Food is a quintessential piece of the football season and perhaps no one knows that better than chefs.
With the National Football League season on the horizon, we chatted with several chefs, who are also huge football fans, about their favorite game day foods at NFL stadiums and tailgates, then figured out the best way to translate those to the couch, the parking lot, or wherever you find yourself watching your team.
Fried Cheese Curds
Who: Nick Korbee, executive chef of Egg Shop, New York City
Allegiance: Green Bay Packers
Go-to food: Fried cheese curds
Hardcore Packers fans are cheeseheads and they take that to heart at Lambeau Field’s concession stands, Korbee says. He’s quick to order a plate of fried cheese curds, topped nacho-style with cheese and pickled jalapeños.
“Super unique to Wisconsin, but they’re super easy to do at home,” he elaborates. “You can find them almost anywhere, so a simple tempura batter from a box works really well in a quick fry with vegetable oil.” Top them off with plenty of salt and pickled jalapeños, then enjoy with a beer.
Korbee says if normal cheese curds aren’t available at the local store — or you simply want to time to take it up a notch — cheeses like manchego, smoked mozzarella, young gouda, or aged provolone would work.
He’s also fond of Lambeau Field’s “Horse Collar 22-inch kielbasa” topped with beer cheese and sauerkraut. “It’s way over the top, and if you don’t know what it is it probably sounds thoroughly disgusting, but I’d do it at home,” he admits.
Who: Tony Galzin, chef/owner of Nicky’s Coal Fired, Nashville
Allegiance: Chicago Bears
Go-to food: Polish sausage
Being from the South Side of Chicago, Galzin is naturally a big fan of a Polish sausage, but it has to be done the right way. “I just feel like the Maxwell Street Polish is so iconic to Chicago,” he says. “Just the preparation of it: griddled onions on the flat top, soft French roll, and usually yellow mustard, with the sausage split in half and charred, cut-side down.”
Every time he’s at Soldier Field, he makes sure to grab one. He’s also trying his best to bring that classic dish to Nashville. Galzin says its actually easy to do at home: slice the Polish sausage in half but keep it attached, putting it cut-side down on a cast iron pan over medium-low heat then slowly caramelizing it before kissing it on the other side.
As for mustard, it’s important to keep it straight yellow. “It doesn’t bring the nasal-y heat like a Dijon and it’s not sweet like a whole-grain,” he explains. “It’s more about the vinegar in the yellow mustard, that’s the biggest component. The yellow mustard has a vinegary cut through the fatty pork; that’s why it’s so complimentary and also why I don’t like ketchup — it’s so sweet. Not what you want on a Polish or even a hot dog.”
Who: Dave Anoia, chef/owner of DiAnoia’s Eatery, Pittsburgh
Allegiance: Philadelphia Eagles
Go-to food: Philly cheesesteak
Anoia says there’s nothing like a good Philly cheesesteak while watching a game, as it offers the same handheld convenience of a hot dog or burger, albeit a little messier. “But you’re jumping around, drinking beer, cheering — a little mess is OK,” Anoia adds.
Without question, Anoia takes his with cheese whiz. He says it adds both the cheese and a nice complimentary creaminess that can replace mayo. At home, Anoia encourages you to grab a ribeye, slice it as thin as possible (it’s alright if it tears), and saute it up in a pan before grabbing a soft roll — bread makes the sandwich, he says. As for the cheese wiz, homemade is fine , but some things, like many condiments, are just worth buying packaged.
While tailgating, he’s a big fan of beer-braised brats (Anoia likes a nice robust porter) on a charcoal grill. Braise until warm on the inside then move to the grill for nice marks before topping with mustard and a bit of giardiniera. “Not too much, you don’t want to lose the flavor of the beer,” he details. “Otherwise you might as well do it with water or Coors Light.”
Who: Darryl Harmon, executive chef of Slate, New York City
Allegiance: Philadelphia Eagles
Go-to food: Fried chicken
Harmon is a fan of stadiums making their way toward fancier, more innovative foods. At Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, he noshes on the “Slim Chicken,” a chicken breast with a Frosted Flakes crust, sharp cheddar cheese, and ghost chili honey glazed bacon served on an apple fritter. Harmon also points out Yankee Stadium for serving up fried chicken sandwiches from chef David Chang’s Momofuku.
“I think everyone is reinventing a chicken sandwich for game days,” he explains. While the “Slim Chicken” might be a bit ambitious for a home cook, Harmon says to just put a nice crispy chicken breast on a sliced glazed donut with a simple butter compound.