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Heading to a Super Bowl party? It’s all about making amazing snacks.

Spinach dip, a vintage party favorite, is updated as Creamy Collard Dip. Starting with a bag of frozen chopped greens, replace the expected Parmesan and mozzarella with cream cheese, sharp cheddar and diced pimento to amp up the Southern appeal. Serve straight from the oven with crunchy scoops like corn chips or thin slices of toasted baguette.
Spinach dip, a vintage party favorite, is updated as Creamy Collard Dip. Starting with a bag of frozen chopped greens, replace the expected Parmesan and mozzarella with cream cheese, sharp cheddar and diced pimento to amp up the Southern appeal. Serve straight from the oven with crunchy scoops like corn chips or thin slices of toasted baguette. UNC Press

Perre Coleman Magness doesn’t care who wins the Super Bowl. She might even be hard pressed to tell you who’s playing.

But the Memphis-based author of the food blog The Runaway Spoon has been thinking about the big game since at least mid-December, when a friend wisely became the first to invite her to a viewing party.

“I always get invitations because I make snacks,” jokes Magness, author of “Southern Snacks: 77 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavors” (UNC Press), published in the fall.

“I know nothing about the game of football and usually spend most of the time in the kitchen,” Magness said. “I listen for the shouting to subside so I know one of the commercials is coming on.”

For this year’s Super Bowl party, she had not settled on what she will make during this interview a few weeks ago.

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Perre Coleman Magness’ cookbook, “Southern Snacks: 77 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavors.” Justin Fox Burks UNC Press

Needless to say, she also is the author of “Pimento Cheese, The Cookbook: 50 Recipes from Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite” (St. Martin’s Griffin), so she’s bound to bring something featuring the iconic Southern spread.

From “Southern Snacks,” she has considered Natchitoches Meat Pies with Buttermilk Dip, the empanada-like hand pies she swears are worth the effort that required three pages to describe. Bama Wings with White Sauce, also known as “comeback sauce” because it’s so irresistible, also is a contender.

Magness knows, however, that an invitation to a pitch-in party comes with the understanding that the host would be ever-so-grateful if Magness shared her Mustard Poppy Seed Ham Rolls with guests.

“People go nuts over them,” says Magness, who recommends not mentioning how easy they are to make when folks compliment them.

One of the best things about the recipe is that it is prepared in advance, then tucked into the oven to warm through just before kickoff. Reminiscent of the signature ham rolls made by Raleigh caterer Ladyfingers, these have a zesty kick from the mustard-poppyseed dressing.

Be warned that guests are likely to pounce on these buttery nibbles with the gusto of a defensive tackle diving for a fumble. With a few extra trays prepped and stashed in the fridge, you can score a classic safety play by having another round ready well before halftime.

While much of “Southern Snacks” is not especially resolution friendly – each batch of ham rolls is slathered with two and a half sticks of butter – you can offer a greens-based dip that at least sounds healthy.

Magness cleverly updates hot and gooey spinach dip, a vintage party favorite, as Creamy Collard Dip. Starting with a bag of frozen chopped greens, she replaces the expected Parmesan and mozzarella with cream cheese, sharp cheddar and diced pimento to amp up the Southern appeal. Serve straight from the oven with crunchy scoops like corn chips or thin slices of toasted baguette.

Snack-type foods may be ideal for game day gatherings, but Magness says it also works for a more elegant party. She believes guests are encouraged to mingle when they’re not tethered to a dinner plate.

“Having little bites of lots of different things is my favorite way to eat,” Magness says. “And since you can make so many things in advance, it means you can enjoy your guests and not have to scramble at the last minute.”

Magness confides that there is risk in becoming the person everyone counts on to make the very best snacks. After years of taking that role at a family Christmas party, she dared to ask if she could just make desserts next year.

“They all said no, and they meant it,” she recalls with a laugh. “I guess I’m stuck.”

“Southern Snacks” is one of two books Magness published in 2018. Her other collection is “The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist” (Countryman Press). With characteristic wit, she pairs obituaries that recall a dearly departed’s passion for food and drink with the dishes Southerners fix to console the bereaved.

Magness sees her role at a Super Bowl bash in a similar light. To make up for her lack of football knowledge (or interest), she brings super snacks.

“I try to get involved, but it’s just not my thing,” says Magness, who one year placed $20 in a betting pool and felt guilty after winning the pot. “At least I never take home leftovers.”

Jill Warren Lucas is a Raleigh-based freelance writer. She can be reached at 3lucases@gmail.com or on Twitter @jwlucasnc.

Creamy Collard Dip, Pimento Cheese-Style

Hot spinach dip was all the rage during my youth, served warm with lots of cheese. But I think we can go more Southern than that by combining collard greens with the fabulous flavor of pimento cheese. You still get warm and melty and gooey, but with a twist.

5 strips of bacon, chopped

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

1/4 cup water

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, rinsed and drained

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 (16-ounce) bag frozen chopped collard greens, thawed and well drained

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Hot sauce (such as Crystal), to taste (optional)

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy and move to paper towels with a slotted spoon to drain. Pour the bacon grease into a measuring cup and let cool briefly. Add 2 tablespoons of grease back to the skillet.

Cook the onions over medium-high heat until they are soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, then add the water and cook until it has evaporated and the onions are a light toffee color, stirring frequently. Add the pimentos and stir. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a minute further.

Stir in the collard greens, separating them and distributing the onions and pimentos evenly. Cook until the collards are heated through and soft. Add the cream cheese, cut into cubes and stir until melted. Add the grated cheddar and stir until melted. Stir in the sour cream and mayonnaise until the dip is smooth and creamy. Add the crumbled bacon and stir until all the ingredients are well distributed. Scrape the dip into a 2-quart baking dish.

The dip can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated at this point for up to a day.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the dip until it is warm through and bubbling, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with corn chips or toasted baguette pieces.

Yield: 10-12 servings

From “Southern Snacks: 77 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavors” by Perre Coleman Magness. Copyright 2018 by Perre Coleman Magness. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press. uncpress.org

Mustard Poppy Seed Ham Rolls

I adore these. For years, I have volunteered to organize a Christmas potluck for one of my book clubs, solely so I could volunteer to bring these. They are melty and buttery and just downright delicious.

1 large shallot

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if using country ham)

2 dozen Parker House rolls (such as Sister Schubert’s), thawed

1/2 pound thinly shaved smoked city ham or country ham

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

Cut the shallot into small pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade (a mini is fine). Pulse to chop the shallots finely, then add the butter, cut into small pieces, the Dijon, poppy seeds, dry mustard and salt. Blend until smooth and evenly combined. Scoop the butter mixture into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavor to blend, or up to 2 days ahead.

Bring the poppy seed butter to room temperature so it is easily spreadable. Scoop about 4 tablespoons of the butter into a small saucepan and set aside. Remove the entire round of rolls from each pan and use a long, sharp bread knife to slice each package of rolls in half horizontally. Do not separate the individual rolls: slice open the whole round. Spread the butter in an even layer over each of the bottom halves. Spread evenly to the edges of the bread.

Carefully transfer the covered half of the rolls back to the pan they came in (or a similar pan).

Divide the ham between the roll pans and layer it evenly over the poppy seed butter. Place the top halves of the roll over the ham. Use a thin knife to run through the separations in the rolls to make them easier to pull apart when cooked.

Add the brown sugar to the reserved butter in the saucepan and heat over medium, stirring, just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour half of the melted butter over each pan of rolls. Leave to cool and cover each pan tightly with foil. The rolls can be refrigerated for several hours at this point.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls, covered, for 30 minutes or until warmed through and golden. Serve immediately.

Yield: Makes 24

From “Southern Snacks: 77 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavors” by Perre Coleman Magness. Copyright 2018 by Perre Coleman Magness. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press. uncpress.org

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