Football season is upon us.
Even more important than the rankings and replays, the formations and fumbles, or the coaches and kick-offs, there is ... the food.
Tailgate food, to be precise.
Whether you loiter at the stadium beforehand or invite friends to watch the game at your house, food is an essential part of the football experience.
Pizza is an old stand-by, as are crockpot chili and nachos. Six-foot-long subs and potato chips are familiar friends. Cookies and brownies make regular appearances.
So, how can we liven up the football game menu?
By tail-gating, of course. Oxtails. Lobster tails.
Come on, you know it’s cute, even as you groan.
This schtick actually lends itself to a substantial menu for hearty eaters. (And football somehow encourages a good appetite among fans, doesn‘t it, moreso than other sports? A hot dog at a baseball game doesn’t compare to the buffet laid out for tailgates.)
The tail theme offers a succulent sauce for pasta, Oxtail Ragù, that was inspired by a recipe on bonappetit.com. It can be prepared a day or so early to let the flavors develop beautifully, making game day less chaotic as you simply pour the sauce over pasta and bake these ingredients together. To accompany this dish, a beautiful salad of corn and tomatoes and other fresh vegetables, enriched with decadent lobster meat, is perfect for the end of summer.
Admittedly, oxtails and lobster tail can be pricey; however, neither is the quarterback, a shining star against a backdrop of supporting teammates. The dishes using them feature generous amounts of other ingredients -- pasta, cheese, tomatoes, corn, onions -- and thus the expensive items are only needed in small, therefore affordable, quantities.
For dessert, the tail-gate menu offers Beaver Tails -- a Canadian treat that is a flat, cinnamon-sugary round of fried dough, usually. No one wants to waste time frying during the game or while trying to socialize, so this version is baked in order for the cookies to be ready ahead of time. Dip them into chocolate sauce or drizzle them with caramel; these treats are a sweet tooth’s dream.
Whether you‘re rooting for the Buckeyes, the Falcons, the Rockets, the Spartans, the Wolverines, or your alma mater across the country, tail-gating will make your menu -- and, let’s hope, your team -- a winner.
Baked Rigatoni with Oxtail Ragù
freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 pounds oxtails
4 tablespoons oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium celery stalk, chopped fine
1 medium carrot, peeled, chopped fine
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped fine
2 15-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1-pound box Rigatoni
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper the oxtails to taste. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a very large skillet over medium heat; brown the oxtails on all sides, then remove to a plate.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet and add garlic, celery, carrot, and onion; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, broth, wine, parsley, and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, then turn heat to low and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and turning oxtails every once in awhile.
After 2 hours, remove the oxtails from the sauce and shred meat from oxtails (there won‘t be a huge quantity, this is just for flavoring); stir into sauce. Sauce can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if desired. (Save bones in the freezer to use as a base for a nice, rich soup in the winter.)
Preheat oven to 400F.
Bring a stockpot of water to a boil; add rigatoni and cook according to package directions. Drain, then pour into a greased 9“x13” baking dish.
Stir the ragù and the mozzarella into the pasta. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top, and bake for 30 minutes.
Yield: 8 servings.
Source: Mary Bilyeu
Corn and tomato salad with bits of lobster tail.
Corn and Lobster Tail Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
5 ears corn, cooked, kernels cut off cobs
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small red pepper, seeded, cored, chopped fine
1 small red onion, chopped fine
2 medium green onions, chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped parsley, chopped fine
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
meat from 2 large pre-cooked lobster tails, chopped fine
1/4 cup freshly squeezed red grapefruit juice
1/4 cup light olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
generous pinch each of chili powder, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper
Make salad: In a large mixing bowl, combine corn, tomatoes, red pepper, red onion, green onions, parsley, salt, pepper, and lobster meat.
Make vinaigrette: In a large measuring cup, combine grapefruit juice, oil, vinegar, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper; mix well, then pour over salad. Stir to combine, then place into a serving bowl.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Source: Mary Bilyeu
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 16.3-ounce can refrigerated Grands Flaky Layers Buttermilk biscuits (8 biscuits)
chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, Nutella, and/or whipped cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with a silicone liner or parchment paper. Combine the butter and oil in a small bowl. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each biscuit into a 5” flat round, then dust off excess sugar from biscuits. Place four biscuits onto each of the prepared baking sheets.
Brush each round generously with the butter-oil mixture and sprinkle thoroughly with cinnamon sugar. Flip the rounds over; brush generously with the butter-oil mixture and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 12 minutes, then flip the cookies over and smush them lightly to deflate them. Bake for 3 more minutes, switching the top baking sheet to a lower shelf and vice versa. Remove to a rack to cool completely.
Serve with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, Nutella, and/or whipped cream for dipping or drizzling.
Yield: 8 large cookies
Source: Mary Bilyeu