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Beer brats, pizza bread and truffles rack up a victoryOriginally Published September 12, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 11, 2013 at 10:35 a.m.
Never let it be said that the South is not religious — it is, being deeply seated in the nationally recognized Bible Belt. But after church, another devotion makes its case for second place — football.
Arkansas is a peculiar state, sportswise, compared to others. With no professional football, basketball, hockey or soccer team in The Natural State, our amateur greats of the gridiron command countless hours of statewide attention. One of the most recognized rituals, the time-honored tailgate, attracts all types of pigskin lovers — fans who never waver, tailgate cooks with coolers and recipes adapted for travel, and fun lovers of all shapes, sizes, sexes — here in all corners of Arkansas, primarily dressed in a Razorback-red rainbow.
Although tailgating itself is self-explanatory, it has moved well beyond legs dangling from the back of a pickup truck awaiting the start of a game. It now can involve elaborate tents, enormous RVs and other extensive efforts to provide a backdrop for the big show. Tailgate treats abound from whirring blenders powered by generators, sleek electric grills that comply with city restrictions against open flame, and ingenious home chefs who overcome the lack of refrigeration to create a delicious football feast that is safe.
These recipes are perfect for tailgating and the home watch party — a ritual in itself that loses automatically against the exciting live-attendance category but scores big points for air conditioning and clean restrooms. Go, team!
BACON BEER BRATS
For the tailgate: Prepare sausages, wrap in foil, and reheat on the grill, or transport foil-wrapped warm sausages in an insulated bag.
2 12-ounce cans beer, any variety
1 package uncooked bratwurst (or other desired sausage, such as Italian or bite-size smoked sausages)
8 slices bacon, halved
2/3 cups light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Assorted mustards for dipping: yellow, horseradish, honey, hot and stone-ground
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick foil. Heat a skillet over high heat and pour in beer. Pierce each sausage lightly with a fork to avoid bursting. Add sausages to skillet with beer and heat until very hot, but not boiling. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer gently until sausages are cooked through and no longer pink. Remove sausages from skillet, and let sit until cool enough to handle. Discard beer.
Tip: If using fully cooked sausages, they only need to be heated through in the beer broth. Adjust timing accordingly.
When cooled, cut each sausage into approximately 1 1/2-inch pieces. Wrap each portion with one half bacon slice, overlapping cut ends. In a mixing bowl, stir together brown sugar, cayenne pepper and dry mustard until well combined. Coat each bacon-wrapped brat in sugar mixture. Lay coated brats in the foil-lined pan with the seam of bacon firmly down so it won’t curl. Bake brats for 20 to 25 minutes, carefully turning with tongs at the halfway point, until bacon is crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain briefly. Arrange sausages on a serving platter, surrounded by mustard varieties. Serve hot with toothpicks for dipping.
PIGSKIN PIZZA BREAD
For the tailgate: Prepared pizza roll can be wrapped in foil and cooked on the grill at the tailgate, or transported warm wrapped in foil and in an insulated bag. Cut on-site.
1 can refrigerated pizza dough
Mix of pepperoni slices, cooked Italian sausage or cooked hamburger meat, as desired
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small jar pizza sauce, divided use (or about 1 cup homemade sauce)
1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (The variety with a little cream cheese for extra melting cheese is perfect here.)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll thawed bread dough into a rectangle (about 10 by 16 inches). Brush dough lightly with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of pizza sauce on dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edges. Arrange meats and cheese evenly over the sauce.
Roll up dough from the long side like a jelly roll and pinch seam to seal. Place seam-side down onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.
Brush the top with a bit more olive oil, and sprinkle on Parmesan cheese.
Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and the bread is cooked through. Allow the roll to cool for 5 minutes. Cut into slices, and serve with the remainder of the pizza sauce for dipping.
CAKE BATTER TRUFFLES
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons sprinkles
16 ounces (8 squares) almond bark (or white candy melts)
4 tablespoons yellow cake mix
Beat together butter and sugar using an electric mixer until combined. Add cake mix, flour, salt and vanilla, and mix thoroughly. Add 3 tablespoons milk, or more if needed, to make a dough consistency. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, mixing in sprinkles by hand throughout. Place on a parchment- or wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. Ideally, chill in the freezer for 30 minutes or, at least, in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
While dough balls are chilling, melt almond coating in the microwave in 30-second intervals until melted. Stir between intervals. Once melted, quickly stir in cake mix until incorporated completely. Using a fork or tongs, dip truffles into almond bark and allow excess to drip off. Place truffle back on cookie sheet, and immediately shake on decorative sprinkles. Repeat with all remaining balls until complete.
Chill cake-batter truffles in the refrigerator until serving. Makes around 24 to 30 truffles.