The local football team wins a couple of important games and the whole town starts humming. Everybody gets excited, anxiously anticipating the Super Bowl.
In the meantime, our heroes are up to their chin straps leading parades, making public appearances, appearing on television, doing their radio shows, being interviewed for the newspapers, and, as Sunday gets closer, practicing for the game.
They're just so busy, yet we all want a piece of them. And the food section is no exception. We have no pride; we'll join all of you on the bandwagon. But, during the ride, we'll perform a public service, too.
Our contribution to the city's insatiable appetite for anything having to do with the football team is to detail everything we know about cooking and the Redskins.
You all want to know what Joe Jacoby eats that makes him so big and strong. Young boys want to know what Doug Williams eats that makes him throw so straight and far. And teenage girls ask what it is Art Monk eats that makes him so handsome. And, of course, what is it that Joe Gibbs eats that makes him so smart.
Good questions, all of them, but, unfortunately, the Redskins are so busy now as to be unavailable in the kitchen. Nevertheless, we'll pass on all the information we do have about cooking with the skins. The Pig Skins
At Rudolph Foods in Lima, Ohio, Jim Rudolph is always thinking of the skins. Rudolph and his father, John, are the world's largest manufacturers of pork rinds, selling pellets and fully fried products to "tons" of private-label companies.
Rudolph said that the process starts with skins from the backs and bellies of hogs (hog hogs, not football hogs), which are diced into squares. The skins are smoked and heated to a high temperature, rendering the fat and turning the square into a hard pellet. Rudolph sells the pellets as is, or fries them for the requesting company. The pellets "pouf" or "explode" when dipped in hot fat, Rudolph explained. (Rudolph, by the way, sent us a 10-pound bag of pellets, in case we couldn't visualize his description. They look like giant bacon bits.)
As for consumers, they have a "love-hate" relationship with fried pork rinds, according to Al Rickard, spokesman for the Snack Food Assn. For some reason, fried rinds are most popular with consumers over 34, Rickard reported from an association survey.
Those who don't like them simply don't buy them. In 1986, fried pork rinds were only 2.4 percent of the total snack food market. (If you want to serve the snack with the highest completion percentage at your Super Bowl bash, potato chips are the winner -- they constituted 47 percent of sales.)
Rudolph won't be thinking of the Skins on Sunday. "I'm kind of rooting for the Broncos," he admitted. "I used to work at a snack food plant in Denver." The Red Skins
We heard from an inquiring food writer that Super Bowl party givers in Denver are planning all-orange menus. While they're serving Orange Crush, we'll be drinking burgundy and chardonnay with a trio of hors d'oeuvres in red skins:
Slice off the tops of cherry tomatoes. Scoop out the flesh and stuff with a teaspoon or two of soft cheese.
Cut radishes in half lengthwise. Mix fresh chives to taste into softened butter. Serve chive butter in a crock with a small butter knife next to halved radishes.
For a burgundy-and-gold match, serve the classic hors d'oeuvres of red potatoes with sour cream and caviar -- this time with golden caviar. Simply boil a batch of red potatoes until tender and cut in half. Scoop out a bit of potato to create a small cavity. Fill the hole with a dab of sour cream and top with caviar. Keep the Skins
Fruit and vegetable skins are full of fiber and flavor. A bunch of vegetable skins simmered with water make a powerful vegetable broth, for example; and the apple skins can be left on for more color and flavor in recipes that call for peeled apples.
In the Redskins' "Cooking with the Skins" cookbook, we found only a few recipes in which contributors used the skins: an alumnus' crawfish boil calls for 8 small red potatoes (enough for 16 pounds of crawfish and two boxes of salt?), Dave Butz's mother's Chicken A La King calls for keeping the skin on the bird, and Mark May's salmon dill spread calls for grated lemon peel.
To make May's easy salmon spread, combine a 7 1/2-ounce can of drained salmon (it's been skinned), 2 tablespoons of lowfat yogurt, 1/2 tablespoon dill, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel in a food processor or blender and pure'e until smooth. Refrigerate 1 hour. Spread on crackers and top with sliced hard-cooked egg.
This may be stretching it, but Don Warren's Raspberry and Sour Cream Mold and Jay Schroeder's Frozen Cranberry Salad use Jell-O. Gelatin is made from pig skin. In the Skins
In some dishes, even if you don't want to eat the skin, it can form a vital function as the serving receptacle, as in the case of stuffed eggplant, stuffed zucchini or stuffed acorn squash. Here are some other dishes to serve in skins:
Serve a fruit salad in the traditional pineapple boat, but mix the salad with a little fruit juice spiked with rum or kirsch before you put it back in the hollowed-out rind. And if you're really feeling hokey, turn the pineapple boat into a football field. Slice the rind so that it is flat, cover with fruit salad and pipe whipped cream in vertical lines from one side to the other.
Prepare baked pears in their skins. Slice firm pears in half lengthwise, scoop out core and seeds, sprinkle with lemon juice and glaze the inside and outside with honey. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes with enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, place a dollop of ricotta in the hollowed-out center. Serve sprinkled with chopped nuts and drizzled with marsala. The Skins Are It
There are some foods in which the skin plays more than a supporting role: it is the food. Potato skins are the obvious leader in this category, as well as being a great snack for Super Bowl munchers.
Before your coffee table gets overrun by feet and empty beer bottles, turn it into a potato skin buffet. Serve a pile of potato skins on a tray and surround with bowls filled with toppings. Toppings can include: sour cream or yogurt mixed with horseradish, crumbled bacon, grated parmesan or cheddar, chopped mushrooms, chopped scallions or red onion, salsa, chili, guacamole, chopped jalapenåos, hot pepper sauce, pizza sauce, freshly ground black pepper, hot hungarian paprika.
To make crisp potato skins, bake the potatoes for about an hour. Slice horizontally and scoop out the centers. Brush the shells lightly with olive oil, return to oven on a baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes at 500 degrees, or until crisp. Ditching the Skins
Low-income households throw away about 16 pounds of potato peels a year, while upper-income households ditch only about 1 1/2 pounds. In the middle are mid-income households, which dispose of about 7 pounds, reports William Rathje, professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona at Tucson and director of the infamous Garbage Project.
Rathje, who has been analyzing the sociological, nutritional and economic implications of garbage for the past 14 years, agrees that the obvious reason for this discrepancy is that lower-income households purchase more potatoes since they are low-cost foods. Nevertheless, Rathje said that there are indications that upper- income neighborhoods also eat more of their potato skins. (Rathje, who did not comment on his income bracket, said he eats his potato skins.)
The lively professor, who can rattle off the top of his head that 22 percent of the weight of a grapefruit or 30 percent of the weight of a banana is in the peel, has also collected garbage data on fruit peels. By analyzing both peel and can disposal, Rathje found that upper-income households buy a lot more fresh fruit than lower income households and that lower-income households buy a lot more canned fruit.
As to be expected from someone who has spent his career studying garbage, Rathje has incured the playful antics of colleagues and observers.
At a banquet he once attended, the cooks fashioned all the peels, rinds and skins from a week's worth of conference food into a centerpiece for him.
How to Skin a Skin
There are ways to get rid of the skins (don't tell the Broncos). To remove tomato skins, plunge tomatoes in boiling water for about one minute and then immediately in cold water. To remove bell pepper skins, broil until black. Place in a brown paper bag for a few minutes and remove skins. Washing Skins
Truth be told, you shouldn't make your daily diet dependent on skins. Many fruit and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides and coated with waxes to make them look pretty and appealing. So wash those skins as best you can. More on the Pigskin
The official "pigskin" for the Super Bowl is the Wilson model F1007. It's made of cowhide and has a rubber bladder inside to hold the air. It also is inedible.
According to Dennis Grapenthin, Wilson's director of team sports marketing, "nobody has been able to pin down where the term pigskin came from." In fact, so far as the people at Wilson can tell, footballs never were made of pig skin.
Which leaves more pig skins available for fried pork rinds.