03 Nov Spicy sliders slip onto tailgating menu easily
We’ve had a lot of laughs in the “SS Griz,” the motorhome-turned-Grizmobile we’ve been using for tailgating at the University of Montana football games for years now, and we’ve served up our fair share of game day fare.
From stockpots of Spicy Sausage Soup with Chipotle Cream to foil-wrapped BBQ Beef Bundles with Caramelized Onions and Smoked Gouda, it’s been fun to come up with something new to serve at the tailgate parties, though planning portable food for a crowd isn’t always a picnic.
As soon as I heard we were heading over for a recent game, the party-planning wheels began a-turning, trying to come up with something that could be made ahead and easily transported.
Before I knew it, I was up to my elbows in meatballs, scooping up spicy sliders that would fit snuggly on soft fresh potato rolls. While the meatballs were baking, I threw together a sweet marinara sauce I thought would complement the spicy meatballs nicely.
Then it was just a matter of packing them in gallon-sized Ziplocs and loading them into the cooler for the drive over.
A little prep time, sure, but so worth it when all we had to do upon arrival was pop them in a slow cooker to heat, set out the cheese slices, potato rolls and fresh basil, and lunch was served.
Whether you’re heading over to the game to host a tailgate on-site, or having some friends over to watch the game at your house, tackle the meatball project the day before and then sit back, relax and enjoy the game.
SPICY MEATBALL SLIDERS IN SWEET MARINARA SAUCE
4 pounds Italian sausage
4 pounds pork sausage
4 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. fennel seed
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
2 cups shredded threecheese blend (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago)
Olive oil spray or ¼ cup olive oil, for greasing baking pans
Preheat oven to 350° and position oven racks in the middle of the oven.
Spray rimmed baking sheets with olive oil spray or brush with olive oil.
In a large bowl combine meatball ingredients, using your hands to mix thoroughly. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop meatball mixture into meatballs, smooth with hands and place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, switching pan positions on racks for even browning halfway through.
Remove meatballs from baking sheets and cool on paper towels. Repeat until all meatballs are cooked.
Makes 80 meatballs. Recipe can be divided for smaller crowds.
SWEET MARINARA SAUCE
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 sweet onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 29-ounce cans tomato sauce
3 29-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
¼ cup dried oregano
¼ cup dried basil
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
Salt, to taste
80 potato rolls (Albertsons bakery)
1 large bunch fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
40 slices Provolone cheese (deli), cut in half
Heat oil in large roaster pan over medium heat until hot.
Add onions and garlic and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, oregano, basil, vinegar and sugar and stir to combine.
Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Add salt to taste. Add cooked meatballs to sauce.
At this point, meatballs and sauce can be transferred to gallon- sized Ziploc bags and refrigerated until ready to heat and serve. We transported the bags of meatballs to the game in a cooler and reheated them in a large slow cooker.
Some assembly required
To assemble sliders, split potato roll in half and top with meatball and sauce. Top with Provolone cheese and secure with toothpick. Garnish with fresh basil leaf.
We assembled the sliders one at a time so they were hot and fresh, zapping the potato roll with meatball and cheese in the microwave for a few seconds to melt the cheese and then garnished with basil.
Sydne George is a freelance writer specializing in recipe development, food journalism and food photography.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.