Hey Sports Fans. Are your ready for some Tailgating? It’s fall sports game time. All around you lots of news articles may abound the suggestion of grilling one final time during Labor Day weekend. But not you, in fact, you’re just getting started for the months ahead, revving up those grills and smokers, loading up coolers and tables, filling up tailgate boxes, and cooking up a whole array of foods for spreading across the Tailgate Table celebrating your team and enjoying your sport. From the simple to the creative, its all about pleasing the crowd. Grilled Chicken Quesadillas anyone?
After this past four years of intense travel and tailgating I’ve been reflecting on the course of planning for such affairs and thought I would share some fun recipes with you over the next few weeks, along with some tips. One thing I’ve learned is that Tailgating is easier, especially if you have two games in a weekend, to have step one at hand early in the week, knowing what you will prepare. After that, other details more easily fall into place, including knowing where to go among your shopping choices to get the best deal, and getting the best prices for the best quality is important when you are ongoing cooking for large crowds. Grilled Ribs, always a tailgate favorite are mighty good served Coach Sposato’s style served alongside some peppered baked beans. One of Coaches Playbook ‘Que- Tips’ for keeping your spice rubbed ribs moist while grilling is using a spray bottle filled with apple juice for misting during cooking. The apple juice spray also lends a little sweetness. Pork tends to be best priced in late summer and early fall so get your ribs early on and freeze them, otherwise there are plenty of other great pork cuts that serve well as crowd pleasers.
Such as, marinated pork tenderloin with the popular mustard, soy sauce, and honey, then grilled and sliced is complementary lined on top of Asian Style Orzo. Marinated the evening before, the tenderloins may be placed into a long glass dish with a tight fitting lid and put straight into the cooler before leaving for the game. Asian Style Orzo may be prepared a day in advance, lightly oiled, and combined with fresh prepped vegetables. The sesame soy sauce dressing is easily mixed in a separate container and stirred into the salad shortly before serving time.
Plump creamy cheese tortellinis can be pricey when purchasing in quantities but Tortellini Salad has been a big time hit among our team crowd, especially when the tomatoes continue to be ripe and juicy and fresh herbs are still plentiful in the early fall weeks. I’ve made upwards of six bags per platter with only the bits of parsley and basil remaining stuck to the tray. Tortellini Salad is a good example on the importance of having an advance game plan. Sometimes these circular shaped pastas may even be found on a buy one get one free. Buy in advance.
Being open minded to a game change plan between a broad range of food options also offers a winning advantage for the tailgate even after you think you have already decided your choices for the week. For example, our Coaches favorite, Salmon with Tomatoes, Scallions, and Capers. I serve this dish poached as part of a buffet table each Christmas Eve. An amazing deal on a couple of occasions had me leaving the market with whole sides of remarkably clean and fresh salmon at less than the cost of ground beef. Game Changer. Readied up for the grill and served on a casual platter, the tomato mixture may be prepared in advance, stored in a separate plastic container inside the cooler then spooned on top of the salmon at serving time. Be sure to put some aside for Coach early on though, for it will be wiped off the Tailgate table well before everyone has gone through the line up.
Next, and last on today’s menu, we have the busy Mom’s week option. You know, the week that was so hectic that you were lucky to have prepared anything at all. You would have preferred to bring a box of packaged Tastycakes. These weeks are perfect for Pasta, something like this Fresh Herbs Shell Salad. Depending on the size of your crowd you cook a box of large pasta shells, or two boxes, or three boxes however much you need. Then you get really fancy with a few ingredients, chopped parsley, chopped basil, chopped lemon balm, chopped mint. OK. Not everyone has all of these herbs in their garden or pantry, so, just go with the parsley if you choose, whatever you choose, remember they are colorful, flavorful, and green (healthy right? yes.) Add in a couple fresh chopped pantry items, a few stalks of celery, scallions, chop, chop, chop. Throw in a proportionate amount of your best frozen vegetable friend in the tailgate season, frozen petite peas. Frozen Petite Peas, a great stock up item, they require no cooking. Just throw em in and they brighten up the platter. Next, squeeze in some fresh strained lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, some kosher salt and pepper, and there you have it, in less than thirty minutes, your tasty contribution for the weeks Tailgate table.
Wishing you a Winning Week, see you next week on Tailgate Tuesday. Go Team.