Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/1/12
We have approached the heart of summer and football news is sporadic. Throughout this past month, I have found myself more and more consistently channel surfing back and forth between ESPN and Food Network.

A reported update on the New Orleans Bounty probe? Catifish and beignets dished on "Chopped". Chris Berman calling a Raiders "Monday Night Football" game?

Guy Fieri visiting Aunt Mary's Cafe in Oakland on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives".

Either way, masculinity remains intact.

In a country that craves its upwards of three meals per day, sports offer one of the few legitimate excuses to postpone your investment in P90X.

Whether beer is washing down potato chips in the comforts of your living room or loaded fries at MetLife Stadium while the Giants devour the Jets on Christmas Eve, neither football nor food are genuinely fulfilling enough without the other.

Allow me to take your jackets and begin filling the menu for your 2012 season-opener party on Wednesday September 5th. Waters with lemon all around and a lozenge for the lone Dallas fan?

Because I have yet to make the trip to Carnegie Deli and tackle the infamous Jetbow, let's direct our appetites to the second-most discussed team in New York, and the player with the second-most celebrated celebration in the league: Victor Cruz. His salsa-induced Puerto Rican upbringing combined with the melting pot of American and international customs alike created a breakout performance that Ellis Island's breed of Italians, Portuguese, and Cubans crowded 8th Avenue just to savor. The Cruz Club and your Italian Trojan both encompass all of that.

Here's the play-by-play for one sandwich (although you'll most likely need more):


Ingredients:
2 fileted chicken thighs (for desired hip action)
Basil/paprika/garlic/black pepper/red pepper
1 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for the roll)
Salt
2 strips of bacon
Portuguese roll (benching the thinner casabe bread)
Salsa (homemade or store-bought - I'm still a rookie)
10 cucumber slices (and/or lettuce)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cover the skin-side of each thigh with your dry herbs. I chose this array of seasonings as opposed to more traditional Puerto Rican spices (such as cilantro and Caribbean thyme) to evade the bull rush of potentially clashing too much with the salsa or overpowering the sandwich, or else I'd add a twist or two of lime. This, of course, can be left to your preference or the disposal of your spice cabinet.

Coat a frying pan with the tablespoon of olive oil and set to medium heat. Once the oil is hot, place the chicken skin-side down and sprinkle your salt on top. You are aiming for crispy blackened skin without burning it.

Your simultaneous assignment is to partially cook the bacon in a separate pan, until it begins to curl. Read the defense and do not hold on to the ball too long, but don't throw into tight coverage either...

On a plate, lay the bacon on the meat-side of the thigh and roll the chicken, gunslinging a toothpick all the way through it so it holds in place. American-Puerto Rican cuisine also practices stuffing their cow with the pig...the NFL should emply more barnyard-animal team names.

Set your oven to broil and cook the chicken in an oven-safe pan, until well done, obviously - don't jump the snap count! This should take 25-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the thighs.

Meanwhile, brush each slice of your Portuguese roll with olive oil. In the pan with the leftover oil, toast the bread by weighing it down with a spatula, to catch the remaining seasonings with a bear claw and David Tyree's old helmet.

Remove the toothpicks (unless you're bracing yourself for a pain-filled 2012 campaign) and lay the chicken flat on the roll. Add the salsa according to your liking, as well as the lettuce and cucumber - which complement the sandwich with a fresher element to cushion the impact of the salsa and spices.

As messy a snack as the art of tailgating calls for, the Cruz Club provides your taste buds with healthy deception and 99-yard enjoyment even for a picky bickering receiving corps of younger Italian siblings. Prepare with Tostitos and digest the Giants' defense of the NFC East crown.

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