Joni Woolf: Casual dining for game night

Published 10:05 pm Friday, September 7, 2018

It may not be cool yet, but once football season begins, we turn our heads and hearts (and stomachs) toward foods that easily fit into a game night — whether tailgating or in the comfort of home and recliner. Foods, like the games, are always better when shared with friends and whatever family members may stick around to enjoy Mom’s (or Dad’s) cooking. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of foods that go well with game night. The point is, make it easy on whoever is doing the preparation. And make it delicious. The sandwiches listed below go well at home or on the tailgate of the family truck. Just plan ahead so you can keep the foods warm or cool, as needed. Take along a gallon of sweet tea, enough beer for your crowd, and voila! You have a party.

Italian Club Sandwich
2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (hard salami may be substituted)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 large ciabatta loaf
2 oz. baby arugula, washed and dried
12 sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2 to 3 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan, skin side up. Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly, discard the skin and bones, and slice the meat thickly. Set aside. Meanwhile, place the pancetta on another sheet pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels. (If hard salami is used, no need to bake.) Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until minced. Add the mustard, lemon juice, and mayonnaise and process again to make a smooth dressing. (Refrigerate the dressing if not using it immediately.) Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally and separate the top from the bottom. Toast the bread in the oven, cut side up, for 5 to 7 minutes; cool slightly. Spread the cut sides of each piece with the dressing. Place half the arugula on the bottom piece of bread and then layer in order: the sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, crispy pancetta, and sliced chicken. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and finish with another layer of arugula. Place the top slice of ciabatta on top and cut in thirds, crosswise. Serve at room temperature.

BBQ Beef Sandwiches
4 pounds chuck roast
2 cups water
4 cups Oklahoma BBQ Sauce, divided (recipe follows)
Hamburger buns, preferably whole wheat
In a slow cooker, place the roast in the bottom and add 2 cups water. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 8 to 10 hours. Take meat out of cooker and drain, reserving about ½ cup liquid. Shred the meat with two forks; return to slow cooker. Stir in 2 cups of Oklahoma BBQ Sauce (recipe below) and reserved liquid. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Taste and stir in more sauce if desired. Serve on hamburger buns, passing remaining sauce on the side.

Oklahoma BBQ Sauce
(Makes just over 1 quart)
2 ½ cups tomato juice
1 medium onion, minced
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups ketchup
1 cup sugar
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves
In a large saucepan, stir together the tomato juice, onion, garlic powder, and celery seed. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted. Stir in remaining ingredients. This sauce will keep indefinitely, covered and refrigerated. (Note: For those who like a less sweet sauce, reduce sugar to ½ cup.)

Make this meal easy on yourself and skip the potato salad. Buy a couple of bags of chips, put some freshly washed and salted grape tomatoes in a pretty bowl, along with your favorite pickles; now put the food on the table for self-service, and go watch the game. It’s September. Time to yell “Go Dawgs” (or Tide or War Eagle — or whatever your favorite team may be). It’ll be Bowl time before you know it.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at