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Muffulettas (above), jambalaya, Sazeracs and many other options can make your New Orleans Saints-themed Super Bowl party a hit.


I love football. I wish I had more time to go to games, watch every broadcast and fill up my brain with stats, bios and algorithms to predict outcomes of every contest. I know guys like that — guys who love the game so much they study the draft, follow players in the off season and bleed their teams’ colors.

I am not that guy. I want to be, but it isn’t feasible. I work way too much to follow that dream, but I can still say I absolutely love football. I’m not watching golf. Basketball was never my thing.

I played baseball from age 6 to 17, but can only stomach the games in person, and still would enjoy it even if I turned stone blind. The sounds of the crack of the bat and the slapping of leather as the soundtrack to the circus of hot dogs and beer holds my attention at the diamond as long as I can hear, smell and taste it. But on television, at a stadium, in the street, peewee, high school, college, pro, football is the only sport I can watch or play anywhere.

I said all of that to say this: I’m a Saints fan. You probably knew that. My dad lived and died in New Orleans. When I was 8 years old he was my soccer coach and got to pick out the name of our team. The fact that our shirts were maroon didn’t matter. We were the Saints.

I have Tom Benson’s autograph on a poster, and Deuce McAllister’s on a jersey. As kids playing two-hand touch on North Park Street, we always pretended to be Archie Manning despite their atrocious record. Saints fans are all-weather, thick-skinned and have bigger mouths than any other.

So as you plan an email to call me a sore loser and tell me a game doesn’t come down to one call, save your breath and realize this isn’t about the Rams. They played valiantly. I wish them well. I’m just getting the feeling that there’s a possibility the NFL is creeping toward professional wrestling, a sport where tremendous athletes are steered toward certain outcomes by the powers that be, and I’ve been suspicious of this for a while. Some offenders get slaps on the wrists while others are thrown under buses.

I would love to have seen the two best GOAT candidates face each other, one with the most rings versus one with the most records. Amid controversy and admission of (no foul) foul play by the higher-ups, that isn’t going to happen, so I plan to sit this one out. Instead, our party will embrace all things New Orleans.

With Number 9 jerseys and all the décor we can muster, I feel it’s a day to celebrate the Big Easy, as if it needs an excuse to party. It is a party, so let’s bring it here. Of course the food is the best part.

Sandwiches

My favorites come from there. The muffuletta was once my No. 1. It now takes a backseat to the Ralph from Mother’s. Debris is the star here. That’s the stuff that falls off a freshly carved roast. Add that to ham, roast beef, cheese, shredded cabbage and spicy Creole mustard on great French bread and guests will flock to it.

Food Pak has one of the better muffulettas in town, maybe the best, but Rouses usually has a tray of mini-muffs that do the trick. You could make muffuletta canapés with sliced bread, capicola, salami, olive salad and provolone. Throw it in the oven for a quick melt.

Rice dishes

I can’t recall many trips to the city without a dose of rice at some point. Jambalaya is my favorite. If you aren’t adventurous, then dress up some Zatarain’s with your choice of meat. A great parabolic pot and some decent skill can go a long way when making jambalaya from scratch. I love mine with shrimp, andouille, tasso and lots of trinity. A can of tomatoes can save time on peeling fresh.

Gumbo certainly heads the list of rice toppers. Seafood, chicken, sausage, duck or all of the above, just do it. There is no wrong as long as you have a roux and the Holy Trinity. Don’t make it too spicy; leave that up to your guests.

Red beans and rice are for Monday. Instead, let’s give shrimp creole a go. It doesn’t require a roux, and is therefore much easier to prepare than most New Orleans dishes. You can crank one out in about 35 minutes, give or take. I cook the trinity in butter, then add tomatoes and a little bit of chicken stock. Bay leaves and Worcestershire are a must for me.

I’ve cooked the shrimp separately and in the sauce, preferring the former. You are less likely to overcook the shrimp if you cook them in a little butter for about a minute, add the sauce to it and kill the heat.

Drinks

They don’t call it Bourbon Street for nothing, and my house is full of the red liquor. The Sazerac is one of NOLA’s famed rye drinks and I love it, but the Ramos Gin Fizz is my favorite dessert. I don’t have more than one, due to its sweetness, but the bitter taste of the Sazerac can cleanse the palate.

If you want to go ahead and put the party to rest, simply mix up some hurricanes. If you make an authentic one the fruit juices will mask the fact that you’re having four ounces of rum. Don’t let anyone pound two of them — you’ll have a mess to clean. On second thought, let’s just have some beer and crawfish and call it a day.

Game or no game, victory or no victory, the Saints could use a little love right now. You guys let me know how the commercials went. Whodat.