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Going to the Game Is Only Half the Fun : Tailgate Picnics Celebrate Pregame Football Action With Tasty Festivities

Football season is once again in full swing. With two professional, numerous collegiate and hundreds of high school and amateur teams here in Southern California, fans shouldn’t find any shortage of games to attend.

For many, part of the fun of going to watch a game is the tailgate picnic enjoyed prior to kickoff. In fact, dedicated tailgaters insist there’s a certain magic about celebrating pregame festivities with good friends and delicious food.

These picnics can be as simple or elegant as you like. They can be fully prepared at home and simply toted to the game, or basic preparation can be done ahead and the finishing touches added just before serving. Even portable grills can be taken along if you want to do some cooking.

Franks With a Twist

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Tailgate Franks ‘n Beans are served in warm buns and topped with a spicy chili bean sauce, shredded Cheddar cheese, chopped tomato and sliced green onions. The sauce should be prepared in advance and carried to the game in a thermos. Toppings, too, can be assembled at home.

Grill the frankfurters and heat the buns at the game site, then add the sauce and toppings. Tortilla chips make a good accompaniment, along with some fresh fruit. With brownies or cookies for dessert guests will be off to the game with a satisfied smile.

A spinoff of traditional Italian antipasto salad, Tailgate Antipasto combines brightly colored vegetables, marinated artichoke hearts, sardines, sliced cheese and meat. Complete this picnic with a thermos of steaming, creamy tomato soup and chunks of French bread.

Wine Braised Sausage en Brioche is on the elegant end of the scale. The meat is wrapped in a delicate pastry and baked until golden. Marinated Zucchini Salad makes an ideal accompaniment to the make-ahead menu.

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Crunchy Chicken Coating

Chicken is another popular picnic item. Give it a twist with the recipe for Orange-Almond Chicken. The poultry is dipped in a butter and orange juice concentrate mixture, then rolled in almonds and bread crumbs to provide a crispy, crunchy texture.

A pleasant contrast is provided with Picnic Macaroni Salad. It’s a light, cool alternative to potato salad and features ingredients most cooks have on hand in the pantry or refrigerator.

Another feast with style begins with a savory smooth pate. Prepare it a day ahead to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with crackers or crusty French bread and small, tart cornichon pickles.

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Pair the pate with fresh fruit and cheese. Spirited Brie is a delicious variation that is marinated in brandy and topped with powdered sugar and toasted almonds.

TAILGATE FRANKS ‘N BEANS

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

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1 (15 3/4-ounce) can chili beans

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons sugar

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1 clove garlic, minced

Dash nutmeg

8 to 10 frankfurter buns, split

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

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1 large tomato, chopped

3 green onions, cut into thin slices

1 pound frankfurters

Saute onion in butter in large skillet pan. Add chili beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, sugar, garlic and nutmeg. Cover and cook slowly 12 to 15 minutes. Transport in preheated thermos.

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Wrap frankfurter buns in foil. Place shredded cheese, chopped tomato and green onions in individual plastic bags or small containers.

Place frankfurters and buns (in foil) on grill over ash-covered coals 3 to 4 inches from heat. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Heat tomato-chili bean sauce on grill, if desired. Serve frankfurters in buns. Spoon sauce over and top with cheese, tomato and green onions. Makes 8 to 10 sandwiches.

TAILGATE ANTIPASTO

1 (16-ounce) jar pickled mixed vegetables, drained

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1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts

2 (3 3/4-ounce) cans sardines in oil, drained

2 ounces sliced salami

2 ounces sliced provolone cheese

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Lettuce leaves

Combine vegetables and artichoke hearts with their marinade. Add 1 can sardines and toss lightly. Place in plastic bag or container. Package salami, cheese and lettuce in separate plastic bags or containers.

At serving time, line platter or basket with lettuce leaves. Arrange salami, cheese and sardine-vegetable mixture over top. Serve with remaining sardines. Makes 4 servings.

WINE BRAISED SAUSAGE

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EN BRIOCHE

1 3/4 pounds pork chops

1/2 pound salt pork

1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt

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1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 shallot, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped parsley

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1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1 cup red wine

Water

1 package dry yeast

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1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold butter or margarine, cut into 8 pieces

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2 eggs

1 egg yolk

Cut meat and fat from chops. Rinse salt pork in water to remove excess salt. Cut meat, fat and salt pork into 1-inch cubes. Place in food processor fitted with metal blade and process until ground.

Place in large bowl. Add seasoned salt, pepper, shallot, garlic, parsley and bread crumbs. Mix well and chill 30 minutes.

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Form sausage mixture into 10-inch long roll. Wrap in cheesecloth, then foil. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove foil and place sausage in shallow 12x7-inch baking pan. Add wine and 1 cup water. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 400 degrees 1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally. Remove from pan, remove cheesecloth and cool. Wrap in foil and refrigerate overnight.

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Place flour, salt and butter in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade. Process with quick pulses until butter is cut into flour.

Gradually add yeast mixture and process until well combined. Add whole eggs and continue processing until ball of dough forms on top of processor blade.

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Turn dough out onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down. Knead 3 to 4 times. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Roll dough out 1/2 inch thick to 12x8-inch rectangle. Wrap cooked sausage in dough. Trim off excess and use to garnish top. Place wrapped sausage on baking sheet.

Combine egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water, brush over entire surface of roll. Place dough cut-outs on top of roll, brush with egg yolk mixture. Bake at 425 degrees 25 minutes or until golden. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

MARINATED ZUCCHINI SALAD

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6 to 8 zucchini, unpeeled

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

Salt

1 medium tomato, chopped

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1/2 red or green pepper, diced

1 tablespoon chopped dill

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/4 cup white vinegar

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1/4 cup white wine or dry Sherry

1/2 cup oil

1 clove garlic, minded

Dash paprika

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1/2 teaspoon basil, crushed

Trim off ends of zucchini and cut into 1/8-inch slices. Drop zucchini and onion slices into boiling, salted water and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain and place in bowl.

Add tomato, pepper, dill and parsley and toss gently. Combine vinegar, wine, oil, garlic, paprika and basil in small bowl. Pour over zucchini and refrigerate. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

ORANGE-ALMOND CHICKEN BREASTS

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1 cup dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup finely chopped almonds

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

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2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup orange juice concentrate

6 chicken breasts

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Combine bread crumbs, almonds, salt, pepper and parsley. Melt butter and add undiluted orange juice concentrate. Dip chicken breasts into orange-butter mixture, then into crumb mixture. Bake in shallow baking dish at 350 degrees 55 to 60 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

PICNIC MACARONI SALAD

1 (8-ounce) package elbow macaroni

2 hard-cooked eggs

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1/3 cup sliced green onions

1/3 cup sliced celery

1/3 cup chopped sweet pickle or sweet pickle relish

2/3 cup mayonnaise

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2 tablespoons prepared mustard

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and cool. Combine macaroni with chopped hard-cooked eggs, green onions, celery and pickle. Gently stir in mayonnaise and mustard. Mix well. Cover and chill. Makes about 8 servings.

WINE MAKER’S PATE

1 onion, finely chopped

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1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 pound chicken livers, cut up

2 tablespoons brandy

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

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1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper

Saute onion in 1 tablespoon butter in skillet until tender and transparent. Add chicken livers and cook over low heat just until cooked through. Do not overcook.

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Place liver-onion mixture in blender or food processor with remaining butter, brandy, curry powder, paprika, salt and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Blend until smooth.

Pour pate mixture into 3 to 4 cup straight-sided dish or crock. Refrigerate until firm. Transport in cooler. Remove pate from cooler 30 minutes before serving. Makes 3 cups.

Note: Pate may be made up to 3 days ahead.


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