Bring the tailgate party home
For the Longhorns' big game, something orange, something (gasp!) red and something from a UT legend
Sad because you won't be tailgating Thursday in California for "The Game"?
Bring the tailgate party home. Rope in the guests, crank up the grill, lay a spread worthy of any Pasadena parking lot and do your own "Hook 'em Horns" happy dance around assorted appetizers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, deviled eggs, chips, dips, and of course, Earl Campbell sausage.
For those of you new to the insanity that is University of Texas football and who are possibly unfamiliar with the Tyler Rose's rep - you can have a nickname like that when you're Earl Campbell - his gridiron pedigree goes on forever. Some of the highlights are: Heisman Trophy winner, running back for the Houston Oilers, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and now president of the sausage company that bears his name.
Food festooned with Longhorns colors can reasonably be expected to rule the day, but for those who have the generosity of spirit to share space with those supporting Alabama's Crimson Tide, figure on including something along the lines of a beat salad, oops, make that "beet" salad. If you haven't already made your plans, consider some suggestions.
Load up on cheese, fruit and crudites. If you really want to impress your vegetarian, spring for a package of meatless hot dogs or veggie burgers.
Try to resist dyeing food orange, but there's nothing wrong with topping your deviled eggs with a smidge of salmon roe - let's call it "Longhorn Caviar." And for burnt orange, it's hard to deny the orange-ness of baked beans to accompany those hamburgers and hot dogs. To gussy up the dogs, offer a range of toppings above and beyond the usual, from exotic mustards to salsa, guacamole, chopped bacon, grated cheese and chili. No time to be dainty; this is Tom Jones, eat-with-your-hands, this-is-it-until-next-year pigskin time.
Russ and Renee Graham originally planned a high-end spread but realized grilled hot dogs and hamburgers were more in keeping with the spirit of the tailgate party. They're having about 20 friends in to watch on sets that will be scattered throughout their West Austin home. And yes, there will be wine and beer. Russ is a UT law graduate, and in all probability their living room will be a sea of burnt orange, although his wife says if someone happens to be from Alabama, they'll be allowed in with the proper credentials.
A perennial favorite among friends of Kate and Ty Fain is a time-worn chowder recipe that has pleased her dinner guests for years. Several years ago, before the Fains left Austin to take up residence in West Texas, a group of longtime friends regularly gathered at the Fains' place on the final Friday of the month. The name of the game was spirited conversations aided and abetted by potluck contributions.
Kate Fain, an accomplished home cook, often made a sausage and vegetable chowder. Political consultant Doug Zabel liked it so much he persuaded her to share it. "It was one of those things that it got so everybody was asking for it," Zabel says. "I finally had to break down and try to make it myself." He's been making it ever since.
Kate Fain, a legislative researcher, and Ty Fain, president of the Marathon-based Rio Grande Institute, divide their time between Austin and their home in Marathon. The nonprofit institute is designed to cultivate and appreciate the economic, cultural and natural resources of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo basin and conserve those resources for the public good.
When I caught up with Kate Fain, she said she had just finished making posole, another of her favorite one-pot meals. As it turns out, however, the Fains tend to avoid watching big games with a crowd. "We do, however, use the special occasion to treat ourselves to something really good to fix during the half - like a lovely piece of salmon," she says. "We have recently become addicted to a sautéed salmon dish I do using butter, garlic, fresh dill, lemon juice and diced cucumbers. The latter sounds weird, but you sauté the cucumbers in the same pan as the salmon fillets, encircling them, and then serve on top of the salmon. It's great."
In between the simplicity of hot dogs and the elegance of salmon is the beer-basted goodness of grilled chicken. In fact, there is always something good to be said about grilled anything - and there is no such thing as putting the grill away until summer. For ardent aficionados, cooking outdoors is a year-round activity and definitely in play when it comes to a tailgate party - which, of course is what you're having. Sort of.
For pregame munchies, think barbecued shrimp, guacamole and blue corn tortillas and a hot pot of something wonderful that could take the place of sausage, hot dogs and hamburgers. Or you could go crazy and serve it all, depending on how many mouths you plan to feed. And hey - if nothing else, dip into some food memories and pull up a favorite from those days you went to a game or two with your mom, dad, brother, sister, uncle. And OK; if there's not a major sporting event in your past, how about a memorable vegetarian repast at a Grateful Dead concert?
Somewhere, there is a dish worthy of resurrecting for "The Game."
And since the teetotaling tailgate party is a rarity, tell friends to bring a beer that celebrates Texas, which will pretty much ensure a cooler full of Shiner six-packs and Lone Star longnecks. For designated drivers or nondrinkers seriously into drinking organic, choose Sweet Leaf Tea or Berry Hibiscus Zhi Tea. They're both local, and drinking local, like eating local, is a good thing.
The secret to a successful party of any stripe is planning and organization. Since Thursday's game is an evening event (the game will air on ABC at 7 p.m.), you've got the day to decide whether you want a pot of something sidled up next to cheese and crackers or whether you're going for greatness on the grill. Either way, it's the gathering of friends that matters.
Creole Barbecued Shrimp
From "Cajun-Creole Cooking" by Terry Thompson-Anderson, this traditional Louisiana favorite is to be served while viewers are in the throes of anxiety, tension, frustration, exuberance - whatever. Peel and eat to your heart's content, then sop up the sauce with gobs of French bread. Serves 4-6.
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup canola oil
12 oz. bock beer
1 cup seafood stock or bottled clam broth
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. tomato paste (Hint: buy a tube of tomato paste, so you don't end up wasting a can for just one tablespoon!)
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne (red) pepper
1 Tbsp. finely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
1 tsp. dried leaf oregano
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. filé powder
6 green onions, chopped, including green tops
6 lb. raw, unpeeled medium-to-large shrimp
Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a heavy pot over medium heat. Stir to blend well. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes to form a flavorful court-bouillon (a fancy word for "stock"). Stir the shrimp into the sauce, coating well. Cook, stirring often, until shrimp turn a rich coral-pink color, about 20 minutes. To serve, spoon shrimp into soup plates and top each serving with a portion of the spicy sauce.
Hook 'em Horns Deviled Eggs
That perennial picnic favorite gets dressed for success with orange salmon roe mixed in with the eggs and a dollop of the salmon caviar on top. The roe is available from the specialty departments at Whole Foods and Central Market. There are all sorts of theories about how best to cook eggs so they won't end up pocked-marked messes when you peel them. This is a recipe my mother used, with a few tweaks. Makes 24 servings.
12 large eggs, brought to room temperature
2 Tbsp. salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 Tbsp. (or to taste) Durkee's Famous Salad and Sandwich Sauce
4 Tbsp. sour cream
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tablespoon salmon roe
Additional roe for garnish
Place eggs in a pan large enough to hold them comfortably in one layer. Add salt. Cover eggs with cold water and slowly bring water to a boil. After 1 minute, cover and remove pan from heat. Let eggs stand for 10-15 minutes then transfer to ice water for 10 minutes. Peel carefully.
Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks to a medium bowl. Set whites aside. Mash yolks with fork. Add mayonnaise, Durkee's, sour cream, black pepper and salmon roe. Mix thoroughly. Spoon 1 heaping Tbsp. into each egg white half. Top with 1/8 tsp. salmon caviar.
Beer-Basted Grilled Chicken
I use bone-in chicken because it's less expensive than boneless, because bones give flavor and because thighs are easy to eat. Allow two per person, especially if they're small - the thighs, not the guests - but don't fret, there will be plenty, especially if you're also doing hot dogs and/or hamburgers. Although I marinate the chicken in the refrigerator overnight, I recommend allowing it to come to room temperature before putting it on the grill - at least this time of year. This way, the chicken cooks evenly and keeps you from having meat that is golden brown on the outside and bleeding pink inside. Serves 6-8.
6 garlic cloves put through a press
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. black pepper
3 cups beer
12 chicken thighs
2 cans beer at room temperature
In a bowl whisk together garlic, soy sauce, paprika, black pepper and beer. In a large, shallow casserole pour one cup of the marinade. Layer the chicken pieces skin side up as closely together as possible. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you're ready to grill. Discard marinade. Place chicken on a grill preheated to medium, skin side up. Reduce heat to low. Every 10-15 minutes, turn and spritz the chicken with beer. You'll know when chicken is done because the meat will shrink away from the bone and the bone ends will become conspicuous. Takes about 1 hour.
This recipe, adapted from Cooks.com, assures us that "any Texan worth his (and presumably her) boots will love this chowder." Serves 6-8
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced (or to taste)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1 can condensed cream of potato soup
3 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. chicken-flavored instant bouillon (optional)
1 lb. sausage (your choice - turkey, venison, Italian)
2 16-oz. cans cream-style corn
4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large pot, sauté onion and green pepper and garlic in butter for 5 minutes. Add thyme and basil. Stir in potato soup, milk, Worcestershire sauce and bouillon, if using. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
In a separate pan, brown sausage, then add to soup. Stir in corn. Simmer 15 minutes more. Stir in cheese until melted. Add chicken stock as needed.
Beat 'em Beet Salad
This recipe, which is adapted from Paula Deen of Food Network fame, calls for canned beets. But c'mon, how many of us have time to roast and peel beets? For you purists, go for it. Meanwhile, this is provided as a nod to those of a Crimson Tide persuasion so they won't feel left out. So it's beets. It's better than eating crow, right? Serves 6-8.
4 (15 1/4-oz.) cans sliced beets, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup pitted ripe olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste
Dash hot sauce
Remove broiler tray from oven and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Replace tray and preheat broiler. After beets are drained place on coated broiler tray. Place under hot broiler, turning every 2 to 3 minutes until edges start to brown, approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove beets from oven and allow to cool. Mix remaining ingredients with cooled beets. Toss and serve.