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Not unlike many families in the United States, football was more than a sport in my house. It was a recurring holiday. A culture. A ritual. Since as far back as I can remember, the picture of our little Union Avenue house on Sunday mornings has remained the same: My mother, in the kitchen, preparing feasts of chili and dips and stromboli. My father, in our Eagles emblazoned basement, anxiously awaiting kickoff. Through the years there has been a revolving door of crowds who’ve joined them. My brother, sister, and I going off to college and returning. Family friends who’ve moved in, moved away, passed by, or passed away. But the core has always remained the same. My mother trafficking food up and down the steps, eager to know, “Does it taste okay?” but already knowing the answer. My father, in his Eagles green, watching our team break his heart over and over again, but never losing an ounce of interest or an ounce of faith that one day that Super Bowl trophy will be brought home and paraded down Broad.

And it’s here that I was molded, the product of a proud Italian mother and a fanatically devoted father. In some ways these posts stray from my typical style—processed foods, buffalo sauce, simple and easy. But in other ways, they’re somehow the truest reflection of who I am.

For the first five Saturdays during football season, I’ll be joining up with football aficionado and Inside The Iggles blogger, Bob Wankel, to prep you with all you need to kill it on game day: five hot topics about this weekend’s upcoming NFL matchups and a baller recipe to impress the crowd. Dazzle friends and family with tasty treats, while impressing the boys with your knowledge of injury reports and point spreads. Who says you can’t do it all?

For my first Snacks & Sacks Saturdays, it only seemed right to create a snack that paid homage to my beloved city. Philadelphia natives will read the title and just get it. Crab fries are a Philadelphia institution, made famous by our treasured sports bar, Chickies & Petes. The combination of Old Bay seasoning and potatoes, dipped in American cheese—mmm, mmm, mmm. Simple, but magnificent. For outsiders, unaware of the gloriousness that is the combination of Old Bay and American cheese, I encourage you to give it a try!

Whip up a batch of these potato skins and casually allude to the points below during the game, as if you really can just do it all. You’ll be untouchable! No go out there and get ’em this Sunday, you little star!

Know What’s Up: Week 1

Bob Wankel
Inside The Iggles
www.insidetheiggles.com

  1. When the talk turns to suicide pools (also called eliminator pools), impress them by touting that you’d have taken Houston if you were them. They’re the surest bet to win this week.
  2. Peyton Manning is making his return this weekend after missing the 2011 season, in a game that everyone will be talking about: Broncos vs. Steelers. This game will be heavily discussed at football parties nationwide. Whatever you do, don’t be the one person in the room making the rookie mistake of saying “Wait, I thought Peyton Manning played for the Indianapolis.”
  3. If you’re watching the Saints, the topic of the notorious bounty scandal will surely arise. Make sure you’ve got your facts: An appeals court has lifted the sanctions on four prominent NFL players involved in the scandal. It’s a big win for the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) and a big loss for commissioner Roger Goodell.
  4. To keep conversation with the gamblers in the crowd, the Bills/Jets game will be a popular bet this week—but is it a wise one? The Bills travel to NY to take on the Jets, whose preseason has been rough, but are still a defensively talented home team with high expectations for 2012. They’re only a 2.5 point favorite over the Bills. Anyone taking a look at the games will say that the Bills stink and there is no way the Jets won’t beat them by a field goal. But Buffalo features an improved defense and a more talented offence. While there’s never any certainty in gambling, this has “trap” written all over it. Remind those bragging about their “sure bet” of this.
  5. As Sunday comes to close, it’s time to start looking toward Monday Night Football. MNF is two for the price of one. ESPN features two games on Monday night. The Bengals will visit the Ravens followed by the Chargers visiting the Raiders.

The Ingredients

Yields 8 potato skins
4 small to medium sized russet potatoes
¼ lb American cheese, Cooper Brand recommended, sliced
5 pieces of thick cut bacon
4 tbsp Olive or Canola Oil
Old Bay seasoning, to taste
Kosher Salt, to taste
½ cup Sour Cream (optional for topping)
¼ cup Green Onions (optional for topping)
 

The Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash potatoes and rub skins of potatoes generously with oil. I do this using my hands, but you could use a towel or brush if you don’t like getting messy. 😉 Pierce potatoes and pop in oven for 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes, flipping half way. When potatoes are done, you should be able to stick a fork in them and remove it easily.

  3. While potatoes are baking, cook the 5 pieces of bacon. You want the bacon to be done, but not overly crispy at this point. The bacon will go back in the oven, so if you overcook it here, it will burn in the oven. The bacon should be crisp, but still have some play to it.

  4. Let the potatoes cool. Once cool, cut in half lengthways and scoop out the center with a mellon baller or spoon, leaving just a bit of potato around the edges.



  5. Brush potato halves with oil on both sides. Sprinkle each side with kosher salt and a generous sprinkling of Old Bay Seasoning. Return to oven for another 12-16 minutes, flipping halfway. This will help the potatoes to get extra crispy.


  6. While potatoes are crisping, chop the American cheese into ½ inch squares. It’s okay if some of it sticks together. We just want to get it small enough that we can fill the potatoes with it easily. You can also chop the green onions and bacon at this point, and set those aside.


  7. When the potatoes are done in the oven, fill them with about 1tbsp of the American cheese squares, and top with bacon. Return to oven for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese melts and begins to bubble and the bacon get extra crispy and delicious. Top with more Old Bay Seasoning.



  8. Top with sour cream and green onions. Serve hot for best results.



Tips

If you want to make these in advance, do steps 1-7 and then let them cool. Once cool, put in a plastic bag and freeze them. You can reheat (and recrisp) them by putting them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Then top with sour cream and green onions.

If you want a really creamy American cheese sauce, make a roux, add milk, and then melt the cheese into the milk—similar to how you’d make mac and cheese, but with American cheese. Then pour the cheese sauce into the potato skins. I’d prefer this way, but wanted to keep this one simple. 😉

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