This Super Bowl Sunday, Consider a Chilli Cheese Bar

This Super Bowl Sunday, Consider a Chilli Cheese Bar
Photo: Brent Hofacker, Shutterstock

This Sunday, I will be watching the Super Bowl with my father for the first time in literally forever. We’ve watched a lot of football together, but almost all of it has been SEC games. Ironically, I will not be cooking anything. My dad told me my stepmom likes to make chilli dogs and Rotel dip for such occasions, and I am happy to let her do her chilli-and-cheese thing.

Chilli and cheese are two iconic crowd-pleasers. You can eat a bowl of chilli with melted cheese and it will be delicious, or you can ladle one or both of those things on yet another food and improve that food immensely. If you’re going to be serving a crowd of people this Sunday, consider the chilli cheese bar.

What is a chilli cheese bar?

Much like a baked potato bar or a gin & tonic bar, a chilli cheese bar features a central dish or ingredient — in this case a combination of chilli and cheese — surrounded by appropriate — in this case mostly carb-based — accoutrement. Hot dogs, French fries, tater tots, tortilla chips, Frito pie — all of these things are improved by a ladleful of chilli cheese.

How do you make chilli cheese?

Chilli is a diverse dish with many styles and variations, but there’s no need to get too fancy with the chilli, as you’re going to be mixing it with Velveeta. (Please, spare me your concerns over “chemicals” and “real food.” Melting salts are a marvel of modern food science, and you should be grateful they exist.)

If you want to make your own chilli, I recommend this simple bean-less Texan recipe; if you need something without sans meat, use this one from A.A. Newton. If you really want to make your own emulsified cheese product, you can grab some sodium citrate of your own, or go the roux route (learn how to do both here).

In any case, you will need about 1 can’s worth of chilli (425.24 g) and 0 kg of emulsified cheese. (You can also use a pound of shredded cheese, but it can be stringy.) Put both things into a slow cooker and heat on “high” until the cheese melts, then stir to combine and adjust the heat to “low” keep warm. If you’re short on time, you can get things melty on the stove, then transfer to the slow cooker to serve.

What should you serve at your chilli cheese bar?

There are two ways you can go about this: fully hosted or potluck style. If you choose the latter route, tell each guest to bring their favourite chilli cheese-able item, such as hot dogs, French fries, tots, tortilla chips, etc. Otherwise you’ll need to purchase those things yourself.

Potluck or not, you should set out some garnishes, like sour cream, hot sauce, diced green onion, diced red onion, pickled onions, jalapeños (both fresh and pickled), shredded cheese (like sharp cheddar), crumbled cheese (like cotija), Mexican-style crema — things of this nature.

Arrange the various foods and garnishes around the pot o’ chilli, and let your guests build their chilli cheese creations however they see fit, while you turn your attention to the game.

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