The Low-Maintenance, High-Reward Super Bowl Party
Spend less time prepping and cleaning up and more time gawking at Lady Gaga with your friends.
By Scott Edwards
Another entertaining season, rife with drama on the field (one step forward, two steps back for the Eagles) and off (this sport has to be hanging by a thread, right?), comes down to one last, opposite-of-entertaining matchup. The Patriots in the Super Bowl: Never saw that one coming. And, Atlanta has a team?
The silver lining: The less invested we are in the action on the screen, the more invested we can be in the action around it. After all, the communal watching experience is the real lure, not the game itself. The Super Bowl Party is more widely celebrated than any religious or national holiday in this country. Why? Because, as unaffected as a lot of us like play it, we all experience FOMO deep down, and the Super Bowl, sadly, is the most universal conversation we’re likely ever going to have. Miss out on the spectacle and you’re stuck on the outside looking in for the next week. And a week in pop culture is like five years in dog years.
If you’re hosting a Super Bowl Party, you know all of this already, have been hip to it since Janet and Justin. Less clear is how to pull off your party without losing weeks of your life to the prep and cleanup, only to end up watching all of the pivotal moments (again, rarely having anything to do with the game) later on, like a hermit. We can help with that. What we have here is a plan for the Low-Maintenance, High-Reward Super Bowl Party. It’s nothing revelatory. Just a whole lot of common sense. But when you’re planning the biggest gathering of the year, common sense can be in short supply.
Evites over a mass text or email. And send immediately. As in, make it the first thing you do after you finish reading this. It’ll take less than five minutes. Sure, everyone’s aware of the date, and it may go without saying that you’ll be hosting, but a simple head’s up is just common courtesy.
In that vein, your guest list has probably long since been established. But that shouldn’t mean it’s closed to any editing. Think back to last year’s party. Were there any odd men out? Was it too crowded? Always be aware of balance. You don’t want to invite a couple of casual observers into a pack of rabid fans, nor do you necessarily want to include a new coworker in a tightly knit group, regardless of his or their levels of enthusiasm. It’s not total harmony you’re going for. You just don’t want any wallflowers. They’ll swallow your night whole.
Food, Drinks, Ice
Yes, this is a low-maintenance guide, but wings and pizza aren’t even trying. A few simple finger foods (see below for a couple of recipes that fit the bill perfectly) and a crockpot dish or two, like pulled pork and vegetarian chili, will leave everyone full and appreciative of the effort. And they’ll keep you out of the kitchen during the party, for the most part.
As for stocking the bar, read the room. If the majority of your guest list is arriving with the intent of blacking out by the third quarter, you need new friends. Also: Buy the cheap stuff. They’ll object at first, but by the second or third beer, they’re not going to notice. If it’s a slower drinking crowd (read: adults who act their age), invest in a quarter-barrel keg of something craft-y—it’s the equivalent of 82 12-ounce cans, so it should be more than enough—along with a few bottles each of red and white wine. (Nothing over 20 bucks.) You’re never going to satisfy a liquor drinker, so don’t even try. Put word out beforehand that if anyone feels compelled to drink anything other than beer or wine, they’re on their own.
Ice: Buy a few 20-pound bags, two or three for the quarter-keg and one for a cooler stocked with the white wine. Keep both just outside the deck door. You’ll be set for the night.
Plates, Utensils, Cups
Disposable all the way around. End of discussion.
Your Super Bowl Party is not a sixth-grade recital. In other words, you don’t need a seat for every ass in the room. There’s going to be the handful of diehards who claim their posts a half-hour before kickoff and never leave them, save for beer runs and, hopefully, bathroom breaks. But everyone else is going to move around a lot and sit and stand at equal turns. So don’t fill your living room with folding chairs. They’re only going to impede that process. And, really, who wants to sit on a folding chair? Instead, toss a few large pillows around the room. It’s a much savvier use of that valuable floor space.
I never got the multiple TVs in multiple rooms. You’re inviting everyone over to watch the game together. Or, at least, hangout while it’s on. If you’re going to feed them to separate rooms, you may as well save yourself a whole lot of trouble. You wouldn’t throw a dinner party and divide the guests between the dining room and the kitchen. If there’s not enough room, cut your guest list.
The lone exception to the rule: a playroom. If there are going to be kids under the age of 12 at this thing, dedicate a separate space. That’s not to say they can’t watch the game with everyone else. It’s to say they’re not going to want to. There can be another TV turned on in this room. But if you (and their parents) have any expectation of keeping them there, something other than the game should be on.
The Super Bowl brings out the gambler in all of us. Encourage it. It’ll keep everyone at least minimally interested in the game. The easiest avenue: Set up a football squares sheet and have your guests place their bets as they arrive. Winnings are doled out at the end of each quarter. (In the evite, include a reminder to bring cash. There will be no IOUs.)
If you’re feeling ambitious, or you have a friend or family member who’s OCD- organized and dependable, open up the action to a handful or two of prop bets, and don’t limit them to the game—How many commercials will Peyton Manning appear in? Will Lady Gaga reference Trump during her halftime performance? Zero skill, infinite fun.
A few low-maintenance, high-reward Super Bowl Party recipes
The Deviled Egg
6 free-range eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
Juice from a jar of pickled beets
¼ cup mayo
2 tsps. Dijon mustard
Cilantro, minced (reserve some)
Paprika to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak the eggs in the beet juice anywhere from a half-hour to overnight. If you like pickled foods, longer is better. After their bath, remove the eggs and cut them in half lengthwise, then gently remove the yolks and set them off to the side.
In a small bowl, combine the yolks, mayo, mustard and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until the mixture achieves a smooth consistency, then transfer it to a Ziploc bag.
Cut off a bottom corner and pipe a bit of the yolk mixture into the hollow of each egg half. Sprinkle with paprika and garnish with cilantro or a small beet slice.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
(Vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-free)
1 large cabbage
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 tsps. fresh parsley (or dill), finely chopped
¼ tsp. paprika
1 cup crushed tomatoes
½ cup white wine
½ cup water
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Carefully separate the leaves from the cabbage head and set aside the 12 largest ones. Cut the stems from each, then blanch the leaves for a few minutes. From there, arrange the leaves on towels to dry.
Add the vegetable oil to a frying pan and sauté the onion and the carrot just long enough to retain a little bit of crunch. Then, in a large bowl, mix them thoroughly with the quinoa, the parsley (or dill) and the paprika. Spoon the mixture evenly onto each leaf, then roll it up and tuck in the ends. Stick a toothpick through the center to hold them in place, if they need it.
Mix together the tomato, the wine and the water. Place the rolls in a baking dish, then pour the tomato mixture over them. Bake for a half-hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies
Makes about 24.
8 tbsps. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsps. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
¾ cup white chocolate chips
1 cup and 2 tbsps. coarsely chopped unsalted pistachios, 2 tbsps. reserved
¾ cup dried apricots, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line with a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
In a bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar and mix them, either with a stand mixer or a handheld, at a medium speed until the consistency is smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Incorporate the eggs one at a time at a low speed, then the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add it to the other bowl, mixing at a low speed. Stir in the chocolate chips and then a cup of the pistachios and the apricot.
Place heaping tablespoons of the cookie dough about an inch-and-a-half apart on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining pistachios over top. Bake until the cookies set but still soft to the touch, about 10 minutes. Repeat the process until all of the dough is used.