Tailgate to tabletop – these recipes will please

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 15, 2011

It’s football season, and fans are in a frenzy. Football fans go to great lengths in preparing food and libations for their pre-game festivities. Grills and barbecue pits billow smoke and enticing aromas, and huge pots of simmering gumbo, chili and jambalaya sit atop butane-burners. Tables are usually laden with chips and dips, cheese and crackers and plenty of tasty desserts.

For tailgate gatherings, either at home or on-site, organization is key. Offerings can be as simple and thrown together as fried chicken or pizza, store-bought chips and dips and pies from the frozen food section of the supermarket. However, to make an impression it is necessary to get in the kitchen and take out the pots and pans. Tailgating offers an ideal opportunity to show off your culinary skills, because anything goes.

Recipes are takes from the October issue of Louisiana Cookin’ (LSU is doing OK.)

Mexican Cheesecake

Makes about 16 appetizer servings

¼ cup crushed tortilla chips

2 tablespoons butter, softened

8 ounces cottage cheese

24 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 large eggs

8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

1 4.5 ounce can green chilies

8 ounces sour cream

8 ounces jalapeño Cheddar cheese dip

Chopped tomatoes, sliced black olives, chopped green onions for topping

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine chips and butter and press into the bottom of 9-inch spring-form pan. Add cottage cheese, cream cheese, eggs (added one at a time), Cheddar cheese and green chilies to a food processor and blend thoroughly. Pour into spring-form pan and bake until set, about an hour. Set aside.

Combine sour cream and cheese dip and spread over cheesecake. Cool at room temperature for one hour. Before serving, sprinkle top with tomatoes, black olives and green onions. Cut into thin slices to serve.

Make–Ahead Pasta Casserole

Makes 10 servings. Carry this along to the party packed in one of those insulated food carriers or shove in the oven at home at half-time.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 pounds lean ground beef (preferable grass fed)

2 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped green bell peppers

1 cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

2 1-pound cans whole tomatoes, mashed with liquid

2 7-ounce cans sliced mushrooms with liquid

1/3 cup dry red wine

Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves

½ teaspoon dried basil leaves

1 pound spaghetti or angel hair pasta, cooked and drained

½ pound grated Cheddar cheese

½ pound grated American cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add beef and cook, stirring often, until all pink disappears, about 15 minutes. Add onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until very soft, for six to eight minutes.

Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, mushrooms and red wine. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low.

Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Add oregano and basil and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about one and a half hours, stirring occasionally,

To assemble, lay one-third of the pasta on the bottom of a large greased casserole dish. Spread one-third of the tomato sauce evenly over pasta and sprinkle with one-third of each of the cheeses. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used. Casserole may be frozen at this point. Defrost completely before baking.

Bake uncovered, until bubbly and hot, 30-40 minutes.

World’s Best Brownies

Makes about 16 brownies

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2 sticks salted butter

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan with vegetable oil. Melt chocolate and butter together in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Remove from heat and cool for five minutes.

Place sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl and pour in chocolate mixture. Using an electric mixer, combine until blended, scraping sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add vanilla, reduce mixer speed to medium-low and add eggs, one at a time. Add flour and mix. Stir in pecans.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and bake on middle rack of the oven until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for an hour. Cut in squares.

May your team win!