Super game plan

Chipotle-Grilled Pork Tacos

Football and the Super Bowl might not even exist if not for the creative use of a pig part, perhaps borrowing a page from "everything but the oink" in cooking.

Early in the game's evolution, balls were made from the inflated bladders of animals, often a pig. They were easily obtained, mostly round and worked better than anything else at the time. "Pigskin" became the slang for a football, and it stuck.

With the eating ritual as big as actually watching the game for many Americans, a bit of pig might be in celebratory order for Super Bowl XLV. Lest you need reminding, the 45th game kicks off Sunday night between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pork easily rises to the occasion for Super Bowl party fare. And as themes go, this one certainly isn't a hard-sell in the South.

Serves 4

This recipe is adapted from "The Best Simple Recipes" by America's Test Kitchen (2010, $26.95). The editors note that halving the tenderloins lengthwise creates more surface area for the wet rub to develop into a flavorful crust. Cilantro, garlic, chipotles and pineapple juice create a sweet-spicy rub, which also is used in a crunchy pineapple slaw topping.

Ingredients

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, drained and chopped fine, 1/4 cup juice reserved

3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo (see cook's note)

1 (8-ounce) bag coleslaw mix

3 scallions, sliced thin

Salt and pepper

2 pork tenderloins (1 1/2 to 2 pounds total), sliced in half lengthwise

12 corn tortillas

Directions

Cook's note: If you prefer less spice, use only 1 tablespoon chipotle chiles. Whisk mayonnaise, pineapple juice, cilantro, garlic and chipotle in large bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup mayonnaise mixture, then add pineapple chinks, coleslaw mix, scallions and 1/2 teaspoon salt to bowl with remaining mayonnaise mixture and toss to combine.

Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Rub with reserved mayonnaise mixture and grill over hot fire until browned all over and meat registers 145 degrees, about 6 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Grill tortillas over hot fire until lightly charred, about 15 seconds per side. Slice pork thin, arrange on tortillas, and top with pineapple slaw. Serve.

Servings: 8

For a day that's all about the rough and tumble, you need a chili that isn't afraid to play hard, says Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch, also the author of "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking."

The chili starts with an intense base of toasted seasonings, some classics, some not -- cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, smoked paprika, instant coffee, mustard powder, ginger and garlic powder. For the meat, he opted for three: shredded pork tenderloin, chopped flank steak and, for good measure, ground buffalo.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut into 1/2-inch strips

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

2 large yellow onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground buffalo

12-ounce bottle Corona or other pale beer

28-ounce can diced tomatoes

14-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 cup beef broth

1 to 2 cans kidney beans (optional; see cook's note)

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Several rinds from chunks of Parmesan cheese (optional; see cook's note)

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (more or less to taste)

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Sour cream, to serve

Chopped fresh cilantro, to serve

Directions

Cook's note: The author made beans optional in deference to the no-beans camp of chili fans. Personally, he likes kidney beans in his chili.

Parmesan rind is not essential, only if you happen to have rinds around (many people save them). They add a rich, savory flavor to soups and stews. Remove and discard rinds before serving.

In a food processor, combine the pork tenderloin and flank steak. Pulse until chopped, but not ground. Set aside.

In a large, dry stock pot over medium heat, combine the cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, paprika, chili powder, coffee powder, mustard, ginger and garlic powder. Toast the seasonings, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Transfer the seasonings to a plate or small bowl and set aside.

Return the stockpot to the burner over medium-high. Add the oil and heat, then add the onion. Saute until the onion is just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the chopped pork tenderloin and flank steak, as well as the ground buffalo. Cook until the meat begins to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the reserved spice blend, beer, both cans of tomatoes, beef broth, kidney beans (if using), liquid smoke and Parmesan rinds, if using. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle bubble. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Spoon out and discard the Parmesan rinds. Stir in the lime juice and hot sauce, then season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with sour cream and cilantro.

Author James Villas writes in "The Bacon Cookbook" (Wiley, 2007) that "bacon has had an affinity with corn and cornmeal in any number of traditional American dishes, so why shouldn't it, along with tangy cheddar cheese, be used to give popcorn a whole new character?"

What's essential to the flavor of this recipe is that bacon fat be added to the cooking oil. Also, to keep the popcorn crisp, place it in the oven just until the melted cheese coats the popped kernels the way butter normally would.

Ingredients

4 slices cured bacon

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1/4 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated

Salt to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a skillet, fry the bacon over moderate heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels and crumble finely.

Pour 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat into a stove-top popcorn popper or deep, heavy saucepan with a lid, add the oil, and heat over moderately high heat until the mixture begins to smoke. Add the popcorn, cover and shake the pan until the popping stops. Pour the popcorn into a large ovenproof pot, add the cheese, bacon and salt, and toss. Heat in the oven until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.