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Get your game (food) on
Here's a plan to feed all those hungry tailgaters
Whether your tailgate includes a custom grill setup and team color-coordinated tents or a simple picnic on a well-worn blanket, no pre-game ritual is complete without the spread. This is one party that's as much about the food as it is about fans and football.
Here are some tailgate ideas to choose from, whether you're thinking main course or sides. No worries — we've got dips covered and even include a few breakfast ideas when you have to plan around an early kickoff.
Some of these aren't recipes, really, but ideas to get you started. Many dishes can be prepared hours — even a day or two — in advance. A few, such as the pressed muffuletta sandwich, require advance preparation. Nothing too complicated, just a little planning.
You'll still have plenty of time to worry about the other important things, like icing the beer and whipping up a pitcher of cocktails.
Burgers: Simply season ground beef with a little kosher salt and pepper, being careful not to overwork the meat, then divide and shape into 8-ounce patties. Offer a selection of cheeses and toppings, and perhaps a flavored mayonnaise or two.
Guacamole: In a big bowl, combine mashed ripe avocado with chopped cilantro, diced tomato, onion, fresh lime juice, chopped chiles and a sprinkling of salt. Add a little garlic or cumin, if desired, and serve alongside a mountain of chips.
Carne asada: Blend fresh cilantro, a little garlic, onion, serrano chili, salt and a touch of Worcestershire sauce. Rub the marinade over skirt steak and marinate an hour, up to several, before grilling.
Bratwurst: Simmer fresh brats over the grill in a deep pan filled with butter, sliced onion and beer, then grill to order. It's heaven on a roll piled high with sauerkraut, mustard and pickles.
Fennel and white bean salad: Toss drained white beans with thinly sliced fennel, crisp bacon, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil and a dash of hot sauce in this simple bean salad.
Roasted potato salad: Roast small potatoes with a little garlic and seasoning, then toss with crisp bacon bits, capers and sliced red onion. Bind with mayonnaise brightened with a little red wine vinegar and whole grain mustard in this take on the classic.
Celery root and apple slaw: Thinly slice celery root and apple, and toss with toasted pecans and currants. Bind together with a dressing of sour cream whisked with a touch of prepared horseradish and Dijon mustard.
Avocado corn relish: Combine sautéed corn with avocados, green onions, bell pepper, roasted chilies, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Set aside to marry the flavors and serve at room temperature alongside steak or grilled meats.
Calabacitas: Flavor chopped zucchini, tomatoes and corn with onion and garlic, then add a little diced jalapeno for a touch of heat in this Southwestern classic. Combine everything in a foil packet and steam until tender and fragrant. Sprinkle crumbled fresh cheese over it before serving.
Stuffed grape leaves (dolmas): Stuff grape leaves with a fragrant blend of rice, pine nuts, lemon zest and fresh herbs, then wrap them up like little burritos. Pack the dolmas in tight layers in a casserole and slowly simmer them in a broth of lemon juice, oil and water until tender.
Three-bean and hominy chili: Black, pinto and kidney beans are slow-cooked with hominy and diced tomatoes in a rich chili flavored with garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. It's so filling, your guests might never guess it's vegetarian.
Chicken and apple sausage: Flavor ground chicken with fresh sage, dried apples, onions and a fragrant touch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Form patties and grill or sauté, then serve in an English muffin. Burgers for breakfast.
GRILLED STUFFED PORK CHOPS
Total time: two hours, plus overnight brining
Servings: eight to 10
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1 cup Bourbon whiskey
3 (4-inch) sprigs rosemary, lightly crushed
8 center-cut pork chops, each 1-1⁄4 to 1-1⁄2 inches thick, preferably bone-in
1 large head garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces bacon (about 5 slices), cut into 1⁄4 -inch pieces, see cook's notes
10 ounces spinach from 1 large bunch or 1 (10-ounce) bag, washed and trimmed
12 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1⁄2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
Cook's notes: This is best made using apple-wood-smoked bacon.
Place the mustard seeds in a medium stock pot over medium-low heat. Toast the mustard seeds for a couple minutes, just until they start to pop. Remove from the heat.
Add 4 quarts water to the pot. Stir in the salt, maple syrup and bourbon. Add the rosemary and place the pot over high heat. Once the brine comes to a boil, remove from the heat and allow it to steep until it cools to room temperature.
Place the pork chops into two gallon-size sealable bags (four pork chops in each bag). Divide the brine between the two bags and then squeeze the excess air out of the bags before sealing them tightly. Place the bags in the refrigerator overnight.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut off the end of the garlic head, exposing the tops of the cloves. Drizzle the cut top with the olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Wrap the head in foil and place in the oven for one hour to roast. After an hour, remove the garlic and allow to cool before removing the foil. Squeeze the roasted cloves from the bulb and set aside.
While the garlic is roasting, place the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the bacon starts to crisp. Remove from the heat to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Pour out the fat, leaving 1 tablespoon in the pan.
Reheat the bacon fat in the pan over medium heat. Stir in the spinach in bunches, adding another bunch as the spinach wilts, until all is added. When just wilted, remove the spinach to a cutting board lined with paper towels. Allow the spinach to cool slightly and pat off the excess moisture with the paper towels, then roughly chop it. Set aside.
Place the goat cheese in a medium bowl. Add the spinach, roasted garlic cloves, bacon, thyme and the half teaspoon of chopped rosemary. Season with a few grinds of black pepper. Refrigerate the stuffing until needed.
Remove the pork chops from the brine. Using a boning knife, slice a pocket (no more than 2 inches wide) into the side of a pork chop. You will cut a pocket through most of the chop, but leave a 1⁄2-inch border all around to prevent the pocket from ripping when stuffed. Repeat with the remaining chops.
Divide the stuffing into eight portions. Stuff each of the eight chops, using a little of the stuffing at a time and distributing it evenly into the pocket with your fingers. Close the pockets with a toothpick or two. Wipe any excess stuffing from the outside of the chops. (Up to this point may be done up to a few hours in advance. If not grilling immediately, refrigerate stuffed chops until needed.)
Heat a grill over medium heat. Oil the grill rack and place the chops on the grill, leaving a few inches between each for even cooking. You may have to do this in batches. Cover the grill and cook the chops six to seven minutes on each side, until a thermometer inserted reads 140 degrees for medium, or about eight minutes per side for well done. Remove the toothpicks before serving and serve immediately.
BELL PEPPER AND CORN SLAW
Total time: 35 minutes plus chilling time
Servings: six to eight
6 large bell peppers, assorted colors
2 ears corn, shucked
Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste
Zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1⁄2 teaspoon chipotle or New Mexico chile powder, or to taste
1⁄4 cup chopped cilantro
Core the peppers and cut them into lengthwise strips no thicker than one-eighth inch and about 2-1⁄2 inches long. Place the sliced pepper in a large bowl.
Slice the kernels off the corn, and toss them with the peppers.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, garlic, olive oil, agave syrup, salt and chipotle powder to form a dressing. Taste and adjust to taste.
Pour the dressing over the peppers and toss well to coat completely. Stir in the cilantro and toss until evenly combined. This makes about 6 cups slaw.
Cover and refrigerate the pepper slaw at least one hour before serving. The slaw will keep for up to two days refrigerated.
WATERMELON SALAD WITH MINT AND LIME
Total time: 10 minutes, plus chilling time
6 cups (about 3⁄4 pound) seedless watermelon cubes, from about 1⁄4 seedless watermelon (rind removed)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
In a large bowl, toss the watermelon cubes with the mint, olive oil and lime juice. Chill the salad for at least one hour before serving.
Source: Adapted from recipe by Teresa Fanucchi in "A Place at the Table."
CHAGERMEISTER'S BREAKFAST CHILI
Total time: About 30 minutes, plus overnight cooking time
1 pound breakfast sausage, browned and crumbled
1 pound bacon, fully cooked and crumbled
9 hard-boiled eggs, diced
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of cheddar soup
1 soup can's worth of milk (about 2 cups)
1 (15.5 ounce) can navy beans
4 green onions, minced
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
The night before serving, combine the sausage, bacon, eggs, soups, milk, beans, green onions, chilies and cheese in a large slow cooker. Mix well and season to taste. Set the slow cooker to low heat and cook overnight; the chili will be ready to serve when you wake up in the morning. Serve in a bowl with crumbled crackers, or over hash browns or toasted English muffins.
Source: From Chad Jaeger.
Total time: one hour, plus two to four hours marinating and four hours pressing
1⁄2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup pitted oil-packed black olives, coarsely chopped
1 (2-ounce) jar pimentos, drained and coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, trimmed and minced, about 1⁄3 cup
1⁄4 cup cauliflower florets, blanched and minced, see cook's notes
1 carrot, peeled, blanched and minced, see cook's notes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large round loaf semolina bread
1 cup very finely shredded lettuce
1⁄4 pound thinly sliced ham
1⁄4 pound thinly sliced mortadella with pistachios
1⁄4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
6 ounces thinly sliced provolone
Cook's notes: To blanch the cauliflower and carrot, cook in boiling water for two minutes, then plunge into cold water.
Make an olive relish by combining the green and black olives with the pimentos, celery, cauliflower, carrot, garlic, parsley, oregano, vinegar and oil. Stir to blend, then set aside to marinate at least two hours but preferably four.
Slice the bread in half horizontally. Scoop out some of the bottom part, leaving a retaining wall on all sides. Drain the olive mixture, reserving the liquid. Spread half the relish onto the bread. Top with successive layers of lettuce, ham, mortadella, salami and cheese. Drizzle with a little of the reserved marinade. Spread the remaining olive relish over the layers. Top with the reserved half of the loaf.
Wrap the sandwich in plastic film. Place it on a baking sheet and weight it with something heavy, such as an iron skillet or canned tomatoes. Refrigerate for at least four hours to compress. Cut into thin wedges to serve.
SQUARE ONE BROWN BUTTER PECAN COFFEECAKE
Total time: one hour, 35 minutes, plus one hour, 30 minutes rising time
1 (1/4 ounce) package dry yeast
1⁄3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided use
1⁄2 cup milk
2 cups flour, divided use
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided use
3⁄4 cup European-style butter, chilled, divided use, see cook's notes
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla paste, or substitute 1⁄8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup raw, unsalted pecan pieces
Cook's notes: Vanilla paste can be purchased at high-end kitchen supply stores and Williams-Sonoma. European-style butter is available at Trader Joe's, Bristol Farms and Whole Foods markets. The chef toasts a cinnamon stick, then grinds it for this recipe.
For the cake, combine the yeast and 1⁄3 cup sugar in a mixing bowl. Gently warm the milk to around 85 degrees (be careful not to heat the milk too much as this could kill the yeast). Whisk the milk into the yeast mixture. Allow it to sit until small bubbles form, 10 to 15 minutes.
Whisk in 1⁄2 cup flour to form a thin paste; cover and let rise for 15 minutes. Using the dough hook attachment of an electric mixer, incorporate the eggs into the yeast mixture. Add the remaining flour a little at a time and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt and continue mixing.
Cut 1⁄2 cup of butter into small cubes. Add the butter a few pieces at a time to the dough, mixing until all the butter is incorporated. This will take about 10 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic and set aside in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 30 to 45 minutes.
To make the topping, combine the brown sugar, the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, vanilla paste (or extract), cinnamon and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Mix thoroughly.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8- by 3-inch round cake pan, or wrap foil around the outside of an 8- by 2-inch springform pan to prevent leakage. When the dough is doubled, heat the remaining 1⁄4 cup butter over medium-low heat until the milk solids are nicely browned and the butter has a toasted, nutty flavor, about four to five minutes. Pour into a shallow container immediately to stop the cooking process. Cool.
Place the dough in the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Cover the dough with the browned butter. Sprinkle the topping evenly over, pushing it down to make it stick. Sprinkle with pecan pieces. Sprinkle with the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt.
Place the dough in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cake stand in the pan for 15 minutes before unmolding.
To unmold, place a plate on top, then invert the cake onto the plate, then top with another plate and invert so the cake is right side up. If using a springform pan, remove the outer ring. Slice and serve immediately.
Source: From Chef Hayden Ramsey of Square One restaurant in Los Angeles.
CLEMENTINE'S BUTTERSCOTCH BROWNIES
Total time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12 to 16
3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1-1⁄4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 extra-large egg
1⁄2 teaspoon plus 1⁄8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
In a large bowl, stir the brown sugar into the melted butter. Stir in the egg, then the vanilla.
Stir in the dry ingredients, then fold in the nuts.
Place the batter in a greased 8-inch square baking pan and bake until set (a toothpick inserted will have moist crumbs), about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool slightly before serving.
Source: Adapted from Clementine Bakery in Los Angeles.
Bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes: Cut each strip of bacon in thirds lengthwise. Wrap each bacon piece around a cherry tomato and thread them onto skewers. Grill over a medium fire until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. If the fire starts to flare up, move the skewers to the cool side of the grill until the flare-up dies down.
Shishito peppers: Thread the peppers onto skewers. Grill over a medium fire until they're softened and slightly charred, about eight minutes. Moisten the bottom of a platter with soy sauce and place the pepper skewers on top. Cover with a handful of shaved, dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi).
Fresh shiitake mushrooms: Remove the stems from the mushrooms and thread the caps onto skewers; if the caps are very large, they may be halved or quartered before skewering, though it's not necessary. Brush with the yakitori sauce from the chicken thigh recipe and grill over medium-high heat until the mushrooms show grill marks and are tender, about five minutes.