From-scratch macaroni and cheese. Chicken tortilla soup. Spaghetti casserole. When Marissa Allen attended the University of Chicago on a soccer scholarship, she left her dorm roommates to their instant ramen noodles while she cooked dishes that she’d learned from her grandmother, a onetime caterer from Louisiana. She’d bring these dishes to the locker room to share with her teammates, and when she started dating Jeff, a star football player, she made them for him, too. “Cooking for someone is how I show love,” she told him.
Both the love and the cooking have flourished. Jeff and Marissa wed in 2014, and he went on to a career as an NFL offensive lineman, first with the Kansas City Chiefs and then with the Houston Texans. On away-game days, Marissa would invite other NFL wives over for an ample spread of what she describes as heavy appetizers: chicken wings, potato skins, flatbreads piled with brisket, and spinach and artichoke dip.
Jeff retired from the NFL in 2019, but the watch parties continue for friends and family. For would-be hosts, Marissa offers the tips she developed back when she wanted to stay out of the kitchen so she could watch her husband on TV. “Prep as much ahead of time as possible,” she suggests. “Use your air fryer for things like wings and potato skins so you don’t have to stand in front of a stove. Bake hot dips in the morning and move them into slow cookers to keep them warm.” Pacing is key.
Marissa welcomes guests with bites that can be enjoyed cold or at room temperature, and she puts the hot dishes into the oven toward the end of the second quarter so they’re ready to serve at halftime. Dessert is brought out during the third quarter. “I like people to leave my house full,” Marissa says—a game-day philosophy that inspired her to name the blog where she shares her recipes First & Full.
“I LIKE PEOPLE TO LEAVE MY HOUSE FULL.”
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