Tailgating Recipes with Steven Raichlen
Seasoned chef, author and host of countless cooking shows, Steven Raichlen, dishes on gameday.
I have a confession: I did not grow up in a tailgating family. (For that matter, barbecue wasn’t part of my culinary heritage, either.) Sure, my dad took me to Colts football games (back when the Colts still belonged to Baltimore), but we ate hotdogs (boiled) inside the old Memorial Stadium, not hot off the grill in a parking lot. Our pre-game entertainment, such as it was, consisted of looking for my uncle Marty, who played clarinet in the Colts marching band.
But when my indoctrination into the world of tailgating finally arrived, it came in a big way. The year was 2012. The summons came from the Food Network: teach Football Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett (who played for the Cowboys and the Broncos) and quarterback Jim Kelly (formerly of the Buffalo Bills) how to grill for a tailgate party. Which is how I found myself outside the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, in front of a camera crew, tossing a football and firing up the grills with two of the top players in NFL.
Tailgating. It’s been part of American food culture for a long time. For 150 years, to be precise, when Rutgers and Princeton played their first intercollegiate football game on a grassy field near New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1869. Spectators gathered before the game, serving elaborate picnic lunches from the tailgates of their horse-drawn buckboards and wagons.
Today, this intersection of food and sports is more popular than ever, building team and community spirit from coast to coast. The American Tailgaters Association estimates more than 20 million Americans routinely party in the parking lot, and millions more host get togethers at their own homes. Modern tailgaters display the same competitive drive evident on the field, staging tailgate parties that are spectacles in their own right. No wonder some 35 percent of tailgaters confess to skipping the sporting event altogether. Of course, you can always watch the game from the tailgate when the host provides a generator-powered big screen TV, premium sound system, portable heaters, and plenty of alcohol.
Here are my tips for making this year’s tailgating season your best yet:
- Compile a master list/check-off system and laminate it in plastic, or make multiple copies. (Be sure to include “tickets” and “parking pass!”)
- Strategically pack your vehicle from front to back with the items you’ll want first near the rear.
- Provide at least some seating for guests (don’t force them to sit on coolers), and if possible, a protective overhead canopy (the latter can be rented).
- A restaurant supply house is a great source for disposable foil pans, which are indispensable for tailgating. While you’re there, pick up some beverage and take-out containers—handy for packing leftovers—plastic cutlery, and sturdy garbage bags.
- Bring more fuel than you think you’ll need. If burning charcoal, be prepared to douse and safely dispose of the ashes. A small metal trashcan helps here. (Do not leave any lit grill or live coals unattended.) Transport propane tanks, which tend to be tippy, in plastic milk crates.
- If you’re a frequent tailgater, assemble outdoor kitchen equipment and frequently used rubs or spices in a toolbox or other portable container.
- Foods that can be eaten out of hand work best for tailgating: chicken wings, kebabs, sliders, or sandwiches.
- I like to build a menu around a large hunk of meat, such as a pork shoulder or prime rib that you smoke or barbecue at home and bring to the party for reheating and slicing.
For more tailgating tips, visit him on www.barbecuebible.com.
RECIPES FOR TAILGATING
SHRIMP AND SMOKIES
Method: Direct grilling
24 jumbo Gulf shrimp (about 2 pounds)
1 lb. andouille sausage, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices (one good source is Porter Road in Nashville)
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch squares
1 sweet onion, cut in half widthwise, then into 8 wedges, separated into layers
16 fresh bay leaves (optional)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning mixed with 3 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
Shallot Herb Butter for basting (see below)
Lemon wedges, for serving
You’ll also need: 8 bamboo or metal skewers
Slit the shrimp down the back with a sharp knife. Devein using the tine of a fork.
Thread the shrimp, sausage, pepper squares, onions, and bay leaves onto the skewers, alternating the ingredients to make attractive kebabs. Note: Skewer the shrimp from top to bottom, not side to side. Lightly brush the kebabs with oil and season with some of the Cajun-Old Bay seasoning mix. Prepare the Shallot Herb Butter (see below).
Set up your grill for direct grilling, and preheat to medium-high. Brush and oil the grill grate.
Grill the kebabs until the shrimp is cooked through (they’ll be whitish and firm) and the sausage and peppers are browned and sizzling, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Brush the kebabs with the Shallot Herb Butter as they cook. Spoon the remaining butter over the kebabs and sprinkle with more of the Cajun-Old Bay seasoning. Serve with lemon wedges. If using metal skewers, remember to un-skewer the shrimp, sausage, and peppers before serving. (There’s little that’s worse than burning your lip on a hot metal skewer.)
SHALLOT HERB BUTTER
Makes 3/4 cup
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cilantro and cook until the shallot is sizzling and golden. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Keep warm.
Method: Indirect grilling
Serves: Makes 48 wings
For the wings and marinade:
24 whole chicken wings (about 5 pounds)
3/4 cup sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
For the wing sauce:
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter
1 to 2 jalapeno chiles, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 3 tablespoons for sprinkling
3/4 cup sriracha
1/4 cup chopped toasted peanuts (optional)
You’ll also need: Hardwood chips or chunks, soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes, then drained
1. Cut the tips off the wings and discard them or save them for stock. Cut each wing in 2 through the joint.
2. Make the marinade: Whisk together the sriracha, lemon juice, oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Stir in the wing pieces and let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight, turning the wings several times so that they marinate evenly.
3. Make the wing sauce: Just before setting up the grill, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the jalapeno slices and cilantro and cook until sizzling, 2 minutes. Stir in the sriracha.
4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to 400°. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center, preheat the grill to 400°, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.
5. When ready to cook, drain the marinade off the wings and discard the marinade. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the wings in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the wings until the skin is crisp and golden brown and the meat is cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, start basting the wings with some of the wing sauce.
6. Transfer the grilled wings to a shallow bowl or platter and pour the remaining wing sauce over them. Sprinkle with the peanuts and cilantro. Serve with plenty of paper napkins and cold beer.
CAROLINA PULLED PORK SLIDERS WITH MUSTARD SAUCE AND SLAW
Method: Indirect grilling/smoking
Serves: Makes about 16 sliders
For the pork:
1 5-to 6-lb. bone-in pork shoulder
1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue rub (I’m partial to my Carolina Pit Powder)*
For the Mustard Barbecue Sauce:
1 cup Dijon-style mustard
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup cider white vinegar
1 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Mustard Slaw:
1 small head green cabbage (about 1 pound), cored, finely chopped or very thinly sliced
1/4 small head purple cabbage, cored, finely chopped or very thinly sliced
1 carrot, trimmed, peeled, and grated
1 cup Mustard Barbecue Sauce from above
16 slider buns or potato rolls
1/2 stick salted butter, melted
You’ll also need: Hardwood chips or chunks, soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes, then drained
1. Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to 275°. Or set up your smoker, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
2. Season the pork shoulder on all sides with salt and pepper or the barbecue rub, massaging the spices into the meat.
3. Place the spice rubbed pork shoulder fat side up in the center of the grate over the drip pan.
4. Toss a handful of soaked wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and smoke-roast the pork until darkly browned and very tender (you should be able to pull out the shoulder bone with your fingers), 5 to 6 hours. The internal temperature, measured with an instant-read meat thermometer, should be 195°.
5. You’ll have to add fresh charcoal (preferably natural lump) every hour. (Leave the grill lid off for 5 minutes when you do so the new coals have plenty of air to ignite.) You should also add a handful of wood chips to each mound of coals every hour for the first 3 hours.
6. Make the sauce and slaw: For the former, combine the mustard, brown sugar, vinegar, and liquid smoke in a saucepan over medium-high heat and boil until thick, whisking to mix, 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let it cool to room temperature. Stir 1 cup of sauce into the chopped vegetables to make the mustard slaw. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving the pork.
7. Transfer the pork shoulder to a cutting board and let it rest for 20 minutes, loosely draped with a sheet of foil. (Do not bunch the foil around it or you’ll make the crust—also known as the bark—soggy.)
8. Pull any skin off the pork shoulder and discard. Ditto for the bone and any big lumps of fat. Chop the pork into small pieces with a cleaver. Place in a large bowl or roasting pan and stir in some Mustard Barbecue Sauce (to taste).
9. Meanwhile, rake the remaining charcoal in the grill into a mound.
10. Brush the buns with melted butter. Arrange the buns on the grill grate directly over the coals and toast each until golden brown. (Watch carefully.)
11. Pile a generous mound of pork onto each bun. Top with mustard slaw. Serve any remaining slaw and/or sauce on the side.
BRATWURST “HOT TUB”
Method: Indirect grilling
Makes 12 brats
For the brats:
12 Wisconsin bratwurst
Extra virgin olive oil for brushing
1 large sweet onion, trimmed, peeled, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
2 jalapeño chilies, thinly sliced (for milder brats, remove the seeds)
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
2 bottles of beer (3 cups), preferably Wisconsin craft beer
12 crusty rolls
Hot or sweet German-style mustard
3 cups sauerkraut, warmed (optional)
You’ll also need: Hardwood chips or chunks, soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes, then drained; bamboo skewers (preferably flat); a large aluminum foil pan (like a turkey roaster)
This is not traditional, but to me there is no better way to cook bratwurst or any sausage. Indirect grilling crisps the casing, keeps the brat moist, and eliminates the risk of burning and flare-ups, while the wood smoke adds a haunting dimension of flavor.
Set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (350°). Brush and oil the grill grate. Lightly brush the brats on all sides with oil.
Arrange the brats on the grate over the drip pan away from the heat. Toss the wood chips on the coals. Indirect grill the brats until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check for doneness—insert it in one end to the center of the brat—it should read 165°. There is no need to turn the brats—remember, you’re indirect grilling.
As the brats cook, skewer the onion slices on bamboo skewers. Melt the butter in the large foil pan. Lightly brush the onion slices with melted butter (you’ll need about 1 tablespoon) and season with salt and pepper. Grill the onions until golden brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. (If working on a grill set up for indirect grilling, place the onions directly over one of the mounds of coals.) Add the onions, jalapenos, and scallions to foil pan with the butter, removing and discarding the skewers.
Add the beer to foil and boil it for 3 minutes. Move it to a cooler part of the grill so it stops boiling. As the bratwurst are done, add them to the pan with the beer. Position the pan at the rear or side of your grill so that the beer and brats stay warm, but don’t quite boil. Boiling will overcook them. Nestled in their hot tub, the brats will stay warm and moist for up to 2 hours—enough time for you to cook them ahead of time, imbue them with the flavor of smoke and fire, and enjoy them during the game.
To serve the brats, slather the roll with mustard. You can butter and grill the roll if you like—most Wisconsinites wouldn’t bother. Add a brat, some grilled onion, and sauerkraut, if desired. Take a bite and get ready for some of the best wurst on the planet.