Go for the win: How to up your game plan for fall tailgating

  • Don't want to mess with a grill at your tailgate? Try these slow-cooker barbecue brisket sliders.

    Don't want to mess with a grill at your tailgate? Try these slow-cooker barbecue brisket sliders. Courtesy of Karen Nochimowski

  • Baked Onion Dip

    Baked Onion Dip Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

  • Burgers are a natural for tailgating, but you can up your game by adding black bean burgers or creative sides.

    Burgers are a natural for tailgating, but you can up your game by adding black bean burgers or creative sides. Getty Images

Updated 9/9/2021 11:07 AM

Let's face it: Tailgating has become the next foodie paradise with grills, skillets, cooking gear, coolers, tables and more to rival anything you'd see at Ravinia on a summer's night.

The food has evolved, too.


That's not to say brats, hamburgers and hot dogs don't hold the record for most appearances in stadium parking lots everywhere. But with updated cooking gear, the menu can be anything you want, including a few healthier options.

Why not make black bean burgers ahead of time so you can put them on the grill when you get set up in the arena parking lot?

A lettuce wrap is another healthy option, and you don't have to fill it with a grilled chicken mixture like the one here. You can wrap up a burger in lettuce, delivering a lower-calorie mix of new and old-school tailgating. Both recipes come from University of Tennessee chef Monty Lowans, and assistant David Depukat presented them in a class at UT called Healthy Tailgating.

Penny Kazmier, who writes the Daily Herald Culinary Adventures column, has an onion dip that would make for a delicious first course. It's cooked in a skillet right on the grill.

Karen Nochimowski, who writes our Momma Chef column, shared her slow-cooker barbecue brisket sliders for when you'd rather not fire up the grill at all. It's easy to transport the crockpot to the game and even easier to eat and enjoy.

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One of our Cook of the Week Challenge winners, Jamie Andrade, has a recipe for Mexican corn on the cob that will fit right in before the game.

Baked Onion Dip
Baked Onion Dip - Courtesy of Penny Kazmier

Baked Onion Dip

2 finely chopped onions, Vidalia if you'd like

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

cup mayonnaise (Hellmann's works best for this dip)

3 tablespoons chopped chives or green onions, for garnish

Tortilla chips or strong potato chips, such as Ruffles or kettle chips, for serving

Preheat grill or oven to 425 degrees.

Place onions, cream cheese, 1 cup Parmesan cheese and the mayonnaise in a large bowl and mix to combine thoroughly. Transfer to a 10-inch cast iron skillet or greased baking dish and smooth the top but do not pat down. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.


Bake, or place on grill, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly on top. (If you cook this in the oven, you may wish to place it under the broiler for a few minutes to brown at the end of the cooking time.) Do not overbake; dip should be creamy. Garnish with chopped chives or green onions, and serve with a choice of dippers.

Makes 5 cups

Adapted from "Praise The Lard" by Mike Mills and Amy Mills

Black Bean Burgers
Black Bean Burgers - Daily Herald file photo

Black Bean Veggie Burger

2 cups black beans, drained

1 cups cooked brown rice

1/3 cup toasted walnuts

cup roasted red peppers

1 medium onion, diced

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

3 tablespoons basil, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

5 cloves garlic, roasted

habanero pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)

1 tablespoon cumin

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients up to olive oil in a food processor and coarsely chop. Shape mixture into burgers no larger than 4 ounces each. Or form them into slider size at about 2 ounces each.

Heat olive oil in skillet over high heat. Transfer burgers to skillet and brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes a side.

If cooking on the grill, keep the burgers very cold until you put them on the grate. That will help keep them from crumbling.

Serve with your favorite burger fixings.

University of Tennessee Medical Center chef Monty Lowans

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps - Daily Herald File Photo

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into -inch cubes

3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 can (8 ounces) water chestnuts, drained and chopped

3 green onions, chopped

1/3 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts

head iceberg lettuce, separated into whole leaves

Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook about 3 minutes or until no longer pink inside, stirring frequently. Stir in hot pepper sauce, soy sauce and sugar; stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add water chestnuts and cook 2 minutes. Add green onions and cook 2 minutes more. For each wrap, spoon mixture onto a lettuce leaf. Wrap lettuce to enclose filling.

Serves 12.

University of Tennessee Medical Center chef Monty Lowans

Barbecue Brisket Sliders

3 pound flat-cut (first cut) brisket

cup barbecue sauce, such as Sweet Baby Ray's

bottle beer, such as Belgian ale

cup Italian salad dressing

2 tablespoons liquid smoke, such as Colgin All-Natural Hickory Liquid Smoke

8 to 10 Hawaiian rolls or brioche slider buns, split

Place brisket in slow cooker (ideally a 6 to 8 quart size).

Pour barbecue sauce, beer, dressing and liquid smoke over the brisket.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Once finished, take two forks and shred the brisket in the slow cooker (alternatively, you can put the brisket on a cutting board and cut into small pieces).

Using a slotted spoon, top the bottom halves of the rolls with the brisket, dividing it evenly. Top with the top half of the roll and serve at once.

Notes: You can top the brisket off with your favorite slice of cheese or coleslaw. The brisket can be made the day before and reheated in a pan until warm. And make sure the rolls are fresh.

This recipe is dairy-free, nut-free and sesame-free.

Serves 8


Mexican corn on the cob

6 to 8 cups salted boiling water

1 bottle Mexican beer

8 ears of corn, removed from their husks

stick of butter


Cayenne pepper (or chili powder for less spice)

cup mayo

cup Parmesan or queso fresco cheese

Pour the beer into the boiling water. Add corn. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove. Once cooled enough to handle, rub with the butter and sprinkle with salt and cayenne or chili powder seasoning.

Cook on a heated grill for about 5 minutes, rotating often. Brush remaining ears with mayo and sprinkle with cheese.

Serves 6.

Cooks note: Mix things up by adding some lime and spices to the mayo or changing spices on the corn.

Jamie Andrade, 2015 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge winner

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