Sports fans, you can talk all you want about running backs and quarterbacks, but we all know that football would not be nearly as popular without the game-day food.
They should rename the sport foodball.
To prove this point, look no further than the tailgate parties at the University of Akron’s InfoCision Stadium.
Despite rain and a crushing defeat at the hands of the Ohio University Bobcats on Saturday, fans still heaped their plates with plenty to cheer about.
Take the Bruno family of Sagamore Hills. The license plate on their pickup truck — Zips Win — really says it all about this crew. They are diehard UA fans. Mike Bruno and his brothers graduated from UA and his wife, Anne, is director of the student union.
Some weeks, the group eats all three meals at the tailgate.
On Saturday, their party started with breakfast, moved into lunch, took a break for game watching, and then the group planned to come back to their tent for dinner before going to the UA men’s soccer game.
Bruno said the menu changes: “Every week we try to come up with a different theme.”
On Saturday, ribs were waiting to be put on the grill, and they would be served up with loaded potato casserole. Dad had told daughters Catherine, 17, and Michaela, 15, to help out with the meal, so the girls searched the Internet for something yummy. They found a decadent casserole made with mashed potatoes, cream cheese, butter, sour cream, bacon and cheddar, and topped with more bacon and cheddar for a hearty addition to the party fare.
“They worked on it last night,” Mike Bruno said, showing off the foil-covered dish that was warming up on the grill.
The girls said the dish isn’t difficult, basically making mashed potatoes with a lot of extra richness added in before baking it in the oven.
For home cooks, recipes from cookbooks, the Internet, and even the back of a can or box can provide inspiration for game-day food.
For Akron resident Cheryl Garcia, the recipe for her Diablo Chicken Chili came from outdoor outfitter L.L. Bean’s catalog. Garcia liked the recipe because while it was made with chicken, it has a spicy red sauce, not a creamy white sauce like so many chicken chili recipes.
Garcia, her husband David, and a few friends enjoyed the chili ladled over squares of cornbread. Because it’s made with chicken and packed with vegetables, the chili is pretty low-cal compared to beef versions.
The Garcias also started their day with a tailgating breakfast of Chili Rellenos Squares, a recipe Garcia makes with just three ingredients: eggs, cheese and chiles.
One lot away were hardcore tailgaters Tim and Brenda Klinger of Akron and friends. Tim Klinger, whose last tailgate feast was a low-country boil of shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes, showed off this week’s offering: chafing dishes brimming with chicken and steak for the fajita bar he had set up. “This is the buffet line,” he said.
While everyone pitches in, Klinger is the grillmaster for this group.
Friend Jennifer Saxon of Copley Township marinated the chicken and steak in a mixture of lime juice, tequila, taco sauce and jalapeño peppers.
Klinger’s wife, Brenda, prepared a bowl of black bean salad from a recipe she found in an advertisement for beans. It’s a popular party dish these days. Sometimes called Cowboy Caviar or Texas Caviar, the mix of corn, beans and fresh vegetables is perfect to serve with tortilla chips at any football party.
Here are their recipes to try out at your next tailgate.
LOADED POTATO CASSEROLE
3½ to 4 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
½ cup cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup butter
¼ cup milk
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
8 slices bacon, cooked, chopped, divided
½ bunch green onions, sliced
Place potatoes in saucepan, and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until tender, then drain well.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Transfer potatoes back to the saucepan. Mash with a potato masher until almost smooth. Add cream cheese, sour cream, butter, milk, salt and pepper. Continue mashing until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the cheddar cheese and half the bacon.
Spoon mixture evenly into a lightly oiled 3-quart casserole dish. Use a spatula or fork to make an irregular surface. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with remaining cheese, bacon and green onions. Bake for 5 more minutes to melt cheese.
Makes 8 servings.
— Adapted from www.about.com via Catherine and Michaela Bruno of Sagamore Hills
DIABLO CHICKEN CHILI
1 to 2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 to 5 tsp. chili powder
4 tsp. ground cumin
2 green peppers, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 package (8 oz.) fresh mushrooms
2 carrots, chopped
½ stick butter
1 (28 oz.) can tomatoes
1 (28 oz.) can tomato puree
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. brown sugar
Brown chicken breasts in hot oil, in large pot with 1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1 teaspoon cumin. Set aside. Cube when cool.
In the same pot, saute green peppers, onions, remaining garlic, mushrooms and carrots in butter with 2 teaspoons chili powder and 2 teaspoons cumin.
Add remaining ingredients: chicken, tomatoes, tomato puree, jalapeños, beans and rest of spices. Simmer for 3 hours.
Makes 8 servings.
Note: Garcia makes the chili with red peppers instead of green and leaves out the carrots.
— L.L. Bean via Cheryl Garcia of Akron
CHILES RELLENOS SQUARES
1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
4 large eggs, beaten
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle chiles and cheese evenly in the bottom of a greased 8-inch square baking pan. Pour eggs over cheese mixture and bake for 60 minutes until firm in center.
Remove from oven and place pan on wire cake rack to cool for 5 minutes. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve warm or cold.
Dish may be baked ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
To reheat, bake 15 minutes at 300 degrees.
Makes 16 squares.
— Cheryl Garcia of Akron
BLACK BEAN SALAD
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
½ cup diced red onion
1 can (16 oz.) corn, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. cilantro, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. lime juice
Freshly ground pepper
Seed and dice the bell peppers. In a bowl combine peppers, onion, corn, garlic and cilantro. Toss to mix. Add olive oil, vinegar and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add beans and toss well.
Makes 12 servings.
Note: Klinger leaves out the yellow pepper since the corn is yellow and she finds that with it there are too many peppers for her liking. She noted that the dish also works fine when prepared with no-salt-added beans and corn for those watching their sodium intake.
— Bush’s Beans via Brenda Klinger of Akron
1½ lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
For the marinade:
¼ cup bottled taco sauce
1 lime, juiced and zested
3 tbsp. tequila
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cumin
Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Put chicken in a gallon zipper lock bag, add marinade and coat chicken. Let chicken set in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.
Grill chicken, slice and serve.
Makes 6 servings.
— Adapted from 365 Great Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Lonnie Gandara via Jennifer Saxon of Copley Township