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Boston Tries to Top L.A. In the Battle of the Super Bowl Snacks

If there’s one thing that gets people worked up around the Super Bowl—apart from the teams, and especially if one of them is the New England Patriots—it’s the food.

Super Bowl Sunday is one of America’s biggest eating days, accompanied by oceans of stats on tortilla chip sales, beer purchases, and the most key one of all: chicken wing consumption. (Or “pork wings,” if you’re feeling less traditional.) This year the country is projected to eat 1.38 billion wings during the big game, even as their price has jumped almost 25 percent since Jan. 1.

Oddsmakers are giving the Patriots the advantage against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII this Sunday. To add another level to the game, Bloomberg Pursuits and TicToc challenged a superfan chef from each city to come up with a competing menu that represents their region and their team, accompanied by a bet that puts the losing chef in a tough position.

Boston

The Contender: Matthew Jennings, founder of Full Heart Hospitality culinary consulting, is a hardcore Patriots fan; he can’t count the number of Pats caps he owns. He says there’s no question who’s winning this year’s Super Bowl: “This will be their sixth win, their sixth ring. [Bill] Belichick and [Tom] Brady are the best duo since Batman and Robin.”

For a tailgating menu to celebrate the Patriots, he selected quintessential New England ingredients: apple cider to infuse a barbecue sauce for chicken wings. He also suggests a riff on pork and beans, which he turns into a slider. Alongside, he serves his version of a shandy, or beer cocktail, made with brown ale from a local brewer and spiked with molasses.

Team Connection: Jennings hasn’t cooked for any of the Patriots—yet. “But Tom Brady just started following me on Instagram,” he says. “And I know he gets a little sassy with avocados. He posted about making scrambled eggs with his son—incorrectly. I have offered to help him.” (Brady’s highly publicized diet is plant-based and heavy on “alkalized” foods to reduce inflammation.)

Jennings’s Super Bowl Menu

Grilled chicken wings with apple cider barbecue sauce (recipe below) Maple pork loin sliders on potato rolls with Boston baked beans, bacon relish, and slaw “Ale Fashioned”: brown ale and brandy cocktail with molassesThe Bet: “The loser will have to serve a New England chowder approved by me at her restaurant for 30 days.”

Los Angeles

The Contender: Susan Feniger is the chef and founder of the high-energy Mexican mini-chain Border Grill, which started in L.A. and now has a handful of outposts, including in Las Vegas. “California has the best ingredients,” she says. “The Rams eat the freshest food in the country. Of course they’re going to win. The score: 27-13.”

For her menu, Feniger spotlights quintessential California ingredients—and dishes. First off: guacamole. Feniger points out the primacy of the dip on Super Bowl Sunday. According to the California Avocado Commission, 139 million pounds were consumed during last year’s game. Alongside, she makes fish tacos with grilled arctic char (like a lot of conscientious Golden State chefs, she supports the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program), plus a copious supply of pomegranate margaritas.

Team Connection: Last fall, Feniger headlined the Taste of the Rams 2018 fundraiser for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, where she served her grilled fish tacos and met Rams stars Todd Gurley and Tyler Higbee.

Feniger’s Super Bowl Menu

Border guacamole (recipe follows) Grilled fish tacos with radish cucumber slaw Pomegranate margaritaThe Bet: “The Patriots won’t win. But if they do, I’ll make a chowder that’s more delicious than Matt’s. But when the Rams win, Matt needs to make fish tacos with homemade tortillas. And I’ll send him some avocados from the tree in my backyard to give to Tom as consolation.”

Border GuacamoleThe secret to this classic recipe from Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s Border Grill restaurants is to keep it simple. Feniger adds the following ultimatum: No tomatoes—they water down the nutty, rich avocado flavor.

Serves 10-12

5 ripe California avocados, preferably Hass6 tbsp chopped cilantro1 medium red onion, diced4 jalapeños, seeded and finely diced3 tbsp fresh lime juice1½ tsp salt, or more to taste½ tsp freshly ground pepperTortilla chips, for serving

Cut the avocados into quarters. Remove the seeds, peel, and place in a mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher or fork until chunky. Add the remaining ingredients and combine with a fork. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Grilled Chicken Wings With Cider Barbecue SauceIn his 2017 cookbook, Homegrown, Jennings shares his secret to the best chicken wings: “Contrary to what every sports bar in America asserts, the best wings don’t come out of the deep fryer, but off the grill.” His wings are marinated overnight in a spiced mix of orange, lime, and pineapple juices, which tenderizes the meat. On the side, Jennings makes a tangy apple cider barbecue sauce, because “every wing deserves a dip,” he says. This recipe is adapted from Homegrown.

Serves 6

3 tbsp canola oil1 yellow onion, thinly sliced2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced2 tbsp chile powder, preferably ancho1½ lb. plum tomatoes, halved, seeded, and chopped½ cup tomato paste2 cups apple cider1 cup chicken stock, plus more as needed½ cup red wine vinegar½ cup packed dark brown sugar3 tbsp blackstrap molassesKosher salt and freshly ground pepper¼ cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

5½ lbs. chicken wings, wing tips removed2 tbsp salt mixed with 1 tbsp ground pepper and 1 tsp cayenne pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring until lightly caramelized, for 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Add the garlic and chile powder and cook, stirring frequently, for two minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and cook over low heat, stirring, for five minutes more.

Add the cider, stock, vinegar, brown sugar, and molasses and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has a ketchuplike texture, for 30 minutes.

Working in batches, purée the sauce in a blender until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a splash of stock. Season the barbecue sauce with salt and pepper and strain into a bowl.

Meanwhile, heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium high. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, and cayenne and sprinkle all over the chicken wings. Grill, turning often, until charred and cooked through, for about 20 minutes. Transfer the wings to a serving platter, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve with the barbecue sauce alongside.