PLAYOFFS, CHAMPIONships, Super Bowl . . . TV football is making its most critical plays without the Redskins, and it's your turn to host the huddle. "Jaws XX." And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen.
By now, even the most diehard Washington fan is probably sick of the redskins -- meaning, of course, the hot dogs and beans that seem to hold the franchise on viewing parties around here -- if the chili hasn't gotten there first.
And let's be honest: For Washington fans, the playoff season has seemed like one long bomb.
So how can you look loyal and cook cute at the same time? Toss an immaculate reception of your own -- an all-Redskins menu for the upwardly conscious. Consider just a few of the possibilities:
Red snapper, baked Mediterranean-style under a spiced tomato and pimiento sauce or stuffed with a mixture of red pepper and chopped shrimp; accompanied by sliced tomatoes and a sweet-and- sour crunch of red cabbage and grated apples.
For the daring, crawfish tails over tomato-flour pasta, or blackened redfish crusted in red peppers (after all, the Super Bowl is in New Orleans).
Steamed crabs, sided by a cold salad of cooked red or kidney beans and sliced red onion dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and mustard (for that golden flourish).
Or, if it's a small circle, spring for lobsters, little red-jacket potatoes and radicchio salad. With Mumm's Cordon Rouge, perhaps, or Johnny Walker Red.
You can add a little gold on the sidelines: pur,eed carrots brightened with butter and cream, corn pudding, or yellow squash souffl,e. For first-half nibbling, set out radishes, tiny pickled beets, miniature corncobs.
And for warm-ups, consider cantaloupe wrapped in proscuitto or borscht topped with a lemon slice. Or, trendiest of all, octopus and tuna sashimi.
You'll probably want to go simple on dessert: strawberries or lemon sherbet with raspberry sauce or baked apples.
Now, this is no play-by-play. Even a kitchen rookie can fumble through a skillet saut,e of spicy and sweet Italian links with red sweet peppers and onions; or a tomato- tinted shrimp and sausage paella.
So go for it! Who says Jack can't Cooke?
Canned crab-boil seasoning not only drowns the delicate flavor but triples the mess -- and chaps your lips in the process. Steam crabs the way Weekend's Hank Burchard does, in a shallow pool of beer and Tabasco sauce. That way, the spice gets into the meat instead of onto the eater. For more mess control, offer dips of plain lemon juice, vinegar with chopped red onion or mayonnaise thinned with white wine vinegar instead of melted butter.
The Borscht Belt
Combine two cans of beer and three cans chicken broth. Add a half-dozen grated beets and a grated or chopped onion and simmer for 45 minutes. Add one cup tomato pur,ee, the juice of half a lemon, and cardamom, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer another 30-45 minutes; strain or process smooth if desired.
To thicken, beat two eggs, stir in a spoonful of soup to prevent curdling and add to soup. Serve hot or cold.
For a sweeter version, use chicken broth or water alone and stir in sherry to taste just before serving. For an earthier flavor, substitute vodka.