The Super Bowl is almost here, and my home state of Maryland is gearing up to watch their Ravens play in the big game! It’s inspired me to test out a meal idea inspired by classic football food. Whether you’re a football fan looking for game day recipes, or just someone who’d like something spicy to take the chill off of this winter, you’ll enjoy these delicious and simple Buffalo Blue Pulled Turkey Sliders and Crisp Celery Apple salad with homemade Honey Dijon Dressing. It’s got the classic bar food trio of flavors: buffalo, blue, and celery, and it wasn’t too difficult to pull off, since the blue cheese spread, salad, and dressing can be made well in advance. Heck, the toughest part is probably assembling the sandwiches! Serve this with a delicious cold beer or hard apple cider. Here’s how to prep the feast:
Buffalo Blue Pulled Turkey Sliders
(makes about 10 sliders, depending on how meaty you like ‘em)
2 turkey drums (about 2lbs), with skin removed
12oz (1 1/2 cups) chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, unsalted
1/2 cup hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot, Original)
1 loaf Italian bread (or little sourdough rolls would be tasty too)
Blue Cheese Spread (recipe below)
1. Put turkey drums and chicken broth into a slow-cooker and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours, or until the juices run clear and the meat is falling off the bone.
2. Toward the end of cooking, begin to prep your assembly ingredients. Preheat your oven to 400F. Slice your Italian loaf on the diagonal into 3/4 inch slices and set on a lined baking sheet. Smear every other slice with a few tablespoons of the Blue Cheese Spread (recipe below) and toast open-face in the oven for 10-13 minutes, or just until the cheese gets a few toasty spots around the edges. (If you want softer bread, skip the toasting step. Just let the cheese spread get up to room temp so it doesn’t make your sandwich cold.)
3. While bread is in the oven, gently melt the butter in a small saucepan over LOW heat. Once butter is melted, add the hot sauce and whisk gently together. Keep warm, but don’t overheat.
4. While the butter’s melting, use a fork or your fingers (be sure the meat is cool enough to touch!) to pull the turkey meat off the bone and into little chunks, removing any tendons or gristle.
5. Add the meat to the buffalo sauce and allow the mixture to warm gently. Remove from heat.
6. Pile the delicious Buffalo turkey onto the plain toasted slices and top with one of the blue cheese slices. Secure each tiny behemoth with a toothpick (frilly preferred).
Blue Cheese Spread
4oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese (I used the 1/3 less fat version, but regular works too)
2 Tbsp milk
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
2oz blue cheese, crumbled
1. Mash/stir the cream cheese with a fork to soften it a bit, and then add the milk to thin it out to about the consistency of sour cream or Greek yogurt (if you use a different type of cream cheese, you may need a little more or less milk to get there). Add the Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste and stir until smooth.
2. Fold in the blue cheese crumbles until they are evenly dispersed, but don’t pulverize the chunks too much, they give this spread texture!
3. Spread liberally on bread, as in recipe above, or serve on crackers or as a dip for veggies. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Tip: This can be made ahead and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the sandwiches.
Crisp Celery and Apple Salad
1/2 bunch of celery
1 Granny Smith apple
Apple juice fortified with Vitamin C (if making apple slices ahead; can skip if serving immediately)
1/2 cup unsalted pecan halves
Honey Dijon Dressing (recipe below) to taste
1. Slice celery on a steep diagonal and soak in cold water for 30 minutes or more (this takes some of the brittle crunch and stringiness out of them, so they’re a pleasure to chew, yet still crisp once you’re ready to mix the salad). Drain celery and pat dry (or use a salad spinner) before tossing with the other ingredients.
2. Toast your pecans in a dry skillet, stirring often to prevent burning, until you JUST get your first fragrant whiff of nuttiness, about 5-8 minutes on medium heat. Nuts burn fast, so don’t leave them alone!! Set aside to cool, then smash slightly before adding to the rest of the salad.
3. Core and cut the apple into 8 wedges, then turn wedges on side and slice thinly into little triangles (well, trapezoids, technically). If making ahead, dunk these slices as you cut them into a large dish of Vitamin C fortified apple juice and store in the fridge, stirring occasionally, until you’re ready to use them. Apples float, so if you won’t be around to stir them, just make sure they all get coated really well, or even better, cram them into a Tupperware-style container, then fill to the top with apple juice and snap on the lid, leaving no room for floaters to escape the juice bath! Drain (but don’t pat dry or spin) before tossing with other ingredients. If you’re slicing and serving this fresh and you don’t plan on having leftovers, you can just skip the apple juice step altogether.
4. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and add Honey Dijon Dressing (recipe below) to taste.
Tip: Every component of this salad can be prepped ahead of time, then tossed together just before serving. If you want to see the effects of my apple juice treatment versus a control, take a look at the pictures below! For more tips on keeping fruit and veggies from browning, check out my Why Apples Brown post.
Honey Dijon Dressing
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, zip together lemon juice, mustard and honey using an immersion blender, then drizzle in oil slowly, while blending, until all is incorporated.
Tip: If you don’t own an immersion blender, whipping by hand will also work; immersion blenders are just PERFECT for the task of making emulsified salad dressings, if you ask me. They’re able to get those fat particles so small and evenly dispersed that dressings can stay emulsified for a long time, which is great for leftovers, and they can efficiently whip small batches, unlike upright blenders that tend to need more material to really get going.
What kind of beer or cider would you have with this meal? Bon Appetit magazine released a fun article pitting local beers from MD and NoCal against each other: bonap.it/SMDWHz. I’ve recently been enjoying Curious Traveler’s Shandy (a surprisingly lemony, refreshing beer and a good counterpoint to spicy food) and Applewood Winery’s Naked Flock original hard cider (fresh tasting and not too sweet). New recommendations are fun for all, so share your thoughts, and happy eating!