Originally on Black & Tchotchkes
The palpable shift in intensity around football around Thanksgiving is always invigorating. The end of the bye weeks in the NFL. Fantasy football leagues that end their seasons in Week 15 or 16 are getting ready for their play-offs. The great rivalry/hate weeks are gearing up in college football before pre-Bowl games break. The Backyard Brawl. Michigan-Ohio State. Florida-Florida State. CoughNotre Dame-USCcough. BYU-Utah’s Holy War. Probably two or three Bayou games that end with someone winning a cup made of gator teeth and wild boar snouts.
True, most of the Thanksgiving Day NFL games are usually (don’t say “turkeys” don’t say “turkeys” don’t say “turkeys”) turkeys (dammit, you said “turkeys”), and unfortunately this year doesn’t look any better going into Thursday with the 2-8 Detroit Lions hosting the 8-2 New England Patriots, 2-8 Dallas Cowboys hosting the 7-3 Saints, and the 8-2 Jets playing the sad 2-8 Bengals in the new-ish-since-2006 Thanksgiving evening game. The evening game was supposed to provide some relief for fans tired of the Lions and the Cowboys each fourth Thursday of November, but if anything, the extra game just reminds us how stubbornly the league (read: Jerry Jones’s Cowboy annual home field advantage on a short game week) can resist full-scale change.
Thanksgiving also gives Steelers fans across the nation a chance to remind everyone that the referees are so biased against Pittsburgh they once gave the team “heads” when Jerome Bettis clearly called “tails” while the coin was in the air, so consider yourself reminded for 2010 calendar year.
We’re through the meat of the season, kids. Wildly early playoff pictures are not so wildly early anymore. Losses now matter even more. Looking at the up coming games takes on extra weight as teams are about to play their division rivals for the second time of the season. Snow games. The excitement you look forward to during the off-season? Late November through December. It’s finally here.
Arrogant Bastard Beer Battered Mashed Potato Balls
This week’s Football Foodie recipe was inspired by Stone Brewery Bistro’s Spud Buds, their interpretation of classic mashed potato balls which are usually given a bread crumb coating and baked. I first tried these treats on a tour of their brewery a couple of summers ago and have been in love with them ever since. The strong — but not overpowering – hoppy, malty taste of Arrogant Bastard stands up really well in cooking and provides much more punch than you’re typical beer batter made with lighter brews.
Since mashed potatoes are usually one of the items every makes way too much of at Thanksgiving, this is an easy way to use them up for a football watching snack without feeling like you’re eating the same leftovers for three days in a row.
You will need…
12-14 ounces of a strong ale, preferably Stone Brewery’s Arrogant Bastard Ale, cold
2 cups of all-purpose flour, sifted for batter, plus 1/2 to a 3/4 cup of flour for dredging
2 teaspoons of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground pepper
Oil for frying
Leftover mashed potatoes. 2 cups, 4 cups, 6 cups. Whatever you either feel like making or happen to have left from Thanksgiving. I made the above batches fresh for Sunday’s games because, well, it’s too early for Thanksgiving leftovers. What is pictured above is the yield of three good sized russet potatoes and two bizarrely huge sweet potatoes.
The russet potatoes were whipped with butter, whole milk, four cloves of minced garlic, salt and a touch of ground pepper. The sweet potatoes were whipped with butter, whole milk, two teaspoons of chili powder, half a teaspoon or so of cayenne pepper for heat and salt. How you want to season your potatoes is up to you, but if you do happen to be using leftovers, I recommend pepping them up with either garlic powder, chili powder, seasoning salt, or even dried herbs like sage or rosemary. Sweet potatoes go especially well with the hotter spices, but can also be mixed with brown sugar and cinnamon. I supposed you could toss in some cheese if you wanted. At the Stone Bistro, they mash the potatoes with their IPA in addition to the ale batter. Since Stone’s IPA never lasts long at our place, I have yet to experiment with making the duel-beer potato balls.
If you do make mashed potatoes fresh instead of using leftovers, cool them in the fridge for at least thirty minutes for easier handling.
Mix together the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Work in the cold beer a few ounces at a time with a wisk until it forms a paste and stir until all the flour lumps are broken down.
Then stir in the rest of the beer until the batter reaches the desired constancy. It should be thick, but not so thick and heavy it doesn’t drizzle off your wisk or spoon. It usually takes between 12-14 ounces of beer to reach this stage.
Cover with and let the batter rest in the fridge for at least 30 to 45 minutes and up to a few hours. A cold beer batter fries better than a warm beer batter. I am sure there is some sort of Alton Brown-eque science behind why cold beer batter ends up puffier than warm beer batter, but what that magic may be I do not know, nor do I feel like looking up now that I’m more than 1200 words into this post. Let’s say the cold beer batter fries better because of… Um, well.. Miniature ice bombs exploding when they hit the hot oil. That sounds about right.
While the batter is chilling, shape the mashed potatoes into balls about the size of a golf ball using either a spoon or a medium cookie scoop. Toss the potato balls in flour and set on a cookie sheet or a plate.
The sweet potato balls will be very mushy and hard to shape, which may have you cursing why you thought you could fry sweet potato mush in the first place. Have no fear. They’ll still fry up nicely and are worth the effort.
Set the potato balls in the freezer for at least 20-30 minutes so they’re easier to handle when coating and frying. If you’re not frying them right away, cover with plastic and just set in the refrigerator.
Heat about an inch or so oil in a pan to 375º.
Working in small batches — the key to making sure the oil stays hot and cooks evenly without absorbing too much oil is not to crowd the pan — coat each potato ball in batter and drop into the hot oil. They’ll brown rather quickly if your oil is hot enough, so cook for two to four minutes.
They’ll also puff up rather nicely, so don’t be surprised when your golf ball sized potato balls start resemble overgrown… Well golf balls. (Baseballs are lacrosse balls sized potato balls would be scary. If they’ve shrunken to squash ball sized, I’ve somehow failed to give you the proper directions.)
Once they are mostly browned, flip over to complete the frying and let cook for another minute or two.
Drain on paper towels. If you have a whole bunch of mashed potato balls to fry, keep the first batches warm in a 200º oven on a pan or an oven-safe plate.
Serve with mustard, sour cream, barbecue sauce or my favorite for the sweet potato balls, sweet & sour chili sauce. The combination of the sweet and spicy filling, crunchy and chewy batter with hot sauce is a perfect snack. Garlic stands up nicely to the very hoppy Arrogant Bastard while they both benefit from the smoothness of the mashed potatoes. You couldn’t ask for a better football and beer snack.
One more quick tip; if you end up with a little bit of leftover batter, slice up an onion into rings and make quick beer battered onion rings. Delicious.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Let me know what you’re making down in the comments/Twitter/GoogleReader/Tumblrs/skywriting this week. Do you watch football and cook at the same time? TV in the kitchen? Do you play in a Turkey Bowl?
Don’t forget to add your pictures to Football Foodies Flickr Group from last weekend and be sure to get some new shots this weekend. And if you have a special Thanksgiving picture you’d like to share, please pass it along too!