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Tradition, Creativity Help Tailgate Parties
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Football fans can break out of their tailgate ruts with a little creativity, but that does not necessarily mean turning their backs on traditions.
Cary Sutphin, culinary researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said tailgate traditions vary from region to region and season to season.
Regions and Seasons...
"Italian sausages might be more popular at a tailgate party in the Chicago area, but in Louisiana you'll find a lot of gumbos and ettouffe," Sutphin said. "Even some tailgate standards like potato salad and cole slaw can be significantly different from one table to another."
The time of year can also dictate much of the food selections for outdoor dining.
"During the early part of football season, summer and fall garden produce are at their peak in popularity. As the weather cools off, soups and stews gain more attention," Sutphin said. "There is a lot to be said about traditional foods, but those standards can be served in different ways to add to an occasion."
Serve with Style...
Themes can be as simple as a consistent color or pattern for tablecloths, plates, napkins and cups or as detailed as something wild, such as serving wild-game meat and decorating with camouflage.
"People appreciate a little variety, and decorations can provide a different feeling while cooks stick with favorite recipes," Sutphin said. "Food themes can allow some variety away from the traditional hamburgers and sandwiches to other choices like seafood, wild game or Tex-Mex."
Preparation at home can save time and work at the picnic site, but some last minute mixing can improve food safety. Perishable foods should not be above 45 degrees for more than two hours total.
"Food safety should always be a priority. Be sure you keep up with how long perishable foods are left out," Sutphin said. "People may want to bring two ice chests: one for before the game and one for afterwards. Food never gets as cold when you put it back into an ice chest."
To speed up the grilling time, Sutphin said meat can be pre-cooked partially and then quickly refrigerated, transported in an ice chest and cooked completely on the grill at the picnic site. Some foods, such as chicken or sausage, can be boiled for a short time (five to eight minutes). Hamburgers can be partially cooked in a skillet with a touch of liquid smoke.
"Sweet and hot Italian sausages are delicious grilled over charcoal. Poach them in water or chicken broth for 15 minutes before grilling to cook out excess fat," Sutphin said. "They then grill quickly and to a delicious brownness."
Sutphin offered several recipes he has used at Mississippi State University tailgate opportunities. A variety of recipes from MSU events are included in Sutphin's recently published, award-winning cookbook. "A Taste of Class" in on sale a several gift shops around the state.
Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad (Makes four servings)
Four ears of fresh corn (shucked)
One large red bell pepper (quartered)
12 Bamboo skewers
1 pound jumbo shrimp (21 to 25)
Prepare grill and soak skewers in water for 30 minutes.
Shell and devein shrimp. Holding two skewers parallel and slightly apart, thread four shrimp onto each pair of skewers to make shrimp easier to turn on the grill.
Grill corn on a lightly oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals, turning occasionally, until browned and tender, eight to 10 minutes, and transfer to a large bowl. Cut kernels from cobs into another large bowl.
Grill bell pepper and scallions, turning occasionally, until browned and crisp-tender, about five minutes, and transfer to a bowl. Peel bell pepper and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips.
Grill shrimp until just cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side and transfer to a bowl.
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
Thinly slice scallions. Add bell pepper, scallions, shrimp, lemon juice, and salt and pepper (to taste) to the corn and toss to combine.
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle salad with vinaigrette.
Grilled Corn on the Cob (Serves four)
Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
Eight ears of corn in husks.
No need to peel back husk to silk the ears and tie back up. Cover corn with cold sweetened water and soak 10 minutes in large bowls. Drain corn and grill on a rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals, turning occasionally, 15 minutes. When done, just peel husk and silk comes off much easier than with raw corn.
Here's one of Sutphin's side-dish choices included in the cookbook:
Shoe-Peg Corn Salad (Serves 12)
Six cans white corn (#2.5), drained
1 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup green onion, finely sliced
1 cup celery, finely diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
Toss these ingredients together and reserve:
1 pint mayonnaise
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup dry mustard
1/8 cup sugar
Salt, cracked black pepper, Tobasco to taste
Blend the mayonnaise, oil, vinegar, mustard, and sugar together, and adjust the seasonings.
Toss the dressing with the corn mixture.
Four large tomatoes, diced
Gently add the tomatoes to the salad mixture. * Refrigerate the salad for at least six hours.
Sutphin said sweets should never be overlooked when preparing for the perfect tailgate experience. Brownies are a standard because they travel so well. For special occasions, add an icing topping. "A Taste of Class" offers many sweet treats including "Super Fudgy Five Chocolate Brownies.
Here's another MSU classic that included in the cookbook:
MSU Chess Pie (Makes two pies)
Cream together (not completely):
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine
3/4 cup sugar
Stir together and add to other mixture:
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover it, and let it sit up over night in the refrigerator.
Pour into two unbaked pie shells, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
Additional recipes can be found in "A Taste of Class," which is available at gift shops around the state or by contacting the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at (662) 325-3005.
Contact: Cary Sutphin, (662) 325-3016