1. Food

Football Buffet Party

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Most football food is as traditional as Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of turkey, there's chile, instead of stuffing there are nachos (or quesadillas), instead of cranberry sauce people serve guacamole. Sure, you see buffalo wings fairly often and even Swedish meatballs on occasion, but for the most part this opportunity for a long, exciting feast is boringly Southwestern. And even if not Southwestern, still boring.

Warmth...

To my mind, a fall or winter day in front of the TV calls for soup and sandwiches - with some coffee-table munchies tossed in for the boys parked in front of the TV and the ladies sheltering in the kitchen from the overt testosterone on display in the rec-room. Note: Serve the soup in mugs, not bowls, to minimize spilling. Also, all of these recipes scale up to larger quantities very easily.

Reuben Braid Bread: Party Perfect

Rueben Braid
Copyright 2009 Kevin D Weeks
This Reuben Braid makes a truly impressive display for a casual buffet party (Super Bowl, anyone?) and can be made the day before. If you make it in advance, let it cool and wrap tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. The next day bring it to room temp then warm it, still wrapped, in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes before slicing.

Cuban Sandwich: Miami's Claim to Fame

Cuban Sandwich
Copyright 2009 Kevin D Weeks
Cuban sandwiches (Cubanos or "sandwich mixto") are marvelous things consisting of roast pork, ham, salami (sometimes), dill pickles, Swiss cheese, and yellow ball-park mustard. It's built on a bread similar to Italian and then grilled. In this case I used Dijon mustard instead of ball-park and Spanish Mahon instead of Swiss, but it's the pork marinated in citrus juice that makes this sandwich particularly distinctive.

Bahn Mi: Cold Fusion Works

Bahn Mi
Copyright 2009 Kevin D Weeks
Bahn Mi is an example of the fusion of colonial French and traditional Vietnamese cuisines, this is a sandwich that requires dedication. Not to make, but to eat. The Vietnamese like things hot and their chili garlic sauce is certainly that, but in addition sliced jalapeno or serrano peppers are frequently added. The sandwich consists of either chicken or pork (or even shrimp or beef) with pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, and assorted lettuce greens on a French baguette.

Muffaletta: A Taste of New Orleans

Muffaletta
Kevin D Weeks
I had my first mufaletta at its reputed birthplace, Central Grocery in New Orleans. A whole mufaletta is served on round loaf of bread about eight inches in diameter and two inches tall. I can't imagine eating a whole sandwich and in fact Central Grocery serves half and quarter sandwiches of which the quarter is perfectly sized for a good appetite. Ideally you want to make the sandwich an hour or two before eating it so the juices from the olive mix can soak into the bread, which makes this a perfect buffet sandwich.

Country Ham and Bean Soup: Flavor-Packed Goodness

Country Ham & Bean Soup
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
When I came up with this recipe I wanted to pack as much flavor as possible into it - and I succeeded! It's possible to take shortcuts in this recipe. You could skip making the stock or use canned chicken stock. You could go with canned beans instead of dried. But what makes this soup so good is the beans soaking up the homemade stock as they cook - of course the country ham helps.

Chili Today

Chili
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
Although I pooh-poohed chili as ordinary and commonplace, it is a great addition to a hearty buffet. This version provides a recipe for making your own chile powder (featuring chipotle peppers for a great smoky flavor) and using diced meat instead of ground meat.

Senate Bean Soup

Senate Bean Soup
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
Talk about down-sizing a recipe! The famous Senate Bean Soup has two official versions: one makes five gallons while the other only serves eight. In my version of this legislative legacy I've scaled it down to not two servings, but four. Like many such dishes, it's actually better on day two than day one so you want to have leftovers because they're better than the first-overs.

Potato Soup: A Spoon Full of Comfort

Potato Chowder
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
There's something essentially reassuring (or reassuringly essential?) about potato soup. The flavor is simple and earthy and it manages to be filling without being heavy. A medium starch potato such Yukon Gold contributes to the thickness of the broth without the need to use flour. Like almost all soups, this is better the next day.

Tuna Deviled Eggs: A Spanish Tapas

Tuna Deviled Eggs
Kevin D Weeks
Deviled eggs are a popular component of cookouts and picnics - not to mention being a great snack at any time of year. They can be made a day or two in advance, are perfect for eating with your fingers, and are almost universally loved. The addition of tuna to these eggs may strike you as bizarre, but I first had them as a tapas in Spain and fell in love with them. I recommend using tuna packed in olive oil (it tastes better) and do look for the smoked Spanish paprika.

Proscuitto and Goat Cheese Crostini

Canape Spreads
Copyright 2008 Kevin D Weeks
These Proscuitto and Goat Cheese Crostini are an invention of mine. On my first visit to Europe in 1971 I found a cheese and ham spread in a tube that I loved. On my second trip in 1998 I rediscovered it and fell in love again. But this time, when I got home I recreated the delicacy. Spread on lightly toasted slices of baguette, or even on crackers, it's a great little munchie. And the spread keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes: Delicious Nuggets

Tuna Deviled Eggs
Kevin D Weeks
Another incredibly easy and delicious appetizer with bright clear fresh flavors. I like using goat cheese (chèvre) but you can also use cream cheese or even ricotta. Although they can be made a few hours in advance, they can't be made a day in advance because you want to avoid refrigerating them (which destroys the flavor of the tomatoes).

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