I am an over the top, unapologetic Olympic fan and have been my entire life. I come from a family of Olympic fans. In 1980, my mom let me stay home from school to watch the USA vs. Russia hockey game in Lake Placid. As a kid, I was so enamored with Nadia Comaneci that I begged and begged my parents to enroll me in gymnastics. They did. My mom and I will routinely call each other in the middle of an event to discuss something amazing, outrageous or a rule technicality. It is not uncommon to find myself at 4 or 5am on the couch engrossed in wresting or curling or sailing or biathlon and maybe I even set an alarm to wake me in time. I cry during medal ceremonies. It may even be true that I make complicated excel spreadsheets of the TV coverage so I know exactly what is on when and on what channel. With over 6,755 hours of coverage this year, I have to go in with a plan.
Though the Rio Games officially started Wednesday (hello Soccer!), Opening Ceremonies is tonight and my friends and I are continuing a long-standing tradition of watching the broadcast together. We can’t remember how long we’ve been doing this but we think it started with Sydney in 2000. Once, early on, we attempted “Drinks of the Nations” so it’s not surprising we don’t remember many details of years past. And there was one exception: London 2012 where we watched from a bar, post Cubs game. I didn’t much care for that year.
Every Opening Ceremonies follows a basic gameplan: we put together a dinner theme that fits the host country (Beijing dim sum was a particularly good one) and play drinking games based on various aspects of the broadcast. We bet on what local celebrities and sports heroes will do those ceremonial tasks such as carry in the Olympic flag or pass and light the torch. The Parade of Nations is when all the action happens: we bet on the number of athletes per country, how many coaches and how many officials. If a country has one athlete, we guess their event. We test our knowledge of world flags. We vote on who has the best and ugliest uniforms. Hats are a big topic of conversation. A game we’re incredibly fond of revolves around the infographics NBC so thoughtfully scrolls across the bottom of the screen, such as a country’s population. One year – Beijing maybe? – they included the best stats ever, each country’s GNP and chief export. It was informative and hilarious. As the evening progresses we might interpretive dance in synch with the performers on the field. We’re quite talented at that point.
This year, given that Brazil is the host country, we’ve got a great menu planned. Our hosts will be grilling meaty things, another friend will bring empanadas and I’ve got a feijoda simmering right now. Feijoda is the national dish of Brazil, a mix of porky bits and black beans served with rice and greens. But let’s be honest, most of the menu is centered around caipirinhas. I suspect the interpretive dance will be especially good this year.
Given the particularly boozy nature of that drink, we’re going to need something to snack on right away so I also made some pão de queijo, Brazilian cheese puffs that will go well with the cocktails. They are incredibly easy to put together and are much like that delightful French hors d’oeuvre, the gougeres. If you’ve made those, pão de queijo will be a breeze though they have a completely different texture due to the tapioca flour. Crisp on the outside yet chewy and cheesy on the inside; they are a wonderful cocktail snack. Gluten free too.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: SAÚDE! (Google Translate tells me that means “cheers” in Portuguese. I hope that’s true.) Get into the spirit of things and make some Portuguese treats to snack on while watching these games. It’s going to be a jammed packed 16 days of events, nourish yourself. Maybe throw in a few caipirinhas for good measure. There’s something to be said for eating and drinking while watching the most elite athletes in the world accomplish something we’ll never even consider. And maybe there’s a little side game going on who’s going to get the sickest from the polluted water – triathletes or sailors?
seven years ago: Chocolate Peanut Rice Krispie Treats
six years ago: Betty’s Pies exploring Minnesota
five years ago: Life in Southwest France
four years ago: Sour Cherry Slab Pie
three years ago: Hungarian Cherry Soup
two years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise
last year: Carrot Green & Parmesan Bites
PÃO DE QUEIJO – EASY BRAZILIAN CHEESE PUFFS
I found this recipe here and tweaked it a little, cutting it in half and adding some pepper for a little zip. Make as listed or switch up the cheese or throw in whatever herb strikes your fancy.
2 cups tapioca flour
½ + 2 Tablespoons whole milk
¼ cup water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella
1 large egg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°
- Add the tapioca flour and pepper to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (a beater blade is essential if you have one) and set aside until needed.
- In a small saucepan, combine the milk, water, olive oil and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
- Add the boiling mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on low until well combined. The mixture will be very wet and sticky, this is fine.
- With the mixer on low, add the egg and mix until blended. Keep mixing, the dough will eventually come together.
- Once the egg is incorporated, add the cheese, a little at a time, until fully mixed.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment.
- Dip a small scoop into a bowl of warm water and scoop the batter into neat little balls onto the prepared sheet pan, about 1” apart. Dip the scoop in water each time to prevent sticking.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and puffed.
- These are best served warm, while the cheese is still gooey.
- If you want to make ahead, it’s best to make the batter and freeze on a parchment lined sheet pan. Once frozen, transfer to a Ziploc bag dated and marked with the baking instructions. Frozen cheese bread balls will keep for 3 months frozen. Bake directly from the freezer 400°F adding 10 minutes to the baking time.