ShareThis Page

Ex-Steeler Russell, Bigelow Grille chef lead 'Taste of the NFL'

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
At the Bigelow Grille, Downtown, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, Chef Anthony Zallo (left) and Pittsburgh Steeler Andy Russell team up to represent Pittsburgh at the Super Bowl's 'Taste of the NFL.'
At the Bigelow Grille, Downtown, Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, Chef Anthony Zallo prepares rabbit sausage, heirloom apples, and crispy spaetzle. He and Pittsburgh Steeler Andy Russell will team up to represent Pittsburgh at the Super Bowl's 'Taste of the NFL.' Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

One thing is certain about former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell and chef Anthony Zallo, who'll be in New Orleans this weekend for the Super Bowl festivities: They got game.

Specifically, it's Rabbit Sausage With Heirloom Apples and Crispy Spaetzle. Zallo will be preparing plenty of it, enough to feed the nearly 2,000 people expected to attend this year's “Taste of the NFL” event Saturday at the New Orleans Convention Center.

The duo is teaming for the sixth consecutive year to represent the Pittsburgh Steelers at the charity event known as The Party With a Purpose. Held the night before the Super Bowl, the party's goal is to raise money for food pantries throughout the United States, including the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

For an entry fee of $600, participants can stroll through 32 food stations – one representing each NFL team – meeting and taking photos with players and coaches and sampling the chefs' featured dishes and wine pairings.

Zallo, of Bethel Park, is confident his menu choice will be well received. At the Bigelow Grille, Downtown, where he is executive chef, a version of the rabbit sausage recipe is on the menu and is a favorite among his clientele.

“Surprisingly, any time we do any game meat in the restaurant, it's popular with our dinner guests,” he says.

He prepared 344 pounds of the homemade sausage in 4-foot to 5-foot-long links to take on the 16-hour road trip to Louisiana, along with 40 pounds of apples, 3 gallons of homemade apple butter for garnish and 7 pounds of spaetzle.

“Friday is our ‘Taste of the NFL' chefs and players meeting. It's a big night for us,” Zallo says.

Saturday, he plans to arrive at the convention center early to prepare his food well in advance of the event that opens at 5 p.m. for VIPs and 6 p.m. for the public.

“From 6 to 10 p.m., it's nonstop. It gets pretty intense,” Zallo says. His dish will be paired with a New Zealand wine — a 2011 Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

While the chefs show off their culinary skills, their NFL teammates will compete to earn the highest bid for their team's autographed football helmet in the annual helmet auction. The Steelers helmet, signed by fellow Steelers alums Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, has been the winner of the contest for three straight years.

Russell says his winning strategy – which raised $12,000 last year – involves having a friend start the bidding high. He adds his own incentives, which include club seats to a Steelers game and dinner at the Bigelow Grille.

“Other teams are starting to get smarter,” Russell says. “Last year, a San Francisco 49er who's a current player added a week on an island to his team's signed helmet. We still beat them. Steelers have the greatest fans, the best there is. It's truly a global nation.”

Steelers fans who won't be in New Orleans for the Super Bowl can support the team with a donation through the NFL's Kick Hunger Challenge, he says. Details are at

Candy Williams is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

Rabbit Sausage

1 12 pounds pork shoulder

1 rabbit, about 2 12 pounds cleaned weight

14 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

14 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

12 teaspoon freshly ground garlic

12 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 24 millimeter length of hog casing

Cut the pork into cubes. Add the pork to the rabbit meat and grind fine; after grinding, add the seasonings and mix thoroughly. Cook a small piece and taste for salt, adding more if needed.

Fill into the casing making sure to fill evenly.


6 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

12 cup milk, plus more if needed

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the spaetzle wanter and to taste


4 tablespoons of butter


Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Beat the eggs and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, milk and salt and mix well, add the eggs and continue to mix until the dough is smooth. If needed, you can add more milk. The consistency should be like a very thick pancake batter and not too runny. Let the dough rest for 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and, using a spaetzle maker or potato ricer, pour the dough a little at a time (in batches) through the holes and into the water. The spaetzle will cook quickly and are done after about 5-6 minutes, or when they float to the top of the water. As you remove them from the water, dip them in cool water to keep them from sticking.

Brown the butter in a pan and saute the spaetzle until the edges are crispy and a nice golden brown color. Finish with the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Heirloom Apples

6 heirloom apples (sweet or tart)

3 tablespoons of butter

14 teaspoon chopped sage

1 teaspoon apple-cider vinegar

14 cup apple cider

Wash and core the apples, then cut into 4 wedges. Heat a heavy saute pan and add the butter and apples. Roast on high heat for about 4 minutes. Add the chopped sage, cider vinegar and apple cider, and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.