (Near the end of the frying time for each batch, if you see any pinholes developing in the crust of any of the curds, remove all the curds immediately or they may start leaking cheese.)
  3. Continue battering and the frying the curds a few at a time; if the oil temperature drops, let it heat again to 375°F before adding more curds. Ideally, the curds should be eaten within minutes of coming out of the fryer, so you may want to serve them in small batches as you continue to fry the remaining curds. Save the last two batches for yourself!

Navy Bean Hummus with Olive Garnish

Who do chickpeas get all the love when it comes to making hummus? Navy beans, grown in the Red River Valley that straddles the Minnesota–North Dakota border, can also be used to make a very tasty hummus. This version is dolled up with a chopped olive mixture.

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 7 cups water
  • 1¼ teaspoons coarse kosher salt, or as needed
  • ¾ cup pitted olives, preferably a mix of black and green
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped roasted red bell pepper (purchased or homemade)
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or as needed
  • Sweet or smoked paprika, for garnish
  • Fresh vegetables, such as carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, and cauliflower florets, for serving
  • Toasted pita bread quarters, for serving

Directions

  1. Combine the beans and 2½ cups of the water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the beans and return to the saucepan. Add the remaining 4½ cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the water simmers and cook until the beans can be bitten through but are not quite tender; this will take from 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the age of the beans. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt and continue cooking until the beans are tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking water. Let the drained beans stand until cool.
  2. Chop the olives very coarsely in a food processor. Add the roasted bell pepper and oregano. Pulse a few times until the mixture is an even, medium-coarse texture. Scrape into a small bowl, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Wipe the food processor bowl and blade with paper towels.
  3. With the food processor running, drop the garlic through the feed tube and process until the garlic is minced. Add the cooked beans, tahini, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, remaining ¾ teaspoon salt, and the black pepper. Process until finely chopped. With the machine running, add some of the reserved cooking water as needed until the mixture is smooth and creamy; try using about 2 tablespoons to start. When the mixture is smooth, taste for seasoning, and add additional salt, black pepper, and/or lemon juice as needed.
  4. Spoon the bean mixture into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with paprika. Make a well in the center and fill with the olive mixture. Serve cold or at room temperature with fresh vegetables and pita for dipping.

Recipes excerpted from Dishing Up® Minnesota © 2016 by Teresa Marrone. All rights reserved.

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Dishing Up® Minnesota

by Teresa Marrone

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