Big Game Food

Ahhhh, here comes the Big Game. It’s about hanging out, munchies, half-time shows, and cool commercials. It’s as close as we come to a universally accepted national holiday. These days, 85 million people in the U.S. are tuned into that game at any given time, easily twice the Nielsen ratings President Obama’s State of the Union speech drew this week.

I found some other interesting facts about the Super Bowl as well:

  • While it’s the most watched televised program of the year in the United States, over 8% of viewers only tune in to watch the commercials.
  • Michael Jackson was the first solo halftime act (you fellow fans can watch the YouTube video here: Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl XXVII Performance).
  • The AFC and NFC are awarded home status on even and odd numbered Super Bowls respectively.
  • Employee absenteeism increases by an average of 6% on the day after the Super Bowl.
  • Retailers report a 20% spike in antacid sales on Super Bowl Sunday.
  • Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving Day for average food consumption per person. Viewers consume a combined average of 145,000 tons of chips and 8,000 tons of guacamole.

Source: and

But you’re not reading this article because you respect my football knowledge base; you’re reading it because you care about your diet. So take a look at those last three factoids on my list; basically, they boil down to eat, medicate, absentee rate. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Big Game is bad for your health. If the Giants are playing—and losing—my friend Erica can attest the Super Bowl can be bad for your father’s television as well. But just as I strived to give you a healthier Thanksgiving stuffing worth making, I’ve developed a recipe for your Football Sunday menu that will please everyone while they’re eating it and—as importantly—after they’ve eaten it and tried to button their pants again. Perhaps the healthier fare might mitigate the rivalry-induced blood pressure issues as well. This soup can be made up to three days in advance; in fact, its flavor matures after a night in the fridge and a reheat before service.

My last article featured a homemade low-fat Chorizo sausage recipe that mitigates the effects of a traditionally high-calorie and high-fat ingredient. A garlicky and spicy sausage of Spanish origin, Chorizo is a favorite among diners who favor bold flavors and aromas. But besides adding it to a sauce, embellishing an omelet, or sticking it inside a taco or quesadilla, your average home cook isn’t armed with a box full of recipes that utilize it. That’s a shame because as intimidating as it can be, Chorizo is a versatile ingredient, hence my motivation to develop the low-fat version.

If we look at those Super Bowl factoids again, the junk food tonnage consumed by the American public seems to point to one thing: Nachos. Last week a friend of mine quipped, “Nachos are a perfectly acceptable dinner.” And you know what? She’s absolutely right. I’ve come up with a variation on a Chorizo-based Portuguese soup that, while normally made with kale (and frankly, you can add kale to this recipe with great results), I’ve featured black beans. Why such a random swap? Well, most people like chili. Most of your friends like soup. But almost everyone loves nachos. And in addition to being an interesting variation on your traditional CrockPot™ offering, my Portuguese Chorizo and Black Bean Soup can be your nacho topping too. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of your Sunday Football menu: there’s something there for every use you have, and it all comes from one source.

Refogado, a gently cooked mixture of aromatic vegetables that, like the French mirepoix or the Latin American sofrito, starts the ball rolling with a base layer of flavor. While traditional refogado often contains tomatoes, I’ve chosen instead to substitute sweet and hot peppers to keep the soup from too closely resembling its cousin to the south. After adding the chorizo mixture to the pan to sauté, we toss in some stock and beans, simmer for a bit, and the soup is done and ready to serve. Reminiscent of chili to be sure, the extra elements of gently simmered bell pepper, lemon juice, plenty of olive oil and cloves—even the tiny 1/8 teaspoon for this recipe—change the flavor enough to throw out a familiar yet novel vibe.

Fans of the creamier texture associated with a traditional black bean soup have another option: transfer about 3 cups of the cooked soup to a blender and puree until it’s almost smooth. Transfer the puree back to the soup and stir to thicken the entire mixture. Or if you have what we call a “boat motor,” the immersion or stick blenders that resemble their nickname, just stick it in the pot of soup and buzz the mixture a few times until you get the texture you want.

Finally, we’re back to those Big Game nachos everyone’s eating. Believe it or not, many brands of tortilla chips—no, not just the baked or the froufrou seed-nut-twig varieties—have one, two, and even three Guiding Stars. Topped with the thickened soup—or even just the solids from which the stock has been strained—and lightly sprinkled with cheese, your nachos can fuel the fire for your team without fanning the flames of your post-game heartburn. Fat-free sour cream, some sliced scallion, and a fresh or packaged salsa will make this dish pop, and your game day fare will be remembered long after commercials get boring again and another football season begins.

Portuguese Sausage & Black Bean Soup

Print this recipe | Get the full nutrition facts

This soup can be made up to three days in advance; in fact, its flavor matures after a night in the fridge. Scallions, cilantro, and lime make lovely garnishes if you’d like a little green to brighten up the dish.


Servings: 6 (740 g )

Prep Time: 40 min.

Cook Time: 1 hour


  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced fire-roasted mild green chiles
  • 1 recipe Homemade Sausage, Chorizo-style
  • 2½ quarts low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans low-sodium black beans, drained
  • 1 (15 oz.) cans low-sodium black beans, undrained
  • Pepper to taste


  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, jalapeño, and salt and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook the vegetables until soft (12-15 minutes).
  2. Add the oregano, cumin, and bay leaves. Cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Remove the vegetable mixture to a dish and return the pot to the stove.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil until hot, add the chorizo to the pan and sauté, stirring frequently, until the meat is golden brown (6-8 minutes). Drain the excess fat and discard.
  4. Return the vegetable mixture to the pan with the chorizo. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium-low, simmer to combine flavors, heat beans, and reduce liquid (15-20 minutes).
  5. Serve hot or freeze in small batches for future meals.

About the Expert Chef

Erin Dow balances three food worlds. As a mother of three young children, she’s fighting the battle every parent faces: how to keep her kids interested in the foods that keep them healthy.

As the chef and owner of her catering company Eatswell Farm, she utilizes original recipes and techniques–focused on enhancing the enjoyment of locally-sourced ingredients–to best interpret the client’s vision. And as Consulting Executive Chef for Falmouth-based Professional Catering Services, a business specializing in production and backstage catering for concerts, she develops and executes menus that accommodate the strict nutritional requirements of the music industry elite.

Erin and her family raise their own chicken for meat and eggs, have dabbled in pastured Narragansett turkeys, and have a very weedy but very large and productive garden.