Food and football.
Were there ever two more beautiful words in the English language?
Did two activities ever pair better with one another?
The premise of this brand-new column is that the answer to both questions is an unequivocal no.
Starting with this debut edition, we plan to pair the week’s best football game with interesting food that has something in common with that game.
How will we know what the best football game of the week will be? It’s a highly subjective matter, and we will base it upon how things look at the beginning of each week. Will it be an NFL game or an NCAA game? That is completely up to us to decide! The only criteria is that the game will have some connection to those of us in the Pacific Northwest, which presumably describes most of our readers.
How about the food? Who gets to pick that?
We have amassed a highly competent panel of food historians and chefs to deeply research the single most important food directly and completely related specifically to both football teams.
Just kidding! It’s going to be a whimsical choice. However, a food that connects loosely to either football team, state, region, or whatever else we happen to come up with along the way.
Because if there were a third word that describes this new column—and you know how amorous we are about alliteration—that word would be fun. The idea is to explore a dish, food, snack, preparation, or what have you, that has a fun connection to the football game. Think of it as entertainment with a purpose. An anything-but-serious purpose.
So what game and food are we looking at this week?
It’s the Washington Huskies’ home opener against the Montana Grizzlies!
Why is this game important, and what sets it apart from the other home openers around our region?
Mostly it’s because we should consider this game to be Jimmy Lake’s debut as the Huskies coach. Yes, let’s wipe 2020 from our record books, much as we would like to wipe it from our collective hard drive. Last season was a disaster, not just from a pandemic perspective but also from a football one. Teams couldn’t practice in the spring; they started the season late, some had to pause in the middle, and many had to end early. And while Lake did coach Washington to a 3-1 record last year, this year should give us a much better sense of the true direction of the program as well as his PAC-12 coaching acumen.
On the other side, the Montana Grizzlies are a respectable Big Sky conference team with a 6-2 record in 2019. They should pose a reasonable threat to the Huskies, at least relative to Washington’s typical non-conference opponents.
This game might be interesting because the Huskies have a titanic matchup next week when they have to travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan. The Huskies are no doubt looking ahead, at least behind closed doors. They better make sure they aren’t looking ahead when they step onto the field at Montlake this Saturday to take on the Grizzlies, or they could be in for a titanic upset. The Montana coaching staff has no doubt made their players aware of this little dynamic.
Let’s talk about food! Considering there will be plenty of opportunities for this column to explore foods from the PNW, it felt appropriate to turn to Montana as a source of inspiration. And while Montana may be loaded with wildlife, the cupboard is relatively bare when it comes to the kinds of foods that you might be able to whip up this weekend as you’re watching the game.
It made the writing of this column difficult until we discovered the pork chop sandwich!
You heard that right. And it couldn’t be simpler or more delicious.
The pork chop sandwich is apparently ubiquitous at roadside saloons and restaurants in Big Sky Country. It presents like a burger, but there’s a breaded, fried pork chop in the middle instead of a beef patty!
What on earth could be better than fried pork tucked into a bun and dressed with all of the things you might find on your favorite burger. We have tested the recipe, and trust me, it works!
Now the plan for this column is not to get too into the weeds with preparation steps and such. The basic idea is to buy some boneless pork chops of the thinner variety. Also, grab all the other things you would for making burgers—buns, condiments, chips on the side, etc.
Take your pork chops, season them up with whatever spice blend is handy. Then dip them in flour, followed by beaten egg, followed by breadcrumbs. We used the Italian-seasoning breadcrumbs, and it came out wonderfully. Feel free to go crazy with your seasonings, marinades, and breadings, but also understand that a crispy pork chop is delectable no matter how you season it. Just don’t burn them.
Put about an inch of basic vegetable oil in a large pan, and heat slowly over medium heat. You don’t have to have the pork chops swimming in oil to fry them. This is more of a pan fry, so if the depth of the oil is shallower than the thickness of the pork chop, it’s okay! You can and should flip them halfway through cooking.
At this point, it’s best to have an instant-read thermometer nearby. Or a fire extinguisher. Home frying can definitely get a little dicey. Best not to mix the cooking process with recreational alcohol consumption. You want the oil to reach 350 degrees, and then add your pork chops in a single layer. Keep the heat steady, and fry on each side for about four minutes, or until an internal temperature of 145. If all your pork chops don’t fit in the pan simultaneously, it’s best to do them in batches. You’ll thank yourself later when all of them come out nice and crispy rather than greasy and mushy.
Transfer your fried pork chops to a paper towel or rack to drip dry, and then get all of your other stuff ready! Place your chops in the buns and dress them accordingly. You are going to want to have a lot of these around since they go quickly. They’re also incredible the next day, even cold, which is more than you can say for most burgers. Just put out a big plate of them on the coffee table in front of the football game. You’ll be everyone’s new favorite forever and ever.
So there you have it! Food and football in the best kind of way. Your friends or family will definitely be impressed with your newfound cooking … chops. Just take it in stride. Make up a story about when you wrestled a Grizzly in Montana, which made you so hungry you had to eat ten pork chop sandwiches at a nearby bar afterward. No big deal. Game on.