Let's talk about sliders, those adorable, delicious and wildly creative downsized bites of bold-flavored sandwiches.
While they're the perfect snack for parties and football gatherings, they also can become breakfast, lunch or dinner. They're just the right size and require zero silverware. And you can't eat just one.
To expand our slider knowledge, we turned to Jonathan Melendez, author of "The Slider Effect" cookbook.
"Sliders, or miniature burgers, allow you to indulge in a favorite 'cheat' meal without eating a large portion," Melendez writes. "If you are an indecisive eater, you can mix and match different varieties."
With 75 recipes in his book, ingredient and flavor combos are limitless, with plenty of options for omnivores and vegetarians.
"Sliders are the perfect bite that can be served as an appetizer, tapas, entrée, side or midnight snack," he says. "As long as you have a sturdy bun, a tasty filling and a delicious sauce to round it all out, you're ready to rock and roll. There is no end to what you can make work in a slider."
For instance, give basic beef patties a taco twist by topping them with guac, lettuce, tomato, cheese and salsa. Make a Cubano by filling crusty French rolls with sweet and spicy honey mustard sauce and a grilled pork patty that has been marinated in some fresh OJ, oregano and cumin. Add a slice of Swiss cheese, a thin slice of ham and pickles for an authentic taste of Florida's Little Havana - one bite at a time.
"Bagel breakfast sliders are easy," he says. "No actual cooking is involved."
He uses everything: flavored mini bagels, which he spreads with softened cream cheese, pesto, sliced red onion, cucumber, tomato, avocado and capers.
"It's like your favorite bagel, but in mini form," he says.
To get started, scour the grocery store bakery to find suitable little buns. Think dinner rolls, Hawaiian sweet rolls or focaccia rolls. Make your own biscuits or buy canned biscuits. Turn them into savory options by adding fresh ground black pepper or grated cheese. Crispy waffles, mini bagels and pretzel rolls are good for dainty sandwiches.
Fillings can run the gamut: poultry, fish, seafood, pork, beef, roasted beets, eggplant and black beans. For a finishing touch, add a dab of garlicky aioli or tangy pesto.
If you'd rather let someone else do the cooking, hardly a bar or gastropub doesn't have a slider on the menu. One of our favorites is at Cerberus Brewing Co., where executive chef Mark LeFebvre makes scrumptious lamb sliders.
"The creation stems from a play on the flavor profile of merguez sausage with the lamb," he said. "Then I added roasted red pepper relish and merguez spice blend. Of course, I added ... garlic aioli, brown sugar bacon and arugula on brioche. This has certainly become one of my staple menu items and is the second-best seller to the brisket grilled cheese."
Merguez sausage is made with uncooked lamb or beef that is heavily spiced with cumin and chili pepper or harissa, which gives it its characteristic piquancy and red color, as well as other spices such as sumac, fennel and garlic. The recipe follows, and the spices can be found at Savory Spice Shop downtown.