Football is coming to an end.
And that stinks.
But I still have one team left in the hunt for Super Bowl glory!
First and foremost, I support da Bears.
Then come the Broncos and the Colts.
We had planned to see Peyton that year, but with his neck injury we just missed him as he moved to some land called “Denver.” Little did we know that we’d be following in his footsteps!
Bronco fans are quite different than Bears fans though.
Not that I question their loyalty, per se, but much like the composed and mature group that takes the field every week, their fans seem to follow in suit.
Whereas Bears fans, much like their team, are grittier. They come out of their caves in the snow, sleet and wind to get after it. Loud, feisty and expecting, they will tolerate nothing but the best against their opponent, regardless of the skill matchup at hand.
A great way to demonstrate this was December’s Bears game with the Ditka presentation at Soldier Field. They retired number 89 in weather 10 below with the wind chill. Stadium was packed. Ditka’s head was lost in a fog of white from the words he shuddered out during his speech while the bundled crowd roared in approval.
The day before that game, the Broncos played in weather that was cold, but charted positive on the Farenheit scale. No wind chill. And there were obvious chunks of vacant stadium seating. When I got to work, I asked the two season ticket holders in the offices next to me how the game went. Both snapped, “Do you have any idea how cold it was?” They stayed in all weekend.
Fans of all intensities though are cheering Manning this year. As I’m reminded from a little birdy every day, this is sports history we are witnessing.
And since the Bears are hibernating for the remainder of the winter, I’m all about the blue and orange in the mountains.
This is a special city, with special fans.
Let’s root for a special man to bring it home!
And for your Super Bowl extravaganza, I offer up these rich caramel cashew bars.
Incredibly gourmet looking, these are a perfect combination of sweet and salty.
The deep caramel topping is deceptive in its toffee-like appearance because with one bite you realize that amber glass imprisoning an army of toasted cashews is really an ooey, gooey pool that the cashews clearly hurled themselves into to claim partial stake in its deliciousness.
A soft, sugary shortbread is a superb base, crumbling softly and moistly in your mouth before mixing with the salty molasses-like caramel.
Ok, now it’s officially Super Bowl time.
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats
- 2 C flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 3/4 C unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 C light brown sugar
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 C light brown sugar
- 1 C sugar
- 6 T butter, cubed
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp plus 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, divided
- 1 C heavy whipping cream, room temperature
- 2 C raw cashews
Roast the cashews in a 300F oven until golden brown. Spread them out on a silpat mat or parchment paper and mix the cashews often, paying close attention so they don’t burn. This happens very fast. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 13×9 pan with parchment paper then grease the parchment with butter.
Crust: Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix. Separately, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the wet ingredients in two parts while mixing.
Cover your hand or a cup in plastic wrap and use it to push the dough into the prepared pan evenly. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Then bake it in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool while preparing the topping.
Topping: Place sugars in a deep, nonstick pot. Turn heat to medium and watch for the bottom layer of the sugar to start melting. Once you observe this, stir constantly until the end of the caramel process, which will take a while. Failure to do so will result in a burned or bitter caramel. Stir until entire mixture is liquid and when you dip a spoon in the caramel, there are no visible granules of sugar left. Be patient for this process to occur.
At this point, pour the cream into the pot and beware of bubbling. Stir continually until the mixture goes back into one smooth texture from its now separated parts. This takes 5+ minutes.
Once back to a smooth sauce, add the butter in cubes and stir to melt. Add the vanilla and then the 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix in the cashews and then pour over the partially baked crust. Spread evenly.
Sprinkle half of the remaining sea salt over the caramel and then place the pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the rest of the salt on top. Allow to cool for 2 hours before slicing. Enjoy!