Happy football kickoff weekend! T minus two days! Walt and I are celebrating the season with a very ambitious schedule: first we will head to Athens to watch Georgia play Buffalo, and then we'll jet back to Atlanta to watch the Auburn versus Clemson Tigers. (Do you think we're the first couple in the history of football to watch both our teams' season openers live in one day? I surely hope so.) I'm exhausted just thinking about it! Oh the things we do for love.
For the special occasion, I've made some delicious spicy Italian sandwiches to take to the main event(s). These are guaranteed to satiate the appetites of even the "biggest" fans, and are just as good at the end of the game as they are fresh from the oven. The only thing that could make these tailgating sandwiches even better is an iced cold beer—I can't think of a more enjoyable way to put out the heat.
I'll have lots more tailgate recipes coming all season long, starting tomorrow with a round up of some of Dixie Caviar's greatest hits. Stay tuned, and go SEC!!!!
(UPDATE: I do not ever recommend attending two football games in one day. Let's just say I spent the Marta train home in tears of exhaustion, much to the annoyance of my fellow passengers. I stayed in pajamas and lived of Papa John's for the rest of the week.)
Yields: 6-8 sandwiches
Spicy Italian sandwiches are my go-to at any sub shop: my current favorite is from Newk's Cafe, a Southern chain in my neighborhood, which inspired this recipe. The Wickles Hoagie & Sub Relish is what really takes this sandwich from ordinary to extraordinary; it is available at most Southern grocers and online.
For the sandwiches
1 loaf ciabatta bread
6 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni
6 ounces thinly sliced Genoa salami
6 ounces thinly sliced sopressata (or other cold cut like mortadella or coppa)
12 slices provolone cheese
Hot hoagie relish, to taste (I use Wickles)
Good quality Italian dressing, to taste
Spicy mayonnaise (recipe below)
For the spicy mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon horseradish sauce (add more for additional heat)
Split the ciabatta loaf in half using a serrated knife. Spread the spicy mayonnaise over the bottom half of bread. *Layer half of the pepperoni, followed by half the salami, sopressata, and provolone (I use stacks of two slices when layering the meats). Continue with the remaining pepperoni, salami, and sopressata, finishing with another layer of provolone. Slather the cheese with pepper relish. Spread a generous amount of Italian dressing over the top layer of bread and place bread on sandwich.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wrap the loaf tightly in foil and place in a large roasting pan. Place a heavy oven proof item over the sandwich to weigh it down (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven inside of a cast iron skillet) and set aside for 30 minutes to two hours. Put the wrapped loaf (in the pan) into the oven, along with the weighted object, and cook until loaf is warmed through and cheese is melted, about 15-25 minutes. Slice crosswise into individual sandwiches, then in half again. Serve warm or at room temperature. (If taking to a tailgate, reform a loaf with the individual slices and wrap in foil until ready to serve.)
*Optional: if you've got the time, heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and warm the meats briefly to pull some of the flavors out, just a couple for seconds per side.