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Tailgate Tuesday Tips

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Hey Sports Fans. Welcome to Tailgate Tuesday sharing some tips on the Tailgate Trail. From casual to formal, before or after a sporting event, whether sharing a spread upon long tables or small, when it comes to Tailgating tradition, you can always bet that the theme of the food sets the celebration.

This is a lesson I learned some years back now when writing for a regional newspaper after having been invited to be a judge at a college football tailgate contest. Expecting more or less a chili cook-off, lots of grilled burgers and brats on rolls, it was astounding to see the range of magnitude from cocktail sauce served in crystal champagne glasses stemmed with cooked shrimp, to grilled veal chops with a balsamic vinegar glaze. Then there were the Tailgate table settings, with some as extravagantly decorated as one might expect at a formally catered event. It goes to show you that almost anything prepared in a home party setting can be transferred to the Tailgate Table. The differences lie in varied organizational details, including keeping foods well chilled until preparation time, and carefully planning the separate packing of ingredients such as salads and dressings for travel that later may be combined before serving.


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Food preparation equipment is essential at the Tailgate too based on the cooking processes from grilling to slow cookers. Some utensils are obvious, a large spatula, and sturdy tongs for grilled foods, pot holders, a couple different sized sharp knives for cutting, assorted sized spoons for stirring and tasting, and if using a Portable Propane Grill, it is important to always have an extra propane tank on hand. A large bottle of hand sanitizer is an essential part of food safety when Tailgating. Keeping a well thought out list is most helpful, and this should also include knowledge among the rules and regulations of your particular sports tailgating site, including the disposal of trash, and designated metal trashcans for charcoal briquette ashes.

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Some handy utensils are not so obvious, learning as you go along on the kitchen equipment area that might serve as very useful, I’ve got two words for that category, Meat Thermometer. Yes, having been on the tailgate trail for many years having a meat thermometer doesn’t always make the essentials list and looking back, I’m darn sure it should be at the top. Take chicken for example, now no one wants a dried out ole chicken breast on the Tailgate Table, this is true. On the other hand, nothing can spoil a good party like attendees contracting a case of salmonella.  Besides keeping the chicken carefully chilled until grilling time, other ideas may include slicing breasts in half for quicker cooking time, and cutting smaller cubes of chicken for kabobs. Toppings for chicken such as the above Grilled Chicken with Sweet Corn and Mixed Peppers Salsa may be kept chilled, then dressed and topped before serving. Keep a laminated meat chart handy so everyone grilling can know the correct temperature of doneness for each type of meat. Keep the conversation going, especially when switching off between ‘grill tenders’ sharing necessary tips on varying grills that sometimes have uneven cooking spots and being aware on any adjustments.


Timing is everything, as the old fashioned saying (seemingly from the beginning of time) goes, and it continues to work in modern day era Tailgating. If you have a large group coordinating then you’ve got lots of folks rolling up their sleeves and getting down to business making the table set up flow with ease. Keeping the communications flowing is still important here too so all of the dishes may be placed out at appropriate times. If its 85 degrees with high humidity it is highly recommended to keep some foods, especially mayonnaise based dishes such as Potato Salad in the cooler until immediately before serving time, while pasta and oil flavored dishes may be dressed and trays spread on the table a bit earlier. Be sure to create a space on the table for those dishes requiring extended cooler time.

Once the cooler days of the fall sports season emerge and slow cookers line long tables featuring dishes from one one end to another the concern then turns to keeping the foods warm. Hamilton Beach has a new Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker for specified cooking times at which the cooking then stops and a warming function kicks in, so this type of added convenience is another way now enabling the timing of keeping foods warm up to the very last moment of serving. And since we are talking meat thermometer, this one has a thermometer probe for meat as well, and a very tight fitting clip gasket lid perfect for Tailgate travel.


Grill timing is also important depending on the sport of your Tailgate, especially if your tailgate requires grilling large volumes of food that all need to be served at once. If you are serving a team along with their families and assorted fans but the coach talks to the players for a half hour following the game, well, grilling food too soon before then may well land you some dried out ole chicken breast, or the capital crime, overcooked One-Third Cup Slider Burgers, neither are appealing. Alternatively, if you plan out the timing, perhaps beginning the grilling ten minutes into the team meeting then using a Meat Thermometer, along with communicating between other grillers on the timing, you will find that cooked precisely to appropriate doneness, the grill items will remain juicy, even if requiring some brief tenting with aluminum foil. 


Fresh and healthy foods, such as Bulgur Salad or Bright Colored Vegetables with Whole Wheat Cous Cous  add lots of color and interest to a Tailgate table and are easy to prepare.


And finally, for this weeks busy Mom’s option. The week was so hectic you are lucky to prepare anything at all. If you would like to prepare a dish but you’ve no time to cook, you don’t have to. Merely open a can each of beans, garbanzo, kidney, black, drain and rinse, then dump onto a tray. Stir in one chopped red onion, and if you’ve got some parsley or some other fresh green, chop, chop, chop. Sprinkle over some olive oil, a touch of cider vinegar to taste, some kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Stir. Done. Or, fancy it up further as you choose. Ten minutes or less.


That’s this weeks wrap-up on Tailgate Tuesday Tips, you can check out last weeks tips here. Wishing you a Winning Week. Go Team.







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