Super Bowl Sunday. You invite friends over to watch the game. You offer pizza, chips, cheese-flavored somethings, coleslaw slathered in BBQ sauce, etc. They point out your culinary immaturity, swat the basket of chicken sticks out of your hands, leave, never return.
In reality, Super Bowl Sunday does not demand sophistication. According to the National Chicken Council's 2014 Wing Report, Americans are set to consume 1.25 billion chicken wings this February second, regardless of who wins. And Domino's Pizza has tallied their output for this special occasion at 11 million slices of pizza, 80 percent more than on the average Sunday.
But let's throw out that saturated, Saturnalian stereotype. Why not prepare something yourself, you self-sufficient badass? You can still have chicken, but try a yogurt-and-beet marinade (so healthful!) in place of mystery sauces, and try grilling instead of frying. Exotic enough for your hipster-convert college buddy, but not so exotic you embarrass your Wisconsonite cousin.
OK...What Did You Have in Mind?
Enter: Tandoori-spiced chicken. This recipe makes a good substitute for takeout wings, but you can use any part of the chicken you want (and it doesn't have to come from your personal free-range organic farm). Bake, marinade, drain away the excess fat, sprinkle salt, spritz some lemon. Chef Biju Thomas recommends using two pounds of drumsticks or wings, with bones. Not terribly difficult—but terribly, terribly classy.
First, you'll want to prepare the marinade, since you'll have to let the chicken soak in that at least four hours before baking.
Marinade: 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 small red beet peeled and cut into large cubes
2-4 garlic cloves minced
Fresh ginger about the size of 1/2 your thumb, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon of Garam Masala, or your favorite curry powder, to your taste
1 tsp coarse salt
Make it as spicy as you like by adding cayenne or chili paste.
In a blender, pulse the above ingredients into a thick, red paste. Then, thoroughly coat the chicken pieces in the marinade.
Game Day: 1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Place the chicken and marinade in a deep pan and bake for one hour. Then, carefully drain out all the excess liquid.
3) Finish cooking chicken on a hot grill, turning once. Or: place chicken back in oven, set to broil. (The chicken will cook quickly, requiring just a few minutes of direct heart, until you can see a few charred marks.)
4) Squeeze a fresh lemon and sprinkle coarse salt over the top of the chicken.
5) Serve with your favorite dressing or more yogurt.
Like most places, Taos County hasn’t seen much snow this winter, which was bad news for the snowshoe race I was scheduled to run last Sunday at the Enchanted Forest XC Ski Area in Red River, New Mexico.
Rather than have athletes navigate patchy singletrack, organizers of the Low O2 Challenge decided to hold the event on the area’s groomed cross-country ski trails. The new course was firmly packed and in some places very icy. There was no powder to break, no sketchy off-camber sections to traverse. Just two hilly loops of wide-open trails for the taking.
Which was perfect for the type of snowshoes I was wearing.
But first, a primer.
Unlike mountaineering snowshoes, which come in various sizes that correspond to your weight, running snowshoes are all fairly similar. To facilitate normal running form, they’re light (fewer than three pounds per pair) and small (at least seven inches wide by 20 inches long, as mandated by the U.S. Snowshoe Association).
Over the years, gear companies have tried various ways to shave weight from their racing kicks by incorporating features such as composite or titanium frames, aluminum crampons, minimal decking, and single-pull bindings.
And all those features have worked. Year after year, the very best snowshoe runners show up at the National Championships wearing the latest racing models from companies such as Atlas, Dion, and Crescent Moon.
But that might change with Louis Garneau’s recent crack at a racing snowshoe. At 1.6-pounds per pair, the new Course 721 is significantly lighter and sleeker than any other racing snowshoe on the market.
How? Well, for starters, the aircraft-grade aluminum frame is only a half-inch in diameter. Frame weight alone accounts for one-third of snowshoe weight, so LG literally sheds pounds by opting for a lower profile, thinner skeleton. And amazingly, the narrow frame doesn’t sacrifice strength and durability. The aluminum band comes together at the tapered tail—the least stressed area of the snowshoe—where it is connected with a durable nylon tip.
The deck is a polyurethane-polyethylene weave that connects to the frame at 11 locations, meaning there are plenty of strategically placed cutouts (gaps between the decking and the frame) that also save on weight.
Although the mesh decking is super strong, it’s also slick, which is really my only complaint about this product. If you’re on uneven singletrack, your foot will slip. Say, for example, the trail the tilts to the left. Your heel, when it comes down on the decking, will slide to the left. It’s a little annoying. I think putting some skateboard grip on the heel area might help, but I haven’t tried that yet. Perhaps changing shoes would help, too (I wear Saucony Peregrines).
However, if you’re on a mostly smooth surface, you can power forward, no problem. That’s why the Course 721 was great for my race. I could soar over those groomed cross-country trails and not worry about slipping and sliding to either side.
This confidence was boosted, of course, by also having toothy crampons underfoot. Racing snowshoes don’t boast super-aggressive cleats, but they typically offer enough grip to keep you grounded whether you’re pulling yourself up a mountain or flying down an icy hill.
Lastly, a dual boa closure—a rarity among racing snowshoes—keeps your entire foot secure in the 0.13-pound binding (LG calls it a harness). You’ll never worry about pulls or buckles wriggling loose as you run, and because the Boas tighten evenly across your feet, hot spots and toes falling asleep are not a concern.
I won the race last weekend and will compete in the National Championships in Vermont on March 1. I’m a little skeptical how the Course 721s will do on technical singletrack and fresh powder, but I am definitely not worried about them weighing down my carry-on.
If Kikkan Randall wins cross-country gold on February 11, as most pundits predict, it will be a first for the U.S. and the first Olympic medal won by an American in the sport since Bill Koch took home the silver in 1976. Her biggest accomplishment, though, might be convincing people that cross-country skiing is entertaining.
With streaks of pink in her blond hair and a penchant for feather boas, Randall, 31, brings snowboarder-punk flair to an otherwise staid sport. She also races the sprint, an event that wasn't part of elite competition until 2001. (It debuted at the Olympics in Salt Lake City.) Compared with the 30-kilometer grind that has always defined cross-country, the sprint is a kilometer and a half of fury, where six athletes go elbow-to-elbow on a hilly, twisting track. Think Roller Derby on snow.
"It's six skiers on a course that's sometimes no more than ten feet wide," says Randall. "You've got skis and poles going different directions, and you don't know the winner until they lunge for the finish."
Randall captured the overall World Cup sprint title in 2012, then repeated last year while also winning the gold in the sprint relay at the World Championships with teammate Jessie Diggins. Known for her aggressive approach to training—in high school, her cross-country-running teammates dubbed her the Kikkanimal—she credits her success to a distinctive fitness regimen, which mixes long hours of endurance work with Olympic weight lifting.
Twice a week, Randall, who's five feet five inches and 135 pounds, with Adonis abs and prize-fighter biceps, completes a series of power cleans and snatches. She also does pull-ups with a 60-pound weight dangling from her waist. "Going into the 2011 season, I began working with a strength coach, and that's when my results picked up," she says. "I've noticed a new level of power in my skiing."
To prepare for the Olympics, Randall, who finished eighth in the sprint at the 2010 Games, has been helicoptering from Anchorage, Alaska, out to the Eagle Glacier, where in July her coaches built a replica of the Sochi sprint course. "There will still be some wild cards when we get there," she says. "But I'll be ready."
For the 30 men competing in the first-ever Olympic halfpipe skiing event on February 13, at Russia’s Rosa Khutor Resort, winning a gold medal will almost certainly require landing a trick called the unnatural double cork 1260. What’s involved: two off-axis flips with three and a half rotations in the skier’s unnatural spinning direction.
"From a difficulty standpoint, the unnatural dub 12 is right at the top," says Josh Loubek, head judge of the Olympic halfpipe competi-tion. So far only three skiers have pulled it off in competition.
David Wise, of Reno, Nevada, was the first to land the trick while competing, in 2011, and is the gold-medal favorite. Fellow American Alex Ferreira and Canadian Justin Dorey added the trick to their arsenals last winter, and a handful of other skiers were feverishly practicing it on air bags this past fall.