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Super Sustenance

Having missed the Super Bowl by a game, Saints Pro Bowl defensive end Will Smith was suddenly a spectator, and he enlisted chef Emeril Lagasse to help him put together a spread worthy of Super Sunday. Smith, 25, started cooking as a child in Queens, N.Y. "I lived with my grandmother, but she had emphysema, so most nights my sister [Chantay] or I cooked," says Smith, whose specialties included meat loaf and lasagna. The 6'3" 282-pounder also likes to eat and is a regular at Emeril's New Orleans restaurant. "He's the man," says Smith. "If you have family in town, this is where they want to go."

Lagasse's 17-year-old flagship has been a team hangout since he started Saints Sundays this season, opening early for players and fans coming from the game -- which he's usually just attended himself. (Lagasse has 21 season tickets and a suite.) For away games Lagasse hosts parties at home. "You can do your chips and dips, but you need substance. It's the most important thing, especially when alcohol's involved," he says. As SI watched, Lagasse taught Smith how to concoct a pulled-pork sandwich and other delights. You have to start the night before, but as any Super Bowl contender knows, preparation means everything.

BARBECUED PULLED-PORK SANDWICHES

1 boneless pork butt, about 4 lbs.; 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar; 2 tbsp. Emeril's Original Essence; 1 tbsp. salt; 1 tbsp. cumin; 1 tbsp. paprika; 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper; 1 tbsp. cayenne; 8 hamburger buns.

• Put pork in a baking dish. In a bowl combine the sugar, Essence, salt, cumin, paprika, pepper and cayenne. Rub the seasoning evenly over the pork to coat. Cover with plastic and refrigerate four hours or overnight.

• Preheat oven to 225°. Bring pork to room temperature and place in a roasting pan, fat side up. Slow cook in the oven, basting with Wet Mop Basting Sauce (recipe below) every 45 minutes until tender and the internal temperature reaches 160°. (Cooking takes six to seven hours.) Remove from oven and let rest 20 to 30 minutes.

• With two forks, pull meat into shreds. Toss with homemade barbecue sauce (recipe below) and divide among burger buns. Top with Kicked Up Coleslaw (recipe below). Serve with fried pickles (recipe below) and more barbecue sauce on the side. YIELD: 8 sandwiches.

WET MOP BASTING SAUCE

1 cup white vinegar; 1 cup apple-cider vinegar; 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar; 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes; 1 tbsp. cracked black pepper; 1 tbsp. salt.

• The night before cooking the pork, combine ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Refrigerate overnight. YIELD: 2 1/4 cups.

BARBECUE SAUCE

1 cup apple-cider vinegar; 1 cup ketchup; 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar; 1 tbsp. yellow mustard; 1 tbsp. molasses; 1 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. dried crushed red pepper.

• In bowl combine ingredients and whisk well to dissolve sugar. YIELD: About 2 cups.

HOT CORN DIP

2 tbsp. unsalted butter; 3 1/2 cups corn kernels (from 4 ears fresh white or yellow corn); 1/2 tsp. salt; 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper; 1 cup finely chopped yellow onions; 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell peppers; 1/4 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts); 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced; 2 tsp. minced garlic; 1 cup mayonnaise; 8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded; 1/4 tsp. cayenne.

• Melt half the butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn, salt and pepper. Cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until kernels turn deep golden brown. Pour into a mixing bowl.

• Melt remaining butter in skillet. Add onions and peppers and cook about two minutes stirring often, until onions are wilted. Add green onions, jalapeño and garlic; stir another two minutes, or until vegetables are softened. Pour mixture into bowl with corn and let cool.

• Preheat oven to 350°. Add mayonnaise, half the grated cheese and the cayenne to the corn mixture and mix well. Pour into an eight-inch-square baking dish and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve hot with homemade tortilla chips (recipe below). YIELD: 6 cups dip; 12 to 18 servings.

KICKED UP COLE SLAW

3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons buttermilk, 4 teaspoons celery seeds, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, 3 cups shredded green cabbage (about 1/2 head cabbage), 3 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1/2 head cabbage), 1 green bell pepper, finely diced, 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded, 1/2 cup grated yellow onion, 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

• In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, buttermilk, celery seeds, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and whisk well to dissolve the sugar.

• In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Toss with the dressing until evenly coated. Adjust seasoning, to taste. Place in the refrigerator, covered, to chill slightly before serving. YIELD: 8 servings

FRIED PICKLES

1 1/2 cups sliced dill pickles, drained and patted dry, 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup yellow cornmeal, 1 cup masa harina, 2 tablespoons Essence, plus more for dusting, 4 cups vegetable oil, for frying, Salt

•Drain the pickles in a colander, then spread on paper towels to drain completely.

• In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the cornmeal, masa harina, and 2 tablespoons of Essence.

• Heat the oil in a medium pot to 350 degrees F. Submerge the pickles in batches in the egg-milk mixture, then dip into the cornmeal mixture, tossing to evenly coat. Shake to remove excess breading, then add to the oil in batches, turning, until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and season with Essence and salt, to taste. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve hot. YIELD: about 6 servings

BAKED LUMP CRAB, ARTICHOKE, AND SPINACH DIP WITH CRISPY FLOUR TORTILLAS

2 slices apple bacon, chopped, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 small onion, chopped, 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, 2 bunches fresh spinach, washed and picked over, 1 pound cream cheese, softened, Juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon Creole mustard, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped, 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 tablespoon Crystal Hot Sauce, 2 egg yolks, 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese, 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt to taste, white pepper to taste

• In a saucepan blanch spinach in boiling salted water until limp. Drain spinach and allow to cool, squeezing to rid of excess water. Coarsely chop and set aside.

• In a large saucepan, sauté bacon in olive oil over medium-high heat until crisp and fat is rendered. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

• Preheat oven to 350F.

• In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, lemon juice and mustard and whip until smooth and creamy. Fold in reserved spinach, sautéed bacon and vegetables, chopped tarragon, Worcestershire, artichoke hearts, crabmeat, salt, peppers, hot sauce, egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, and the Monterey jack cheese and season with salt and white pepper to taste.

• Butter a 7 by 11-inch casserole dish and transfer the spinach mixture to the casserole.

• In the bowl of a food processor, briefly pulse to combine remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, breadcrumbs, olive oil, salt and white pepper to taste. Sprinkle evenly over top of spinach mixture and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until bubbly around the edges and golden brown on top. Serve with CRISPY FLOUR TORTILLAS.

CRISPY FLOUR TORTILLAS

12 small flour tortillas, cut into wedges, 4 cups vegetable oil for deep-frying, Salt and Essence for seasoning

• In a deep fryer or skillet heat oil over high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 360F. Fry tortilla wedges in batches until lightly golden and crispy, usually 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and season with salt and Essence. Serve with BAKED LUMP CRAB, ARTICHOKE, AND SPINACH DIP. YIELD: 6 to 8 servings

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