"Football Sandwiches"

ham and swiss slider SEC football kicked off this past Saturday (WAR EAGLE!), and I'm so excited to be back South and back in the action. While I'm desperately looking forward to all the big games coming up, I'm even more excited about a few other things that come along with the season: game day dresses, bourbon cocktails, and tailgating to name a few (do you even know how hard it is to find a cute outfit in the appropriate shade of orange and blue?). More importantly, I'm ready for the food. Oh man, Southerners really know how to bring out all the stops when it comes to tailgate cuisine.

My initial goal was to kick off the the festivities with a tried-and-true Thompson tailgate recipe featured on Dixie Caviar. Instead, I went out dancing on Friday night and celebrated a wee bit too hard. Jager Bombs, anyone? Seems the big 2-7 is already catching up with me, and I can't quite hold my liquor as well as I used to.

Quite hung-over, I pulled myself out of bed on Saturday morning determined to make "football sandwiches," a.k.a. ham and swiss sliders with poppy seed sauce. It was these or pizza delivery, and I'd already purchased all of the ingredients. Um, I didn't realize football sandwiches would be the ultimate cure to my ailing, dehydrated body. Move over, Domino's.

Unfortunately I had to work Saturday night, so instead of these being served as tailgate food, they wound up as my contribution to family meal at the restaurant where I waitress. I was a little nervous about serving something so -- well, how would you say it, low brow -- to such acclaimed chefs, but when the sous chef went back for round two and then round three, I knew they were a success.

You really have no idea how good these are until you try them. The sum is definitely greater than the parts. These sliders are going to be in my tailgating arsenal for years to come.

Keep on the look out for more football food in the weeks to come...Up next, spicy bloody Mary's!

FOR THE SLIDERS

2 packages (of 12) "Kings Hawaiian" rolls (sweet Hawaiian or butter flavored) 2 (6 oz.) packages sliced swiss cheese 1 (9 oz.) package thinly sliced honey ham

FOR THE SAUCE:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted 2 tablespoons prepared mustard (spicy brown or dijon) 2 tablespoons poppy seeds 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice rolls in half using a serrated knife. Arrange bottom halves of rolls in a large casserole dish (or 2 small ones) and top with ham and cheese. Re-cover with the tops.

For the sauce: Mix together butter, mustard, poppy seeds, and Worcestershire sauce until well combined. Drizzle the sauce over the tops of the sliders. Cover with aluminum foil and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes, or overnight. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve warm or at room temperature. YIELDS: 8 - 10 servings.