By Barbara Beltrami
No matter who your team is, a tailgate picnic before the game heightens the anticipation and feeds the spirit. First you need to pack lots of crisp juicy apples and several kinds of munchies. You’ll want thermoses of hot tea and coffee as well as coolers of ice cold drinks. And then hefty sandwiches accompanied by cole slaw or a mixed green salad and something decadent, sweet and salty for dessert. Personally, I think nothing lends itself to that challenge like meatball heroes. Served up with some cheese-stuffed jalapenos to start and some pretzel brownies to finish, it’s a winner of a tailgate meal.
YIELD: Makes 6 servings
¼ pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
¼ pound cream cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons snipped chives
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne
12 jalapeno peppers washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small bowl thoroughly combine the cheeses, sour cream, cilantro, chives, salt and pepper and cayenne. Wearing disposable food prep gloves split the jalapenos in half lengthwise and remove seeds and ribs; rub both sides with olive oil and place in baking dish. With a table fork, press the cheese mixture into each half of the jalapenos. Bake until mixture just starts to bubble and brown and peppers are tender, about 15 minutes.
YIELD: Makes 6 servings
Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
1½ pounds ground beef
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1 small onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup unflavored breadcrumbs
2 slices white bread, soaked in water until soggy, then torn into one-inch pieces
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Pinch baking soda
¼ cup olive oil
1½ crusty baguettes, cut into 6 sections
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. In large bowl thoroughly combine the beef, cheese, eggs, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, bread, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Roll mixture into two-inch balls and place evenly on baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes, turning once, until both sides are brown. Meanwhile, in large saucepan heat tomatoes, baking soda and olive oil over medium heat until gently bubbling; place meatballs in tomato sauce, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, one and a half hours or until sauce is reduced and thickened; add salt and pepper to taste. Horizontally split the six sections of baguette, distribute the meatballs and sauce evenly on bottom halves, cover with top halves and wrap tightly in aluminum foil.
YIELD: Makes 1 dozen large brownies.
2 sticks + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
¼ cup sweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups flour
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups salted pretzel sticks, broken up
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-large saucepan over low heat, melt the two sticks butter with the bittersweet chocolate, whisking occasionally until smooth. Whisk in cocoa powder; add sugar and vanilla extract; stir in eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour until partially incorporated, then add chocolate chips and stir just until everything is thoroughly combined. Grease bottom and sides of 9×13-inch baking pan with the remaining tablespoon butter. Spread half the pretzels evenly in bottom of pan, then carefully spread batter (which will be stiff) evenly over pretzels, finally sprinkle remaining pretzels evenly over batter. Bake about 40 minutes, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.