Football is the sport where we get together with our fellow fans and cheer on our team. Saturday and Sunday afternoons and nights are sacred for football viewers. Whether it’s tailgating at the game or hosting some friends in front of the TV, rooting for our “team” has become an enjoyable ritual in the fall. You expect your team to play its best, so you might as well throw a great party.

The big question is – what to eat? Are you going to do a big, one-pot meal that can feed everyone (like chili) or a number of appetizers that people can munch on during the game? It’s your call, but appetizers are usually a better bet – everyone will be able to find something they like and you don’t have to plan anything complicated. For appetizers you could do a number of things: chips and salsa, chips/veggies and dip or hummus and pita chips. Some other popular foods are stuffed jalapeno peppers, ribs, wings and pizza.

I prefer to set out a few nibbles on the tables around the TV viewing area and prepare easy to eat entrees, like hearty sandwiches, so that eating isn’t complicated and folks can concentrate on the game action at the same time. Slice the sandwiches into small serving pieces that are easy to handle. Don’t forget to plan for any vegetarians attending the party. For dessert – keep it simple. Make a big batch of brownies or chocolate chip cookies. They are always a big hit.

You’ll also want to decide what you’re going to do for drinks. Will you be providing alcohol or asking people to bring their own? Either way, make sure you know who the designated drivers are before serving any alcohol. Asking people to bring their own drinks is probably the cheapest option. You could also say you’ll provide some and then ask people to also bring some for the group. You’ll also want to make sure you have non-alcoholic beverages on hand like water and soda.

The most important part of a football party is simple: make sure everyone can see the TV!

 Game Day Sub Recipes:

Herb-Roasted Pork Subs 

Pork shoulder is rubbed with an herb-and-garlic mixture and then slow-roasted. Pile the meat high with pickled peppers and spinach sautéed with garlic. One key to the sandwich is to slice the pork very thinly; to do so, be sure the pork is very cold and use a deli slicer or a thin, sharp knife.

PORK

  • 12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 4-pound boneless pork shoulder roast

SUBS

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 20 ounces baby spinach
  • Salt
  • 8 hero rolls, split
  • 3/4 pound sliced provolone
  • 1 cup jarred Peppadew peppers or sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, chopped

Directions

For the pork:

Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a small bowl, combine the garlic with the rosemary, thyme, oregano, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and salt; stir in the olive oil. Rub the mixture all over the pork. Set the pork in a large casserole dish or dutch Oven and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Roast in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 180°. Let cool, then wrap the pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

For the spinach:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over high heat until golden, 1 minute. Add the spinach in large handfuls and cook, stirring, until wilted, 3 minutes. Season the spinach with salt and transfer to a colander. Let cool slightly, then squeeze out the excess water.

For the subs:

Slice the cold pork very thinly, then let come to room temperature. Arrange the rolls on 2 baking sheets and mound the spinach on the bottom halves; layer the provolone on the top halves. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Pile the sliced pork on the rolls and top with the pickled peppers. Close the sandwiches, slice and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The roasted pork can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before slicing.

Broccoli Rabe and Provolone Grinders

Ingredients

WHITE BEAN PURÉE

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans with liquid
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

SANDWICHES

  • 4 bunches broccoli rabe (rapini, 4–5 pounds), ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8–8 inch-long Italian rolls, split lengthwise
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese
  • 4 green or red jalapeño pepper, seeded, very thinly sliced

Directions

WHITE BEAN PURÉE

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic begins to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add beans with liquid. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring often, until liquid thickens, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; add 3 tablespoons oil. Process until smooth. (Or you can use a hand immersion blender.) Season with salt and pepper.

SANDWICHES

Cook broccoli rabe, 1 bunch at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes (return to a boil between batches).

Transfer broccoli rabe to a baking sheet; let cool. Squeeze dry and coarsely chop.

Heat a large pot over medium heat; add 1/4 cup oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to turn golden, 2–3 minutes.

Add broccoli rabe; cook, stirring often, until stem pieces are just tender, 4–5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup oil and 3 tablespoons lemon juice.

Season with salt and pepper. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet with liquid and let cool. DO AHEAD: Can be made one day ahead. Cover baking pan and chill.

For the subs:

Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven and preheat to 400° F.

Open rolls and arrange on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Spread bean purée on one side of each roll; add broccoli rabe (at room temperature if it has been refigerated) with some of its liquid.

Top with cheese, then sliced jalapeno peppers. Toast, rotating pans after 5 minutes, until cheese is melted, 7–10 minutes.

Italian Deli Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup drained capers
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 22-inch-long sourdough baguette, halved lengthwise
  • 12 ounces assorted sliced Italian deli meats and cheeses (such as mortadella, ham, prosciutto, salami, mozzarella and provolone)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced Vidalia onion

Directions

Blend olive oil, parsley, capers, 3 tablespoons marjoram and vinegar in a food processor until herbs are finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer dressing to small bowl. Let stand 30 minutes.

Mix remaining 1 tablespoon marjoram into dressing. Spoon dressing over cut sides of bread, dividing equally. Arrange meats, cheeses, and onion on bottom half of bread. Cover with top half of bread. Cut diagonally into 4-8 sandwiches.

DO AHEAD Sandwiches can be made 4 hours ahead. Wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate.

If you are in the mood to grill – make these sandwiches.

Grilled Sausage Sandwiches with Caramelized Red Onions

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Four 6-ounce thin Italian sausages, such as luganega, pricked all over with a fork
  • Four 6-inch long Italian rolls, split and toasted
  • 12 large sprigs of parsley or arugula

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, season with salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the honey and balsamic vinegar and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until richly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Light a grill. Grill the sausages over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until nicely browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Set a piece of sausage on each roll. Top with the caramelized onions and a few parsley or arugula sprigs and close the sandwiches. Transfer to plates and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The caramelized onions can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently before serving.

Caprese Cheesesteak Sandwich

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces round steak, thinly sliced and pounded thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, sliced
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 slices
  • 1 tomato, sliced into 8 slices

Directions

Place pounded steak slices into shallow dish. Sprinkle with basil, garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Turn to coat steaks with ingredients. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Heat grill to high. Place rolls cut-side-down onto part of grill. Place steaks onto grill. Remove rolls when toasted. After 3 minutes, turn steaks and cook another 3 minutes on the second side. Remove steak from the grill and let rest about 5 minutes.

Thinly slice steaks across the grain. Divide steak evenly among 4 toasted rolls. Top each with 2 slices mozzarella and 2 slices tomato before serving.

Grilled Zucchini Caprese Sandwiches

A Vegetarian Version

Ingredients

  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 6 slices
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split and toasted
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Directions

Heat a large grill pan (you may also use an outdoor grill, especially if you are also cooking meat) over medium-high heat. Place zucchini in a shallow dish. Add 2 teaspoons oil and garlic; toss to coat.

Arrange zucchini in the grill pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear. Cut each zucchini piece in half crosswise. Return zucchini to the shallow dish. Drizzle with vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Brush bottom halves of rolls with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Top evenly with zucchini, basil, tomatoes and mozzarella.

Brush cut side of roll tops with remaining liquid from the shallow dish. Wrap the sandwiches in foil and heat on the grill or in the oven to warm.

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