Packers fans put cheese on their heads, and Angels fans grab their rally monkeys. Steelers fans pack a Terrible Towel to wave, and Celtics fans put on their lucky green socks. The game-day gear may differ, but the one thing all fans share is the need to feast. And for Daina Falk, founder of The Hungry Fan, a website devoted to curating what to wear, drink, and eat on game day, that feast should be just as delicious as an overtime win. In fact, she created a word for that experience — “fangating,” an idea that weds a fan’s enthusiasm for the game with a foodie’s appreciation of a satisfying and entertaining meal. And that marriage can happen in a parking lot or in the confines of your living room.
“Tailgating, homegating, fangating, or whatever you want to call it, I just love the atmosphere,” says Falk, who just published The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook (published in August by Time Inc.; $22.95). “Football seems most conducive to this environment, but you can create a party-style atmosphere for any sport with a little creativity.” Falk has demonstrated her food prowess with cooking demonstrations on NBC’s The Today Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers. Her cookbook delivers some star power too. It contains 165 recipes, including more than 40 that Falk collected from professional and Olympic athletes, including LeBron James, Boomer Esiason, Michael Jordan, and Andre Agassi. Celebrity access comes natural for Falk, who is the daughter of professional sports agent David Falk and grew up surrounded by star sports talent.
But the food is the star in the recipes offered in her book and on The Hungry Fan site and typically offer a gourmet twist on traditional game favorites such as barbecue chicken empanadas. But they also seek to provide some culinary versatility so that those in charge of the eats can please a diverse crowd of fans — whether that’s at the stadium or in front of the living room’s big screen. For Falk, each game and each venue provide an opportunity for creativity. “I can’t say there’s any one food item you have to have when fangating. I like to vary my menus — especially by where the game is and who’s playing,” she says. “What I stress is variety. I always like to have a dip, a veggie or salad side, and some hearty protein of some form.”
For fall fangating opportunities, here are five of Falk’s recipes for a range of occasions. She features a pumpkin spice for each recipe, however a barbecue spice is also mentioned, and additional spices will be released this fall.
The High-School Rivalry Game: Pumpkin Spice Caramel Cookie Bars
16.5 ounces chocolate chip cookie dough (homemade or store-bought)
25 mini pretzels, plus more for serving
¾ cup dates, pitted
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
¼ cup almond butter
¼ cup rolled oats
¼ cup honey
1 large egg
3 tablespoons 2% Greek yogurt
¼ fine sea salt
2 tablespoons of pumpkin spice*
(*Falk sells her own version called Hungry Fan™ Pumpkin Spice Blend, which is available on The Hungry Fan website, along with barbecue and soon to be released spices.)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Grease a 9”x9” baking dish with butter or coconut oil. Set aside.
- Combine your dates, water and brown sugar in a small pot and cook over medium-high for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a fork, mash the dates until it forms a sticky paste, adding in additional water if necessary. Stir in almond butter and set aside.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, honey, egg, yogurt, salt and pumpkin spice blend. Mix well.
- Spoon the pumpkin spice blend into the baking dish, spreading evenly along the bottom.
- Top with an evenly-spaced layer of pretzels. Then top with the caramel date paste and then a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough.
- Bake for 22 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
- Slice into 9 equal pieces. Serve as is or top each bar with a dollop of whipped cream sprinkled with crushed pretzels and additional pumpkin spice.
The Neighborhood Watch Party: Pumpkin Empanadas
1 Box pre-made puff pastry dough
1 Cup pumpkin puree
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin spice
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Cream
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon water
- Thaw pastry dough in fridge according to box directions.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine pumpkin, sugars, spice mix, and cream.
- Cut out 4 circles of pastry dough (you should use up the full sheet). Gently pull out the edges of each circle to make slightly larger and to make room for the filling.
- Place an overflowing tablespoon of filling into the center of each circle. Wet a finger with water and run around the circumference of the circle where the dough will be sticking together to form a pocket. Fold over one side of the dough to encase the filling, making half circles. Pinch the edges of dough together by pressing down with a fork along the edge, making sure to seal the empanada all the way around.
- Make an egg wash by adding 1 tablespoon of water to beaten egg. Lightly brush mixture on top of each pastry.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Serve!
The Couples Night Fan Fest: Fall Squash Soup
1 Kuri squash
1 Butternut squash
1 Acorn squash
1/2 Bottle of chardonnay
24 oz. Vegetable broth
3 Padrone peppers, minced
2 Shallots, minced
1 Head of garlic, minced
1 Handful of fresh chives, minced
1 Yellow onion, minced
2 Medium shiitake mushrooms
Extra virgin olive oil
1 Small piece of ginger
1 Handful of glazed pecans
**2 cups of low-fat goat milk optional**
- Peel, chop, and boil the squashes. Aim for smaller, thinner slices so that that boil faster.
- In a skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium/medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, sauté the garlic, yellow onion, shallots, ginger, and red peppers until the onion and shallot pieces become translucent. Take off heat.
- Once the squash is soft, drain (save for a tiny bit of the boiling water), and return to the pot. Salt a small amount and add half the serving of white wine, broth, and goats milk if you’re using it. Then add in half the 3/4 of the chives, the sautéed garlic/shallots/onions/peppers/ginger combination, and the remaining wine, broth, and milk.
- Blend with a hand-held mixer until the soup is smooth and not lumpy. Sprinkle in some nutmeg and cinnamon to taste and blend into the soup. (If you find the soup is still too lumpy for your tastes, strain it and return it to the pot. Also, if you choose not to use goats milk or other dairy, you may want to use more white wine and/or vegetable broth to make the soup more liquid-y).
- In the skillet that you used to sauté the garlic, shallots, onions, peppers, and garlic, add a dab of olive oil and heat again over high heat. Chop the shiitake mushrooms into long slices and roughly chop the nuts. Pan sauté the shiitake mushroom slices.
- To serve, ladle some soup into a bowl, making sure to clean off the sides if you spill. Top with some sautéed shiitake mushrooms, a dash of the chopped nuts, and a sprinkle of the remaining minced chives.
The College Team Tailgater: Barbecue Chicken Empanadas
2 medium yams
1/4 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon pumpkin spice
4 chicken thighs
1 (2-ounce) pouch Hungry Fan™ Barbecue Spice Blend
1 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup honey
10 (store-bought) empanada discs
Avocado oil or vegetable oil for frying
Fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
- Prick the yams several times each with a fork and place them onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tender.
- Let the yams cool enough to handle, then remove skin. Place into a mixing bowl and mash well with a fork or potato masher. Add sour cream and Pumpkin Spice Blend and mix until incorporated.
Generously rub chicken thighs with barbecue spice blend.
- Place the thighs in the refrigerator, covered, allow them to marinate at least 30 minutes. (They’re best overnight).
- In a bowl, combine the cayenne pepper sauce with the honey and another tablespoon of barbecue spice blend. Place the chicken thighs into the mixture and toss to coat.
- Transfer the now coated chicken into a large skillet and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Flip the chicken over and cover the skillet. Simmer until the liquid has thickened. Remove from skillet.
- Use a fork to shred the chicken. Combine the chicken and any sauce left in the skillet into the yam mixture and mix.
- Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the chicken and yam mixture into the middle of an empanada disc. Fold the disc in half to form a moon shape. Moisten the edges of the disc with and pinch to seal closed, or seal with a fork.
- Fill a deep saucepan with oil to a depth of 2 ½ inches. Heat the oil until hot (350 degrees) over medium-high heat.
Cook the empanadas until golden brown, flipping once, for about 4-6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-covered plate to drain then, while still hot, sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Serve and enjoy!
The Family Fans Get-Together: Pumpkin Alfredo Gnocchi
Pre-made sweet potato gnocchi (plain is fine too for a milder, less “fall inspired” dish)
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, diced
½ cup pumpkin purée
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin spice
½ cup cream
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook gnocchi according to package directions and set aside.
- Lightly brown the diced shallot with butter over medium heat in a medium sized saucepan.
- Add pumpkin puree and spice mix, mix and cook, continuously stirring for about 1 minute.
- Add milk and cream and stir until uniform before bringing to a boil.
- Reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes to thicken.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper, stir to combine.
- Add in the cooked gnocchi and serve.