Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gridiron Great - Game Day Tailgating

Fall means football and whether you follow the NFL or your favorite college team tailgating, the partying trend that combines beer, parking lots and great food is a fabulous way to entertain. With the Panther’s first home game today, I thought it appropriate to post about game day food and the art of tailgating.
You can tailgate at the game or if your team is traveling for the weekend, plan a virtual tailgate party, complete with big screen television and lots of friends. With no worries about traffic jams, parking or how to negotiate the port-a-potty, you can really concentrate on the game day theme of it all and pull out all the stops.

The Pregame Playbook
Preparing everything in advance instead of on-site, will give you time to concentrate on all of the Panther paraphernalia that make an ordinary tailgate something special, bringing in team-themed cups and plates, serving pieces, tablecloths and napkins, etc. Look at local party stores as well as the Panther shop at the stadium for great accoutremonts; and this time of year gift shops and big box stores all stock football-themed serving dishes, so be sure to include a few of those in your tailgate spread as well.
If the game is televised and your party is a virtual tailgate at home, you’ll have a wider variety of cooking options, but it will still be the accoutrements that make the game a gridiron great. Go to the nearest Lowes or Home Depot and buy a length of Astroturf to use for your table cloth or to cover the bar. Paper products will make clean up easier or you can use the real thing, but either way be sure to dress the table in team colors and then do the same with your own game day attire. Heavy duty plastic glasses or coozies for beer or soda cans and bottles can be wrapped in team bumper stickers or tied with team colored ribbons. If you are using small folding tables or bamboo trays to give everyone a laptop table, team pennants make for great placemats and it never hurts to have a television in every room so guests won’t miss a minute of the on field action.

Pass the Pigskin
If you are into ‘cue, Charlotte has no shortage of place to arrange for take out, or if you would rather do it yourself, my Running Back Ribs would be another great do-ahead alternative and make for the perfect game day fare that keep your crew of spectators coming back for more. The recipe here is a basic one - spice them up as you would like with the addition of more hot sauce as the ribs cook or a spicy hot barbecue sauce set up for dipping at your tailgate site. Par boil the ribs the night before to insure their tenderness and then get up early to get them cooking. Keep the racks hot wrapped in foil, then in towels to insulate them and keep them warm. Pack it all up in a insulated “cooler” which will work keeping hot foods hot in the same way it keep cold foods cold.

Burger Blitz and Wild Card Wings
If you are cooking for a small crowd and do want to cook onsite you’ll find many small portable grills on the market Just make sure that you are tailgating in an area where they allow an open flame. If burger blitz is you plan of defense for hungry game day fans, mix it up a bit and grill a combination of meats including beef, turkey and tuna. Shape the ground meat into little patties or sliders so your team tailgate can taste an assortment. Make your own smaller-sized rolls or buy small frozen biscuits from the grocery store, bake them ahead and you are good to go. For ease of preparation after the grilling is done, you can set up a tailgate burger bar like a buffet and let party goers make their own as they go.
Hot wings are another tasty tailgate treat. For the time-honored recipe look no further the label on a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce (I like the Original blend). Many people toss cooked wing in the sauce after the fact, but I prefer to combine one-half cup of Frank’s sauce with one third cup of melted butter and toss it all with 2 pounds of rinsed, split salt-and-pepper seasoned wings before cooking. Place the dressed wings in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. The buttery sauce acts as a braising liquid for the wings as they bake and the results garner rave reviews every time.
For a football fan-atic feast, serve the skewered sate to start, the burgers with all the condiments; grilled paninis and a vegetarian option, ribs and wings with my blue cheese bread, the orzo salad on the side and my easy chocolate chip pecan pie for dessert.

Heidi’s Running Back Ribs

Parboiling liquid:
½ cup fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1/4-inch) slice of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 cup lime juice
3 cups beer
¼ cup sugar
7 cups chicken broth

4 lbs. beef or pork ribs

Basting sauce:
2/3 cup teriyaki sauce
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark sesame oil
2 (1/4-inch) slices of fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, minced
¼ cup beer
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. hot sauce (more to taste)

Combine the parboiling ingredients in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and add the whole racks of ribs. Allow to come back to a boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.
While ribs are simmering, prepare basting sauce by combining the remaining ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan. Bring to a boil let boil one minutes, remove from heat, reserve.
Remove ribs from the simmering liquid. Place in a roasting pan. Brush the ribs generally with the basting sauce and place under a preheated broiler or forgo the pan and place the rib racks, bone side down on a hot grill. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side, basting again with sauce as soon as you turn the ribs.
For chicken: Rinse dark and white meat chicken quarters in cold water and pat dry, then season on both sides with coarse ground sea salt and pepper. Place chicken on a grill over a medium flame, skin side up, boney side down for 8-10 minutes. Turn chicken pieces and grill another 6-8 minutes or until juices run clear when the chicken meat is poked with a skewer. Prepare the barbecue basting sauce as directed for the ribs. Baste the chicken, boney side up, with the sauce and grill and additional five minutes or so. Turn chicken pieces, baste once again, on the skin side, and grill for four to five more minutes before removing from the heat.


1 lb. beef, pork or chicken, cut into long thin strips
For the marinade:
2 tsp. garlic paste
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
¼ cup lime juice
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. olive oil
For the peanut sauce:
1 cup plain or crunchy peanut butter
1 Tbsp. red chili flakes
zest of 1 lime
1 tsp cumin
1 (¼ inch) slice fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
¼ cup fish sauce
½ cup dark soy sauce
¼ cup minced cilantro or 2 Tbsp. dried cilantro leaves
lemon or lime juice to taste

Combine all marinade ingredients, pour over meat, pork or chicken and let stand at least 30 minutes.
Sate may be grilled on skewers or grilled then skewered. If grilling, skewer and grill 2-3 minutes on each side over a hot flame basting with additional marinade while you cook.
For the peanut sauce; Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir and serve warm with hot sate.


1 sweet onion
1 peeled eggplant
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise
1 yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
1 eggplant, peeled and sliced
2 firm but ripe tomatoes
Fresh arugula or baby spinach
Homemade pesto (see recipe)
Mozzarella cheese
Crusty bread

Thick slice vegetables and grill on a grill grid until caramelized. While veggies are grilling make the pesto.
To assemble: Slice bread of rolls for sandwiches. Brush one side of both slices of bread with a generous amount of the pesto. Layer grilled veggies and mozzarella cheese on one slice of bread as desired. Top with the remaining slice, pesto side down. Wrap the sandwich in foil, press down. Place the package on the grill and top with a foil covered brick. Grill 2-4 minutes on each side.


1 lb. orzo, cooked according to package directions
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate, defrosted, but not diluted
3 Tbsp, dried mint leaves
2 Tbsp. dried oregano leaves
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
Zest of one lemon
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups crumbled feta cheese
3 green onion, minced
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups baby spinach leaves

Drain orzo and cool completely. Place in a large bowl. Combine lemon juice, orange juice concentrate, mint, oregano, mustard and lemon zest in a separate bowl. Whisk in olive oil. Reserve. Toss minced onions, feta and olives in with the orzo, blending well. Toss with all but one quarter cup of the vinaigrette. Toss the remaining vinaigrette with the chopped tomatoes and baby spinach leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the orzo in a large traveling container or zip lock bag. Place the tomato and spinach mixture in another. When you get to your tailgate sight, combine the packages, tossing well and serve.


Butter or margarine for the pan
1 loaf white bread
4 eggs
1 cup shelled pistachios or pecans, toasted
2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese

Generously butter a 13x9 inch baking dish. Reserve. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and heavy cream. Tear the bread into small pieces. Add to the egg mix. Fold in the blue cheese and toasted nuts. Pour into the buttered casserole dish. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes

3 cups granulated sugar
pinch salt
7 Tbsps. unsweetened cocoa
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 stick butter, melted
2 generous cups pecan halves
2 unbaked deep dish pie shells

Mix sugar, salt, and cocoa together. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and milk. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add melted butter and stir until well blended. Fill each unbaked pie shell with a cup (or more if you would like) of pecan halves.
Pour the filling into each shell covering the pecans. Bake pies in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. Enjoy warm or cold.


  1. Heidi - Is that you in that football uniform? It's must be - your pink sneakers are the give away! IT's a great photo and the recipes look fabulous - thanks for sharing! You're the best!!!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Yes, it's me, pink tennis shoes and all, in a REAL Panther's practice jersey, pads and helmet. Photo was taken at the stadium a couple of years ago