With football season in full swing, now is the time to think about ways to up your tailgating game.
While it’s hard to beat burgers and brats, with a little effort you can put out a spread that will make yours the party everybody wants an invitation to, whether it’s at the stadium or in your home.
Daina Falk’s new book, “The Hungry Fan’s Game Day Cookbook,” has 165 recipes, many suggested by professional athletes such as those her sports-agent father David Falk represented.
Daina Falk declares barbecue the universal tailgating food and includes several recipes for favorites such as ribs and pulled pork (including quesadillas and nachos) and chicken.
But the recipe that caught my eye was for “tachos” – tater tot nachos. Falk’s version is dressed up with chorizo, homemade salsa and a beery cheese sauce.
The key, she says, is to have the tots really crispy and hot. To keep them from getting soggy, put the cheese sauce and other fixings on right before you serve it.
If you want a vegetarian version, use a soy version of the chorizo.
Another tailgating tip: Make the food easy to eat, things you can handle standing up. Sliders or small sandwiches are good; messier things, like chili, soup or jambalaya, are best served in cups or small bowls for easy handling.
Falk’s Kentucky Tomato Bourbon Soup is hearty, with chopped carrots, onion and tomatoes, and jazzed up with brown sugar and a 1/4 cup of bourbon. That will keep you warm on a cold afternoon.
From “The Hungry Fan’s Gameday Cookbook” by Daina Falk (Oxmoor House, $22.95).
6 ounces dried chorizo, diced
1/2 cup Negra Modelo, or another dark beer
16 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 serrano pepper, seeds and veins removed, minced
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions, divided
3 cups frozen tater tots
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup salsa (homemade or your favorite brand)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
Cook the chorizo over medium in a large saucepan for 8 to 10 minutes, until crisp and the fat has rendered. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, and discard the rendered fat.
Heat the beer in the same saucepan over high for about 5 minutes to reduce it a bit. Reduce the heat to low, and add the cheese, stirring often as it melts into the beer. Once fully melted, add the fresh and canned chiles, 1 tablespoon of the green onions, and half the chorizo. Bring to a simmer for 7 to 10 minutes.
Cover and continue to simmer for 1 hour, or transfer to an insulated bag to take to a tailgate.
Bake the tater tots in a preheated oven according to package directions, making sure to cook them to their crispiest. (If you’re taking them to a game, wrap them well in foil and reheat on a grill at the game site.)
When ready to serve, stir the cheese sauce well and place the tater tots on a large tray. Drizzle the cheese sauce on top, then top with yogurt, salsa, remaining chorizo, green onions and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Kentucky Tomato Bourbon Soup
From “The Hungry Fan’s Tailgating Cookbook” by Daina Falk.
2 tablespoons butter
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, plus more for serving
1 cup Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
2 cups Pomi tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup half-and-half
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium. Add the carrots, onions, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 7 to 9 minutes, until the onions are translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, brown sugar and bourbon. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the half-and-half, and sprinkle with some more pepper and parsley.
Yield: 4 servings.