Pittsburgh win, Miami loss, Baltimore loss, Chargers loss. I’ve looked at that formula a thousand times this week. I’ve looked at the schedule a few million times. Browns-Steelers, Jets-Dolphins, Ravens-Bengals in the morning, Chiefs-Chargers in the afternoon. There is a chance I will have no idea what is happening to my favorite team’s playoff hopes until late in the day. Since I am a nervous eater — fine, nervous binge eater — Sunday is going to be hell. I’ve already stocked up on extra crunchy items; flatbread to make pita chips for Toasted Sesame Edamame Dip and Chipotle Black Bean Hummus, sour cream to make some other dip, probably Green Chile Dip for crunchy potato chips. Extra ice. Maybe stop by Home Depot for a small bag of gravel in case I get really tense.
Oh, and bacon and cheese. It’s the last weekend before the New Year diets kick in, so why not spend this last rivalry-filled Sunday of the regular season with as much bacon, cheese and carbs you can possibly eat. Our nerves are going to need them all.
Toasted BLT Bread
A few weeks ago I was in the mood for the BLT Bites I’ve made a hundred times for parties and football Sundays. And while I love them, they can feel like a lot of work even though they are not much of a bother at all and I was feeling like I wanted a heartier BLT for football that day. Since a local gourmet shop in my area serves their BLT with camembert cheese, I started to play around with making it much like I make Smoky Habanero Jalapeño Popper Bread.
The result? Everything you could want out of a BLT and even more. Smoky bacon, peppery arugula to cut through the richness of the cheese, meaty tomatoes which pop with extra zing once they’ve been baked. All so easily assembled you can prep your snack beforehand and then bake it during halftime with ease.
You will need:
16-ounce loaf of bread; preferably a soft baguette or ciabatta
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
12 ounces thick cut bacon, diced and then cooked and drained completely
2-3 ounces Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
2-3 cups arugula, roughly chopped
1 cup (1 medium to large sized heirloom) tomato, seeds removed and diced
Dash of freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of kosher salt
Why an heirloom tomato? Far less watery insides to remove, much more tomato meat and real tomato taste. If you cannot find good heirlooms at your market this time of the year, use Roma tomatoes.
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Cut the baguette down the middle and then slice each half open so you have four equal-sized bread quadrants for easier BLT-assembly management.
In a large bowl, fold the cooked bacon, shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, diced tomatoes, arugula, salt and pepper into softened cream cheese. Once combined, evenly spread across each quarter of a loaf.
Bake on a lined cookie sheet for 20=25 minutes, until the top of the cheese starts to toast and turn slightly golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3-5 minutes. Why the cooling? If you hurry along the slicing, you’ll lose all of your BLT toppings to the tyranny of your knife, much like surrendering to the ineptitude of a six-person crew not seeing who actually had possession of the ball after a blocked punt. (No, I will not let that go.)
Once cool enough to slice, cut into 1-2 inch slices and serve. Eat a million slices of your toasted BLT depending on how stressed or despondent you are when you hear the first John Williams’ French horns announcing Football Night in America.