Watching, Breathing, and Eating the World Cup 2006

For us, Germany – and every other country involved – is coming to Austin

I watched my first World Cup final in 1974, when I was 10. By the 1978 version, I was a dedicated fan who kept a play-by-play journal of every game (thank you, summer vacation). In 2002, I started a tradition at home of inviting friends over the weekend to watch the games and eat and drink traditional dishes of the countries playing each match. This turned out to be much fun: researching and preparing the recipes was a blast, and everyone was impressed and surprised. Plus, it gave us an excuse to spend six to eight hours together eating and drinking almost nonstop. So, I've decided to continue my tradition this year, HDTV and all. Like me, Chronicle Publisher Nick Barbaro is a World Cup nut, and the host of multi-ethnic, multidish meals at his house during the tournament. He will also contribute to this weekly update.

On inaugural weekend, a few friends will gather at my home to watch the games and sample traditional dishes of the participating countries, along with learning a little bit about their culinary history and traditions. As the matches are taking place in Germany, the listed game times are central, and many of these dishes may not seem "adequate" for American breakfast tastes. But, we keep an open mind. In addition, it's my belief that it's always happy hour somewhere.

Saturday June 10

England vs. Paraguay, 9am

England:

Mic Carpenter's mushy peas, fish & chips, "Rosie Lees," Bass ale

My friend Mic Carpenter, former chef at Basil's now living back home in Birmingham, has introduced me to mushy peas. It is a traditional dish of Northern England made with marrowfat peas and a popular accompaniment to fish & chips or meat pies. Mic also turned me on to drinking "Rosie Lees," a Cockney rhyming slang expression for "cup of tea." Mic always made them with Earl Grey and milk.

Mic's mushy peas

8 oz. dried marrowfat peas (or substitute dried green peas)

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, or to taste

Put peas in a large glass bowl. Cover with two to three times their volume of boiling water and baking soda, and balsamic vinegar if using. Stir, cover, and leave overnight.

Next day, drain and rinse peas. Place in a saucepan and cover with enough fresh water (or chicken stock, for a richer recipe) and bring to a boil. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes. Should be really thick, but you can loosen it a little with a splash of water or stock. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh mint and serve with fish & chips.

Paraguay:

Chipas, clerico

Chipas are cheese corn breads, a traditional street snack of Paraguay with roots in the Guarani culture. Clerico is a white wine sangria made with seasonal fruits and mineral water. A light, inexpensive Chilean white would be perfect.

Trinidad & Tobago vs. Sweden, 11am

Trinidad & Tobago:

Hot & sour shrimp, lime and ginger sorbet, Reed's ginger ale

Ginger is a spice used all over the Caribbean, so it will be present in all my Trinitarian dishes. And although Reed's ginger ale is Jamaican, ginger ale and beer are enjoyed all over the islands. We will drink it with a healthy dose of Caribbean rum.

Sweden:

Smorgasbord, homemade aquavit.

The smorgarsbord is the most popular of Swedish culinary traditions, dating back to the 18th century. Literally meaning "sandwich table" or "bread and butter table," it is an abundant buffet meal of several hot and cold dishes, from appetizers to desserts, laid out together on the table following a special order. I will serve breads, cheeses, pickles, various fish preparations, and Mick Vann's Swedish meatballs from his award-winning book The Appetizer Atlas. I found a homemade aquavit recipe from a PBS cooking show, New Scandinavian Cooking with Andreas Viestad.

Argentina vs. Ivory Coast, 2pm

Argentina:

Beef churrasco with chimichurri, Malbec.

Need I say more? Argentina equals beef. Churrasco, grilled beef served with chimichurri, is as Argentinean as it gets, especially paired with an Argentinean Malbec. Many excellent choices can be found around town under $15.

Ivory Coast:

Soupe d'avocat Abidjanaise (chilled avocado soup), aloko, chocolate

I am so excited about Cote d'Ivoire during this World Cup. Because of their participation, both sides of a bloody civil war have decided to stop fighting and unite to cheer for their country. Who says it's only a game? The cuisine of Ivory Coast is tropical and similar to most West African cuisines, but is also influenced by French sensibilities. It relies on plantains, yams, and cassava as starches, and features rice and millet dishes, fresh fish, and tropical vegetables. A popular Ivorian dish found in the small roadside restaurants, aloko consists of fried plantains with palm oil, tomatoes, and chiles, often topped with grilled fish. Since Ivory Coast is the world's number one producer of cacao, we'll also have something chocolate.

Sunday, June 11

Serbia & Montenegro vs. Netherlands, 8am

Serbia & Montenegro:

Cevapcici

Serbian cuisine has been greatly influenced by Turkish and Greek traditions. Cevapcici are grilled ground meat patties, sometimes sausage-shaped, and considered the national dish of Serbia. They are traditionally made with ground beef, pork, and lamb, but may be found in any combination.

Netherlands:

Hutspot, Dutch beer

This is the most traditional dish from Leiden, dating back to October of 1574 when Dutch forces expelled the Spaniards from their land. The story claims that hutspot is made from the leftovers found in a pot in a Spanish camp. Although traditionally a fall dish, it will make a delicious breakfast, with some tea and Dutch beer.

Mexico vs. Iran, 11am

Mexico:

Cocteles de mariscos, Mexican lager, Willy's micheladas, tequila reposado

I love Mexican seafood cocktails. There is nothing better on a hot afternoon than a cold ceviche, shrimp cocktail, or any of the hundreds of regional varieties of seafood cocktails. Lately I have been making a crab cocktail from Patricia Quintana's new Gran Libro de los Antojitos, which I love. I will also make my easy shrimp cocktail, known by my friends as shrimp delight.

Claudia's easy shrimp cocktail

1 pound frozen cocktail-size shrimp, thawed

1 cup ketchup

Juice of 2 large limes

1 small white onion, minced

1 bunch cilantro, minced

1 small can jalapenos en escabeche

1 teaspoon Maggi sauce

dash of Tabasco or favorite bottled salsa (optional)

1 large avocado, cut in small cubes

In a food processor, mince jalapenos with half of the juice from the can. In a large glass bowl, mix jalapenos with the rest of ingredients except shrimp and combine well. Check seasoning and add salt to taste. Add shrimp and toss. Add avocado and toss gently. Chill until serving, accompanied with saltine crackers or unsalted tortilla chips and tequila reposado on the side, of course.

Iran:

Chelow Kebab

This is considered the national dish of Persia. In Iran, chicken kababs are normally made with bone-in chicken, so I went that route and skipped the skewers. Traditionally yogurt is not used in the marinade, but inclusion of a small amount will tenderize the meat and create a glaze when broiled. Serve over saffron rice, with lavash bread from Phoenicia and a side salad of diced tomato, cucumber, onion, parsley, lemon, olive oil, and drained natural yogurt with some pureed garlic mixed in. This recipe is my adaptation of a recipe by Mick Vann.

Mick's Chelow Kebab

Marinade:

1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

1Ú2 cup fresh limejuice

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, grated or pureed

2 teaspoons salt

1Ú2 cup natural yogurt, whipped (optional)

1 1Ú2 pounds bone-in chicken legs and/or thighs

32 cherry tomatoes

Basting Liquid:

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/8 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Combine the dissolved saffron, limejuice, olive oil, onion, salt and yogurt (optional), mixing well.

2. Place the chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken pieces. Toss thoroughly to insure all pieces of chicken are coated.

3. Marinate a minimum of 8 hours, or up to 2 days, refrigerated. (If using yogurt in the marinade, allow the chicken to marinate no more than 8 hours as marinating too long in a yogurt mixture can over-tenderize the meat.)

4. Drain and reserve the marinade. Bring the reserved marinade to the boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the limejuice, melted butter and black pepper, stirring well to combine (this is the basting liquid.)

6. Broil or grill the chicken over an indirect charcoal fire, turning and basting frequently until the chicken pieces are just cooked through.

7. Add the tomatoes near the end of the cooking time for the chicken. Cook the tomatoes until slightly charred and just softened. Serve immediately over saffron rice.

Angola vs. Portugal, 2pm

Angola:

Mufete de Kacusso

Angolan cuisine is based mainly on fish, cassava products, and spicy stews. On the long Angolan coast seafood is quite abundant. This recipe pairs grilled tilapia with a cooked sauce of onion, pepper, olive oil, lemon, vinegar, and salt. Because tropical fruit is a big part of Angolan cuisine, we will also have some fresh mangoes and papaya.

Portugal:

Piri-piri chicken, vinho verde

I first tasted piri-piri chicken while in South Africa, where Portuguese influences have been felt since colonial times. Piri-piri is the Portuguese name for the African bird pepper, a superfiery but deliciously addictive chile first brought from Brazil (where it is known as malagueta) to Angola, both Portuguese colonies. The peppers became so important to the local cuisine that they became known as "Angolan peppers." From there they made their way to Portugal. I figured this is a nice tie in for these two countries that will relive a long civil war, thankfully this time on the soccer field. We will wash it all down with some refreshing, lightly sparkling Portuguese vinho verde, available all over town for under $8.

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