PORTLAND — Every year, as the Super Bowl draws near, football fans start trotting out game-day recipes that are sure to make their spreads the talk of the town.

Some Super Bowl party hosts like to impress their guests with fancy hors d’oeurves or buffet tables groaning with lots of choices. But sometimes the middle road is best. Why spend all your time in the kitchen when you could be enjoying the game with friends?

We asked two of Portland’s newest restaurants for their take on Super Bowl food, and both had great suggestions for keeping the menu uncomplicated but still delicious.

“The best way to have a fun and enjoyable Super Bowl party is to keep it simple, and you can’t get more simple than the classics – clams casino, chicken wings, a pulled pork sandwich,” said Mitchell Gerow, chef/co-owner at the East Ender.

Pete Sueltenfuss, chef/partner at District, offered a simple but delicious recipe for pork meatballs served with a local cider gravy.

“Try to pull it back a little and do some things that people are going to like, but they’re simple,” Sueltenfuss said, “and they’re something you can make the day before and stick in the oven when people start arriving.”

Both young chefs are finally living the dream of having their own restaurants.

Gerow met his business partner, Megan Schroeter, when they both worked at Evangeline, a Longfellow Square restaurant that recently closed. They opened the East Ender at 47 Middle St. on Jan. 6.

The couple’s philosophy food-wise is “lose the pretense” while keeping the technique, Gerow said. That means he still does nose-to-tail cooking, breaking down whole animals, and buys locally as much as possible from places like Sparrow Arc Farm.

For our Super Bowl menu, Gerow put together a trio of classic favorites that are already on the East Ender menu: clams casino, chicken wings and pulled pork sandwiches.

Gerow is originally from upstate New York, the home of buffalo wings. He’s used to “winging it” and keeping it simple at tailgate parties on game day.

“Football is a part of every Sunday” there, he said, “whether it’s high school football (or) college football. The Buffalo Bills are my team. We’ve cooked chicken wings in an Army helmet. We’ve cooked chicken wings in a garbage can. We’ve grilled on a rake.”

Gerow’s wings for our Super Bowl menu are frenched (see video at pressherald.com for his technique) to separate meat from bone and then brined before frying and tossing with Durkee’s or Frank’s hot sauce. They’re served with a homemade blue cheese dressing.

While making the brioche for the pulled pork sandwiches might seem like more work than you want on game day, the buns made in the East Ender kitchen were beautiful, and seemed worth the extra effort.

Gerow slathered the sliced buns with butter and threw them on the grill for a few seconds before piling on the pulled pork, adding a slice of cheddar and a healthy squirt of mayo. Homemade pickles went on the side.

Pete Sueltenfuss plans to serve his pork meatballs with local cider gravy at an all-you-can-eat Super Bowl pig-roast party he’s throwing at District on Sunday night. “It’s a real quick, easy recipe,” he said. “I like to use a lot of fresh herbs. It just kind of brightens up the flavor a little bit.”

Sueltenfuss moved to Portland from Boston three years ago. He worked as a cook at Fore Street for the first two years, while his wife, Jessica, waited tables there.

“They’re really an incredible group of people to work for,” he said. “They kind of let us cut our teeth in this town, gave me new opportunities to try new things that Fore Street may or may not have done in the past.”

District – there is no “Grill” in the name, by the way, as it has been appearing around town – is in a newly renovated, warm space on the corner of Danforth and Maple streets. The restaurant has been open a little more than 10 weeks.

District has televisions in the bar area, but usually the sound is turned off so diners are not disturbed.

However, the sound will be on Sunday when the Steelers face off against the Packers.

“For this event, we’re going to close the dining room and just have a big Super Bowl party,” Sueltenfuss said.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/MeredithGoad

 

CLAMS CASINO

Mitchell Gerow, chef/co-owner, East Ender, Portland

1 dozen littleneck clams

5 strips of nice smoky bacon, rendered (not crispy) and chopped. Reserve the fat.

1 onion, minced

1 stalk of celery, peeled and minced

Thyme (just leaves)

4 cloves garlic (slivered)

Splash of white wine

Seasoned bread crumbs (parsley, salt, pepper, lemon zest)

Roast clams at 350 degrees until they open. Reserve clam broth. Remove clam meats and mince them. Saute the onion, celery and garlic in bacon fat. When onions are translucent, add the minced clams, wine, broth and thyme. Simmer until liquid is gone. Fill clam shells with this mixture, top with seasoned crumbs and a dab of butter, sprinkle with paprika, and broil until golden brown.

EAST OF BUFFALO WINGS

Mitchell Gerow, chef/co-owner, East Ender, Portland

Lots of wings from chickens, frenched, then brined for 12 hours

BRINE:

1/2 gallon water

1 cup salt

1/3 cup honey

12 bay leaves

1 head garlic, split on the equator

1/8 cup black peppercorns

1/8 cup vinegar (all kinds work)

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Chill with half a gallon of ice water.

WINGS:

Brine for 12 hours. Dredge brined wings in flour, dip in buttermilk, then dredge in flour again. Fry wings in canola oil at 360 degrees until golden brown. Coat with warmed hot sauce and soft butter.

BLUE CHEESE DIP:

1 large egg and 1 egg yolk

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Dash of champagne vinegar

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 anchovies

Pinch of sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/2 cup buttermilk

5 ounces blue cheese

Blend all ingredients in a blender.

PULLED PORK SANDWICHES

Mitchell Gerow, chef/co-owner, East Ender, Portland

BRIOCHE BUNS:

1/3 pound melted butter

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 ounce fresh yeast

1 cup hot water

1 1/4 tablespoons heavy cream

Bloom yeast in hot water and heavy cream. Mix all ingredients and let rise until double. Once risen, punch down and let rise again for 15 minutes. Shape into 6-ounce rolls, brush with egg, and sprinkle with caraway seeds and kosher salt. Bake at 350 degrees until golden.

PULLED PORK:

1 Boston butt (pork shoulder)

1 leek

1 carrot

2 stalks of celery

2 quarts of apple cider

1 can of beer

5 bay leaves

Salt and pepper

Salt and pepper pork, then grill or sear until brown on all sides. Place in a large roasting pan. Rough chop vegetables and add rest of ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover with parchment and foil, and bake at 325 degrees for 3 hours. Pork will be fork tender. Strain the braising liquid and discard the vegetables. Reincorporate the liquid and season to taste.

PORK MEATBALLS WITH LOCAL CIDER GRAVY

Pete Sueltenfuss, chef at District, Portland

MEATBALLS:

1 pound ground pork

1 egg

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon picked fresh thyme

Mix all of the ingredients well. Form into 1- to 2-ounce meatballs, depending on preference. Cover the bottom of a saute pan with canola oil, and brown meatballs on one side over medium-high heat. Flip the meatballs and place in a 450-degree oven until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

LOCAL CIDER GRAVY:

1 cup minced white onion

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups local cider

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a small sauce pan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add flour, and stir until combined. Slowly add the cider, stirring constantly to avoid any clumps. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add the meatballs to the gravy and serve.