What Do Chefs Bring to a Tailgate Party?

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I hate anxiety. And when you’re a chef and expected to bring something to a tailgate party? Well, the pressure is on.

Forget about the fact that what everybody REALLY wants is something normal–something like barbecued ribs. And I can forget about copping out and bringing the coleslaw or the potato salad. The last time I was able to play THAT card was back in high school, when no one had any expectations that I might actually know what I was doing. Back then, I was just a chubby, goofy kid who just kinda liked to cook. No one took me (or my food) seriously.

Yep, back in the days of my culinary innocence I was, culinarily speaking, a “nothing”…AND a bag of chips.

And a bag of chips is exactly what I brought.

It was safe.

Things are different nowadays. Tailgate parties are food events, (at least the ones I get invited to), and depending on the team and how well the season is going, it’s perhaps the ONLY game in town worth enjoying.

Still, there are expectations. “What do you think Chef Pete is gonna bring?”

I must admit, I’ve done some pretty wacky things over the years, and to that extent, I’ve set the bar pretty high for myself. It’s almost to the point that the party is a “production” and the food is almost “theater.” Themes can do that to me. I get carried away with this crazy vision, which starts with food and then ends up with me building props and sets weeks in advance (and those who know me know I’m not kidding here).

But at the end of the day, in spite of my own crazy “theatrics,” I really know that it’s all about the food. With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of my favorite selections from:

“Pete’s Greatest Tailgate Hits Collection”

(…insert theme music here…or a fight song, if you prefer)

Before I decide what to bring to a party, the number-one rule I try to remember is KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! That is, Ethiopian food doesn’t rock 6th graders. Also, know the timing.
If something I’m doing requires the assistance of a grill or some other assembly, I’d better be sure I have the space and time to execute it. (A hungry crowd can turn on you in a SECOND when the carrot sticks and dip are gone.)

Chef Pete’s tailgate favorites

Having said that, in no particular order, here are some of my “safe” favorites:

  • Char-Grilled Mongolian Pork Tenderloin – Everyone loves this; it’s slightly sweet, perfectly mainstream “Asian” and a great alternative to BBQ pork.
  • Pete’s BIGGIE Sandwich Pie – Ok…I lied; it’s really not a pie, but it cuts like one. What it is, is a large, round bread (about 10” in diameter) cut in 3 slices through the equator (I like Nino’s Tuscan Semolina Bread.) and filled with layers of meats, cheeses, lettuces and tomatoes. I insert a dozen or so tall, wood skewers in a circle with triangular pennants at the top (like the top of a stadium) and cut it into wedges like a pie. People really get a kick out of this sandwich.
  • Guy Fondue – This one is a bit trickier because you need to set up a small deep-fat fryer using a propane burner and a sauce pan with canola oil. I have wooden skewers with 1” hot dog pieces or 1” meatballs at the end, and I make my Corn Dog Batter and my Nino’s Chili Cheese Dip, which I call “Guy Fondue.” Each person dips his or her meat of choice in the batter and then fries it in the oil until golden. From there, you can dip it into the Chili Dip like fondue and enjoy! It’s way cool and WAY fun!

And here’s a brand-new one I’m going to use this year. I’m calling it my Thai “Flutes” with Chicken & Colorful Vegetables. Here’s how to make them.

Thai “Flutes” with Chicken & Colorful Vegetables

Makes 6 “Flutes”

  • 1 Nino’s Rotisserie Chicken, pull and shred the meat, then chill.
  • 6 6” Soft Flour Tortillas
  • 4 Cups Finely Julienned Vegetables to include:
    • Carrot
    • Bok Choy
    • Pea Pods
    • Red Bell Pepper
    • Red Onion
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro, Sprigs
  • 2 Cups Fried Rice Noodles (La Choy)
  • 2 Cups Thai Peanut Curry Sauce

Set up the pulled chicken, vegetables, cilantro sprigs and rice noodles in separate bowls. You can leave the flour tortillas in their package to keep them from drying out. The Thai Peanut Curry sauce can be placed in a bowl, but I’ll be using a squeeze bottle (like the kind used for ketchup or mustard).

Make the “flute” like you would any roll-up (wrap). Use the cilantro and rice sticks as interior garnishment and squirt some of the sauce on the ingredients (like mayonnaise) before rolling up.

Ready-for-tailgating fare:

If, however, you’re NOT culinarily motivated or you’ve just decided to focus on the “liquid” libations, Nino’s has you covered. We LOVE providing our customers with some of the best tailgating fare in town! And we have lots to choose from too! Here’s just a sample to whet your appetite!

  • 3- & 6-Foot Party and Italian Subs
  • Barbecued Ribs, Chicken & Pulled BBQ Pork
  • HUGE Meaty Kabobs in our Great Marinades!
  • All-Beef Meatballs & Buffalo Wings
  • Southern Fried Chicken
  • An ENORMOUS selection of Lunch Meats!
  • Chip and Dip Choices that amaze people!

And of course, our beverage selections, from waters to sodas, wines and liquors (Troy and Clinton only), are not only impressive, but our liquor prices are also the lowest in town–GUARANTEED!

Try my new recipe and let me know how it went! I love to hear from our customers!