Seafood Tips for Super Sunday with Westin Huntsville Chef Bill Stellwagen

It’s the most-watched television event of the year for a reason.

Even if you’re not a football fan, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate. And if you’re preparing for Super Sunday with Alabama Gulf Seafood, well, be prepared to be rather popular with your friends, family and neighbors.

The biggest question that remains is a simple one: What to cook? In order to help alleviate the stress of entertaining and feeding your party guests, we asked Westin Huntsville executive chef and the Alabama Restaurant Association’s 2012 Chef of the Year Bill Stellwagen what dishes he would recommend, what preparation methods he prefers—and who he thinks will take home the trophy.

Check out the interview below to see what Bill had to say.

Not everyone is a football fan. So why is this game an exciting party opportunity for everyone?

Even if you’re not a fan of the teams that are in the game, you have good food, you’ve got good fun, you’ve got some great friends around, and you get to make some new ones.

We hear about “standard” football fare, like chicken wings, pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and steaks. But why is Alabama Gulf Seafood perfect for the big game?

Well, with seafood, you can turn it into a lot of different things. Appetizers, salads, soups, dips—you know, anything you want. And you can cook it any different way. You can grill it, sauté it, bake it. So the only limitation you have with seafood is your own imagination.

It may get pretty cold outside. Should we fire up the grill or stay in the kitchen?

Me, I would do both. If it’s going to be really, really cold outside, I would work a day ahead of time on Saturday, and whatever items I wanted to grill, I would get them cooled off but not cooked all the way. That way, Sunday, all I have to do is pop them in the oven, finish them, and from there, I have all the flavors of the grill. Plus, I’m not wasting all my time cooking and I can enjoy the game a little bit.

What Alabama Gulf Seafood works best on the grill during the wintertime?

Any shellfish is fine, including oysters. Drum, Grouper. Shark works great. Any kind of firm fish you can get. Or, easily on a grill, if you’re working a day ahead with it, you can partially cook it and then finish it the next day and it doesn’t dry out on you as quickly.

What sort of entrée or dinner fare would you recommend for an indoor preparation?

Any kind of stuffed mushroom. A lot of people think stuffed mushrooms are always crab meat, but you can use shrimp, or you can cook up Drum or Snapper and flake it and put it in there. It depends on your flavors, what you like to have. Seafood dips are usually a pretty big hit. You don’t have to have tortilla chips with them; you can grill off some pita bread and make pita chips. Other types of things like miniature kabobs are always fun. It really depends on what you’re trying to do—do you want to have dinner, or do you want to have some things around to snack on?

Football parties are often about dips, appetizers and finger foods. Any Alabama Gulf Seafood recommendations in this area?

Well, anytime I’m doing a function of this type, I like to try and do foods that have something to do with the cities that the food comes from. So, we’re looking at Baltimore and San Francisco right now.

With Baltimore, everybody thinks of crab cakes, crab soup, crab dip—but you don’t have to limit yourself to crab. We have Blue Crabs here in Alabama, but we also have fantastic shrimp and fish that you can just make a seafood dip with and incorporate all different types of seafood.

With San Francisco, one of their best-known dishes is cioppino. And there are lots of different recipes that you can use for cioppino depending on the spice level you want. But you don’t have to use the seafood that they typically use in California. In California, they use Dungeness Crab; well, we would use Blue Crab. We can use Alabama Gulf Seafood in making our own cioppino dish. We can use oysters instead of mussels if we want. I like to take recipes from different cities and involve Alabama Gulf Seafood in that recipe. Make it your own.

When it comes to winter seafood, what’s your personal favorite for serving party guests?

Crab and/or oysters. If anybody went to the Oyster Cook-Off, they probably saw hundreds of different ways of doing oysters. And that’s kind of fun. You get to experiment a little bit with what you saw and see if you can do that too. Amberjack, Drum and shark are all very good in the winter.

With party foods, there are bound to be leftovers. Is there an Alabama Gulf Seafood recipe that will keep well for a few days after the game?

Either the cioppino or the dip. Crab cakes will hold pretty well. How you handle it is the most important thing. Anybody using raw seafood that’s been sitting out, if you want to do sushi or anything like that, it has to be thrown away. With cooked seafood, if you keep it properly cooled, it will hold up.

When your party starts, that’s going to be when most people eat the most. So, I would put out on your buffet about 2/3 of what you have and hold some back. If you need more around halftime, you have it; if you don’t, at least it’s being kept in the refrigerator and it will hold longer that way.

So, who wins: Baltimore or San Francisco?

Well, unfortunately, I’m from Philadelphia, so I guess I don’t get to say anything this year. [Laughs] San Francisco’s had a great year, and Baltimore is a fantastic Cinderella. But if you’re from Alabama, well, we don’t have any pro teams here. So, I guess you would have to look at the rosters and see who has the most players from Alabama or Auburn and then root for that team. That’s the only thing I can say for people here in Alabama.

If you’re looking for a few recipes to share with your friends this weekend, visit Alabama Gulf Seafood’s recipes section or our Gameday Food Pinterest Board.