Kitchen Shrink: Have a 'Souper' Bowl for Big Game Sunday

KITCHEN SHRINK:

Since I don't have a crystal football, I can't predict which two teams will be vying for the Vince Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl LIII. At this time of writing the New England Patriots , New Orleans Saints , Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs are in the running.

Each locale also has a distinct culinary culture — New England a pescavore's paradise, NOLA a Cajun carnival, Los Angeles an international flair with a southwest twist, while Kansas City is a barbecue and beef haven. How fitting (and comforting) to serve a bowl of soup on Super Bowl Sunday with the regional flavors of champion teams. Game on!

• Soulful Soups from the Big Easy: Even if you're not rooting for New Orleans, no one can resist a steamy bowl of Gumbo with either a seafood- or chicken and sausage-base laced with Cajun spices, the "holy trinity" of vegetables (sweet pepper, celery and onion), and topped with a dollop of long-grain rice (see recipe below).

A close culinary cousin, Jambalaya, much like a southern-style Paella is a spicy rice, sausage and seafood mélange. Less refined offerings include bayou-swamp inspired alligator tail stew (reminiscent of chicken with a jaw work-out), or crawfish soup, a beloved Louisiana crustacean that resembles miniature lobsters. Other southern soup faves — crab and corn, creamy oyster artichoke, roasted garlic and split pea.

• Chowda Champs: New England is not only known for hunky quarterbacks, but also chunky soups. Chowders are thick, hearty soups usually loaded with sea treasures and seasonal vegetables. If you like rich cream bases then classic New England Clam Chowder chock-full of razor clams, potatoes and bacon is your best pick.

Manhattan Clam Chowder, a lighter tomato-based version gets its kick from spicy Italian sausage, while the Rhode Island-style Clear Clam Broth Chowder uses quahogs (large, hard-shelled Atlantic coast species) for a regional twist.

For those chowderphiles who don't do gritty clams, there's seafood chowders of all manners with any amalgam of diver scallops, Maine lobster, monkfish, lump crab and wild-caught shrimp. Some vegan chowders of corn and sweet potato, and rustic wild mushroom also hit the spot on a chilly Super Bowl Sunday with a chunk of crusty ciabatta bread.

• The Coastal Melting Pot: L.A. Rams fans can indulge in an eclectic buffet of ethnic and cultural soups that reflect the diversity of this SoCal city. South of the border options like authentic Chicken Tortilla soup, Caldo de Siete Mares or "seven seas soup" swimming with octopus, calamari, scallops and crab legs, or a sassy pork-based Mexican pozole with red chiles warm the cockles of the heart.

For Far East inspirations try Chinese Hot and Sour, Vietnamese Pho, Thai Duck Noodle, or Korean Ox Bone. Persian palates embrace Aush stew with a load of noodles, tomatoes, lentils, spinach, and chili paste. For an immune-boosting oomph, (especially during flu season) try turkey bone broth with a hefty dose of ginger, turmeric and lemon juice, or a big bowl of chicken and matzo ball soup for the football lover's soul.

• Beef Chiefs: Kansas City carnivores can chow down on hearty, beefy soups and stews like classic Super Bowl chili with kidney or black beans topped with burnt ends. KC steak soup is a favorite, blending ground beef with chunky tomatoes and mixed vegetables served with warm cornbread, as well as hogshead stew combining pork cheeks, smoky tomatoes, roasted corn and potatoes. For lighter fare (ha-ha), whip up a bowl of Midwest-style shredded potato and cheddar soup.

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Recipe: N'awlins Super Bowl Seafood Gumbo

Ingredients: 1/2 cup vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, your choice); 4 tablespoons unbleached flour; 1 sweet onion, diced; 1 green pepper, diced; 2 celery stalks, chopped; 4 garlic cloves, minced; 1 cup okra (fresh or frozen), chopped; 4 cups chicken or seafood broth; 2 cups chopped tomatoes; 2 pounds large, wild-caught shrimp, peeled; 1 pound lump crabmeat; 1 pound firm white fish (halibut, cod), bite-size chunks; 1/2 teaspoon each oregano, basil, thyme, smoked paprika; 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce; sea salt, cayenne pepper to taste.

Method: In a saucepan on medium heat, add flour and half the oil. Stir until a light brown roux forms. Set aside. In a large skillet, add remaining oil. Sauté vegetables until tender. Add broth, tomatoes, herbs, spices and roux. Simmer covered for 1 hour. Add fish and seafood. Cook for 15 minutes until shrimp is pink and fish is cooked through. Ladle into bowls with a dollop of long-grain brown rice. Garnish with chopped parsley. (Recipe serves 6-8 people)

Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: kitchenshrink@san.rr.com and see more recipes at freerangeclub.com

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