Sure, nachos and hot dogs always taste great when halftime hits, but everyone knows the best food to be found in and around a football game is before kickoff – and outside the stadium. It’s in the parking lot. Tailgating may combine elements of camping, driving, rabid fandom, and rampant logo dissemination, but it’s really all about the food. The best burgers, sausage, chicken wings and chili in Texas can be found sizzling from the backs of custom trucks and trailers at the big game. Local restaurateur and grilling expert Chad Lardie, of Embers Steakhouse, shares some of his favorite tailgating treats – grilled sausages with mustard sauce, green chile spread, bacon-wrapped pork loin, and grilled Portobello mushroom tacos.
Grilled Sausages with Mustard Dipping Sauce Assorted link sausages 1 cup whole grain mustard 1 cup Dijon mustard 1 cup sour cream ¼ cup malt vinegar ½ tablespoon black pepper
Grill sausages or bake in the oven until cooked through. In a mixing bowl combine mustards, sour cream, vinegar and pepper and mix to combine. Serve sausages with dipping sauce.
Makes 8 servings
Grilled Vegetable Tacos 1 red bell pepper 1 red onion 3 large Portobello mushrooms 6 corn tortillas Cheese (goat, feta or queso fresco will pair well) 8 ounces green chiles 1 fresh jalapeño 16 ounces sour cream 1 clove garlic Cilantro
Pinch black pepper
Lightly oil mushrooms, onion and red bell pepper. Grill all sides evenly. Cut into strips. Drain liquid from green chiles; place in food processor with sour cream, jalapeño, garlic and pepper. Grill corn tortillas for 30 to 45 seconds per side to warm. Place vegetables and cheese in tortillas and top with green chile sour cream and cilantro. Add salsa or guacamole if preferred.
Makes 5 to 6 servings
Bacon-wrapped Pork Loin with Bourbon Chipotle Glaze 3 pounds pork loin 1 pound bacon 3 cups bourbon 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce 3 cups apple juice 3 cups brown sugar
Season pork with desired seasoning – we used salt, pepper, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. On large cookie sheet, lay out bacon horizontally, making sure it overlaps. Place pork on top of bacon and wrap strips around it. Secure with toothpicks so bacon stays tightly wrapped. Cook in 325-degree oven for 1 ½ to 2 hours. In a food processor, blend chipotle peppers; strain out seeds. In saucepan, combine strained peppers, brown sugar, bourbon and apple juice. Cook at a medium simmer, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. Cook down by about half (it should have a syrup consistency). When pork is cooked, let cool, slice and drizzle with glaze. Recipe can be made the day before, and it makes great sandwiches. The pork can also be smoked.
Makes 8 servings
Green Chile Spread 2 jalapeños 1 bunch cilantro 1 red onion 1 pound roasted green chiles 1 pound bacon 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated 2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature 1 tablespoon garlic 1 teaspoon black pepper Crackers, pretzel chips, bagel chips, etc.
Cook bacon in oven or skillet. When crispy drain off grease and chop. Peel onion and slice in half. Place onion and jalapeños on grill and cook for 10 minutes, charring them. When finished, remove seeds from jalapeños and place in food processor with onion, garlic, pepper, cilantro and green chiles. In mixing bowl combine contents of food processor with cheddar cheese, bacon and cream cheese; mix well. Spoon into bowl and serve with crackers and pretzels. This recipe is better the next day after the flavors have had a chance to develop.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Meet the Cook: Chad Lardie
After graduating from Texas Tech’s Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management program, Chad Lardie worked for more than a decade managing Johnny Carino’s restaurants. When local favorite David’s Steakhouse closed its doors in 2010 – opening up a well-known location in the Wolflin area – Lardie jumped at the opportunity to create a restaurant of his own. He introduced Embers Steakhouse in early 2011, and delicious steaks, seafood and burgers have been sizzling on its charcoal and hickory-wood grill ever since.
“We’ve created a really great base of regular customers and are always bringing new customers in,” he says. “Because it started as a known location, some people may have confused us with David’s at the beginning. They saw we were doing something a little bit different, but familiar enough that they really enjoyed it.”
Lardie says a focus on high-quality and unique cuts of meat is what sets Embers apart. He describes his restaurant as more closely aligned with a New York or Chicago-style steakhouse than a traditional southern one, which might serve chicken-fried steak or ribs alongside rib-eyes. “All of our steaks are hand-cut, and we offer a variety of steaks that people may not always see,” he says. These include bone-in buffalo filet and buffalo rib-eye steaks, as well as bone-in beef filets and rib-eyes.
He believes Amarillo is ripe for a more creative approach to steak and seafood. “People nowadays have a much more adventurous palate,” he says, praising the popularity of The Food Network for enhancing local taste buds. “We’re continuously changing the menu and offering some fun stuff.”
Lardie’s tailgating recipes in this issue definitely fall into the “fun stuff” category. “As a kid, I thought tailgating was just burgers and bratwurst,” he says. “It has become much more of a family event and the food has really evolved.” While grilled Portobello mushroom tacos with green chile sour cream may not be featured on every family’s game day menu, Lardie picked these recipes because they can easily be prepared (and consumed) in a parking lot or on a couch at home with friends.
While Lardie’s work keeps him from tailgating, this Tech alumni remains a serious college football fan who passionately follows both the Red Raiders and the Michigan State Spartans.
by Jason Boyett
Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.