ABOVE LEFT Jeff Pavao, Anna Pavao (seated), Jim Nagy, Lindsay Nagy (seated), Bo and Chase Meador gather around the big screen in the Bairds’ Spring Hill living room. ABOVE MIDDLE Lindsay Nagy, Elizabeth Otts and Taylor Baird enjoy some snacks and laughs during a commercial break. ABOVE RIGHT Elizabeth Otts, Taylor Baird, and Monica and Mike Kurth enjoy a big play by the favorite team. Photos by Elizabeth Gelineau
Where they once sat in the student section of every Alabama home game, shakers in hand, yelling crazily at the players amidst a sea of coeds, they now gather over good wine and good food to cheer on the Crimson Tide. Times have changed. They’ve grown up and have kids of their own, but they have never forsaken their team.
Anna Pavao, Elizabeth Otts, Lindsay Nagy, Taylor Baird, Chase Meador and Monica Kurth all met at Alabama as members of Kappa Delta. From the sleeping porch of the KD house, to the “yellow house,” to an apartment in Florence for a semester abroad, some combination of these women were roommates the whole way through their undergraduate experience, and the friendships have lasted. These days they might only see each other in carpool line or at an occasional just-the-girls beach weekend, but there is certainly no better excuse to get together than to kick off another (winning?) season of Alabama football. This game day they gathered at the Bairds’ to catch up on old times and the latest news on Nick Saban.
Not all the husbands went to the University of Alabama, but they can rally for some good snacks and a few cold beers. “I have to pull for Alabama down here, there’s no choice,” says Jim Nagy, a Michigan alum and the new executive director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl. But he adds, “There’s no suspense — they never lose!” He knows how to pander to his audience of Crimson ladies.
While they watch the game, there is no shortage of laughter to go around. It’s the kind of old jokes and random references that only happen among the oldest of friends. And while they admit they don’t get to watch many games together these days, some of the girls keep a group text running on Saturdays in the fall, always kicked off by Chase Meador for good luck.
“We get really into football but are hardly ever together,” explains Anna. “We text each other the play-by-plays, lots of RTRs and an occasional ‘Oh no, my TV just froze!’” In person, the conversation touches on memories of the house mom they all loved, how their beverage choices have improved with age and what their kids are up to. But one eye is kept firmly on that crystal trophy that they will be cheering for all season long.
Ginger Old Fashioned
Nothing says SEC football like a good bourbon drink. Since your days of smuggling them into the stadium are (hopefully) behind you, why not make something special to enjoy in front of the big screen?
2 sugar cubes
6 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lemon slice
1 lime slice
1 orange slice
1 maraschino cherry
1 tablespoon grenadine
1/4 cup bourbon or rye whiskey
1. Place sugar cubes in the bottom of a rocks glass and sprinkle with bitters. Add citrus slices, cherry and grenadine. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, muddle ingredients. Add bourbon.
2. Fill glass with ice cubes and stir to combine and chill. Top with ginger beer and serve. Serves 1.
Feeding a crowd has never been so easy. No need to fire up the grill this game day — fill up your team with gooey, meaty Cubano sandwiches made by the batch instead!
24 Hawaiian rolls
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
16 ounces deli ham
2 pounds sliced or pulled cooked pork shoulder
24 slices Swiss cheese
48 dill pickle slices (or more, to taste)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Unwrap rolls and use a long serrated knife to slice lengthwise through all the rolls at once, removing the tops. Spread mustard on the top half and mayonnaise on the bottom half. Transfer the bottom half of rolls to a large baking sheet.
3. Arrange ham, pork, cheese and pickles on bottom of rolls. Replace tops. Place a second baking sheet on top of sandwiches to “press them,” and top with a heavy skillet or other oven-proof heavy dish. 4. Bake sandwiches for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and buns are toasty. Serve warm. The sandwiches can be assembled several hours in advance. Just cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake. Makes 24 sliders.
Truffle Parmesan Tots
Just the word “truffle” conjures decadence, but starting with store-bought potato tots keeps it fun and approachable. Warning — truffle tots are addictive.
4 cups frozen potato tots
2 tablespoons truffle oil
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
1. Place potato tots on baking sheet and bake according to package directions.
2. Drizzle truffle oil over potatoes, sprinkle with salt and toss to mix. Place on a serving platter and top with cheese and parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Jeff Pavao’s Game day Ribs
Start early to get these amazing ribs ready in time for kickoff — you won’t be disappointed with the results. Jeff adapted his recipe from “How to Grill” by Steven Raichlen.
4 racks spareribs (4 – 6 pounds total)
6 cups apple cider, plus additional for spraying ribs
2 whole lemons, halved
2/3 cup barbecue rub
3 cups barbecue sauce
1. Prepare ribs by removing the membrane from the underside of the ribs. Slide a knife under the membrane and grab the edge of the membrane with a paper towel to pull it off.
2. Place ribs in a large pan. Pour apple cider and juice from lemons over the ribs. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 1 – 2 hours, turning several times.
3. Drain the ribs and blot dry with paper towels. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the rub on both sides of the ribs, patting it onto the meat. Let the ribs stand in the refrigerator covered another 1 – 2 hours.
4. Choose chips or blocks of a fruit tree such as apple or cherry. Soak the chips in water for at least one hour prior to cooking. Grill ribs on a smoker over indirect heat at a temperature of 225 degrees for 4 – 5 hours.
5. After 30 minutes, spray ribs with apple cider and continue to spray every half hour until ready to brush with sauce.
6. Lightly brush ribs with one cup of sauce 20 minutes before the ribs are done. When ribs are fully cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the bones about 1/4 of an inch and will be tender enough to tear apart with your fingers. If ribs start to dry out, wrap them in aluminum foil for the last hour of cooking.
7. Transfer ribs to a platter or cutting board. Sprinkle with some of the remaining rub and lightly brush with sauce. Let ribs rest for several minutes, then serve with remaining sauce on the side. Serves 8.
Caramel Bacon Popcorn
Making your own caramel may sound intimidating, but this crunchy, sweet snack is worth the extra work. Add some cayenne or hot sauce to the caramel for a caliente kick! Keep a bowl around for snacking anytime.
6 slices of bacon
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
cayenne pepper, optional
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange bacon slices evenly on sheet. Cook for 15 minutes, or until crispy and brown. Drain bacon on paper and dice when cool.
2. In a large pot with a lid, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add popcorn kernels and cover. Cook, shaking pot occasionally, until most of the kernels have popped, about 4 minutes. Transfer popped popcorn to an extra-large bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Stir through the popcorn and remove any unpopped kernels.
3. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light golden caramel, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, coat a large rubber spatula with cooking spray and set aside. Remove caramel from heat and carefully whisk in baking soda and optional cayenne pepper. The mixture will bubble up considerably, so stir continuously. Fold in bacon pieces and immediately pour over popcorn. Toss with coated rubber spatula until all of the popcorn is evenly coated with caramel.
4. Spread popcorn in a single layer onto a large baking pan and cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container. Serves 10.
This recipe from Red or White’s executive chef Arwen Rice is a crowd-pleaser. One of their menu highlights, it is slightly more sophisticated than your typical football app, but it’s easy to prepare and the bacon will satisfy all the carnivores at the party.
12 jumbo pitted Medjool dates
1 4-ounce log blueberry goat cheese
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut in half
Honey, for drizzling
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Toasted chopped almonds, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside. Place 1 teaspoon of goat cheese inside the cavity of each date where the pit formerly was and press to close. Wrap one half-slice of bacon around each date and secure with toothpicks. Place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet.
2. Bake dates for 10 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until bacon is browned. Let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan, then remove toothpicks.
3. Place dates on a serving platter and drizzle with honey and balsamic vinegar. Top with chopped toasted almonds. Serve warm. Serves 6.