Fans of a feather flock together at tailgate parties, no matter the size of the shindig. The pregame menu planning that comes with feeding a crowd before kickoff is almost as fun as the tailgate itself. Essentials include a snack to tide over guests while the main courses are finishing on the grill and a big-batch cocktail made (and taste-tested) in advance. These football game-friendly recipes from local food and beverage pros will take your tailgate party the extra yard.Michael ThomsonChef and owner, Michaels CuisineExpert tailgate chef Michael Thomson is already booked for many Texas Christian University football game pre-parties, but for those who didnt score invites, he has provided the recipe for one of his most popular parking lot entrees Ranch Fried Chicken Sliders with Texas Caviar. While some tailgaters love manning a deep fryer outside, others may prefer to fry the chicken at home in advance. Thomson recommends reheating the hens on a foil-covered tray in the oven before leaving for the game. They will keep warm in an empty cooler until halftime. Or warm them on the grill before assembling the sliders and serving with a side of his piquant Texas caviar. Looming bystanders will beg to crash your bash.Blaine StanifordExecutive chef, GraceSkip store-bought sausage and make your own with Blaine Stanifords killer kielbasa recipe. Its the perfect excuse to finally use those meat-grinding and sausage-stuffing attachments on your KitchenAid stand mixer. Stanifords easy-to-follow steps should be started two days before the game, allowing for the sausages to be finished on the grill or in the smoker, which takes about two hours, allowing plenty of time for a few rounds of horseshoes. Or fully prep the sausages and chill up to three days in advance before reheating at the game and serving with your favorite spicy or whole-grain mustard and a cold beer.Jason BosoFounder, Tacos & AvocadosGood guacamole goes fast at a tailgate party, so plan to make a double batch of this pepita and cotija cheese-topped version from Jason Boso, founder of the Twisted Root Burger Co. and Tacos & Avocados in Roanoke. This is the recipe he uses at home, he says, and when hes feeling fancy, hell top it with the caviarlike pearls of lime juice found inside the funky-looking finger lime a mini, banana-shaped lime available seasonally from around August to February. Note that the guacamole can be made in advance, but it will begin to lose vibrancy and color after about four hours; were certain it wont last that long. Ivan SanchezBar manager, Mi Dia From ScratchAmplify the basic beer by mixing up micheladas instead. The brunchy beverage, best suited as a precursor to those noon Dallas Cowboys games, begins with a spicy sangrita not to be confused with the wine-based sangria. The non-alcoholic Mexican concoction serves as a tomato juice-based counterpart to either a shot of tequila or, in the case of the michelada, a good Mexican beer. We went to Grapevines Mi Dia From Scratch, recognized for its impressive repertoire of mixed drinks, for a recipe, one that bar manager Ivan Sanchez promises cant be beat. The method is easy: Salt the rims of glasses, if desired, and add a little ice and sangrita before topping off with Tecate or Modelo Especial, two of Sanchezs personal favorites.
Ranch Fried Chicken:
2 whole eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Cajun Chef hot sauce
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh black pepper
1 quart all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
12 3-ounce chicken breast pieces (boneless)
Oil or lard for deep-frying or pan-frying (Thomson prefers pork lard, but canola or peanut oil will work.)
12 high-quality yeast rolls or buns
24 tablespoons honey mustard (enough for 2 tablespoons on each slider)
48 pickle slices
1. Mix all of the batter ingredients with a wire whisk until well-blended.
2. Mix and sift the flour and cornstarch until well-blended.
3. Coat the chicken breasts with flour mix, pressing the flour in to fully coat, then place the chicken in the batter mix for 30 seconds.
4. Coat the battered chicken with flour mix for the second and final coating, pressing the flour in to absorb all of the batter. Let the breaded chicken rest for 10 minutes before frying.
5. Deep-fry at 350 degrees or pan-fry at 325 degrees in a cast iron skillet until golden brown on all sides. Drain on a screen or rack to remove excess oil and place on paper towels.
Assembly: Place approximately 2 tablespoons of honey mustard on each yeast roll or bun. Top with fried chicken breast and four pickle slices. To soften the bun, wrap the sliders in foil-backed sandwich paper. Serve in paper tailgate boats with a side of Texas caviar.
Chefs notes: For a crunchier finished product, drizzle a half-cup of the batter into the flour mixture before breading to form small clumps that will add to the texture. For a smooth and less crunchy product, sift the flour mixture during breading to remove the clumps. Check the frying oil with a candy thermometer for optimum results. Chicken breasts can be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. If the crust is golden brown and your internal temperature is below the recommended doneness, put the fried chicken on a wire rack into a 325-degree oven until done.
3413 W. Seventh St., Fort Worth, 817-877-3413, www.michaelscuisine.com
Makes 1/2 gallon
1 pound fresh or dried black-eyed peas
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red peppers
1 cup diced yellow peppers
1 cup diced white onion
1/2 cup fresh jalapeños, seeded and minced
1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
1 cup chives (or green onions), diagonally cut fine
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, very finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian dressing (or fresh cilantro vinaigrette)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1. Cook the black-eyed peas just until soft. Drain, then rinse and drain again.
2. Quickly saute peppers, onions and jalapeños.
3. Mix together all ingredients, except peas, in a large bowl. Stir in the peas and mix well. Cover and refrigerate several hours to allow flavors to blend. The caviar can be served with tortilla chips, crackers or as a salad.
Makes about 3 pounds
1 1/2 pounds trimmed beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/4 pounds pork belly or shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon mustard powder
2 1/4 teaspoons finely ground white pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon pink salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dextrose powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup crushed ice
2 1/2 teaspoons powdered milk
Salt-packed pork casings, rinsed and soaked
1. Combine beef, pork, mustard powder, white pepper, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, pink salt, dextrose and garlic powder in a bowl. Cover and let cure in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Transfer beef mixture to a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet and put into freezer until firm but not frozen, about one hour.
3. Working in small batches and using a meat grinder (such as the grinder attachment on a KitchenAid stand mixer), grind meat through medium die, alternating pieces of meat and fat. Return ground meat to freezer until firm but not frozen, about 45 minutes more.
4. Working in small batches, grind meat and ice through small die.
5. Put ground meat and powdered milk into bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed, stopping to clear paddle as needed, until smooth, about two minutes. (To check if seasoning is adequate, pinch off 1 teaspoon of the meat mixture and cook in a small skillet. Season meat mixture with more salt if desired.)
6. Tie one end of pork casings with kitchen twine. Using sausage-stuffing attachment, stuff sausage into pork casings. Tie the open end of sausage with kitchen twine and twist sausage into 6-inch links. Transfer sausage to a rack set in a baking sheet and refrigerate overnight.
7. At the tailgate, build a low fire in a charcoal grill or smoker and add hickory, oak or cherry wood chips. When temperature drops to 250 degrees, add sausages and smoke them, adding more coals as needed to maintain a temperature of 200 degrees and flipping sausages occasionally, until they are red and firm throughout, about two hours.
8. Add more hot coals and grill sausages over a medium-hot fire until slightly charred. Serve immediately with mustard.
Note: Step 7 can be done in advance. Let smoked sausages come to room temperature, chill for up to three days and grill or pan-fry before serving.
777 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-877-3388, www.gracefortworth.com
Pulp from 3 Hass avocados
1 1/2 limes, juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Pepitas for garnish
Cotija cheese crumbles, for garnish
Pulp from 1 to 2 finger limes, optional (usually found at Central Market seasonally August through February)
1. Coat avocado pulp with lime juice and seasonings, then smash with a potato masher until chunky.
2. Garnish with pepitas, cotija cheese crumbles and pulp from finger limes.
101 S. Oak St., Roanoke, 817-491-4442, www.tacosandavocados.com
Makes 2 quarts
1 can (11.5 ounces) V8 vegetable juice
3/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup orange juice
1/8 cup lime juice
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup black pepper
1/8 cup white pepper
1/8 cup guajillo chile powder
1/2 cup Season-All seasoned salt
3 whole jalapeños
1. Blend all ingredients in blender.
2. Fill a salt-rimmed glass halfway with ice then 1/3 with sangrita. Fill glass with a Mexican beer, such as Tecate or Modelo Especial.
1295 S. Main St., Grapevine, 817-421-4747, www.midiafromscratch.com