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4 easy recipes for tailgating this fall

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With tailgate season now in goal line formation, it’s time to raise our grilling game.

Weber Culinary Director Jamie Purviance, a graduate of Stanford University, has hosted his share of tailgate parties. So we asked the world-renowned grilling expert to share a few of his helpful hints along with some bold-flavored recipes from his latest grilling guide, “Weber’s Ultimate Grilling: A Step-by-Step Guide to Barbecue Genius.” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019)

“There’s a certain competitiveness among tailgates parties,” Purviance said in a phone interview from his home in El Dorado Hills. “Some people come and bring the sandwich platter from Safeway — they are considered inferior. Then there are the guys with the big roasts and cuts of steaks — this helps you qualify as a legitimate, big-time tailgater.”

In his new cookbook, Purviance helps readers up their game through the four T’s of grilling — temperature, timing, technique and tools — then puts their acumen to the test with his 10 BBQ Genius Recipes, which tackle the most popular grilled food recipes, from chicken wings to rib-eye steaks, along with nearly 100 other recipes.

“It’s essentially a technique book in the guise of a recipe book,” he said. “Every recipe is meant to be an illustration of a technique that is worth knowing. The best way to do that is to lay out step-by-step photos.”

Kim Laidlaw of Petaluma, who served as project manager for the book, did some recipe testing and set up the photo shoots, including hundreds of “how to” photos as well as finished food shots.

“This is my 17th book on grilling and barbecue, so it’s been a pretty deep dive,” Purviance said. “In the course of writing all the other books, I kept hearing ‘We really want the pictures … we want to know the finer details of how the techniques work, both on and off the grill.’ ”

After graduating from Stanford, Purviance worked as an English teacher for several years, including a gig in Jakarta, Indonesia, where his fascination with grilling really took hold.

“Most homes have a giant hearth outside, fueled by wood or charcoal,” he said. “I was totally drawn to it … when I came back, I wanted to go into it and learn how to do it well, so I went to the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park.”

For many years, Purviance and his wife held season tickets to the Stanford Cardinal football games, where he was able to practice and refine his tailgating strategy before the games.

His most important first tip for wanna-be grillmeisters is to do 80% of the work at home, and leave the other 20% for the stadium, where you don’t have the space or the convenience of a home kitchen.

“You basically want to bring everything in coolers to the stadium, ready to put on the grill,” he said. “That lends itself to a much more enjoyable experience.”

His other rule of thumb is to always have something to serve your friends when they arrive at the parking lot, your own backyard or your driveway.

As a welcome dish, Purviance suggested grilling off his Maple-Bourbon Chicken Wings in advance, then wrapping them in foil and having them ready to go or ready to quickly reheat. For this “genius’ recipe, he explains the importance of controlling the heat with both direct and indirect areas.

“A lot of people do wings entirely over direct or indirect heat,” he said. “You either get burned wings if you do it over direct or flabby chicken skin if you do them over indirect.”

Instead, Purviance starts the wings over direct heat to get the skin crispy, then finishes them over indirect heat, where he can brush them with sauce and not worry about the sauce burning.

Another appetizer that is a game changer is his Grilled Onion and Sour Cream Dip with potato chips, a crafty update of the classic onion dip that gets dumped out of an envelope into a bowl of sour cream.

“The key here is to use a big grill pan so you can get the onions in a single layer,” he said. “The caramelized onion flavor is another level above … it feels homemade and less chemical. There’s a little more texture to it.”

For the main entree, Purviance suggested going for the end zone. His recipe for Porterhouse Steaks with Board Sauce provides an easy technique for upping the flavor of the deluxe steak, which features a New York strip on one side and a buttery filet mignon on the other.

You can make the sauce in advance — a Mediterranean mix of shallots, capers, lemon zest, basil, rosemary, olive oil and balsamic — then dump it out on your cutting board.

“When the steak comes off the grill, you just coat the surface with the sauce and turn it back and forth as it rests,” he said. “Then you cut into it, and it’s ready to go … it definitely makes a statement.”

His hearty recipe for Portabello Mushrooms with Chard and Feta can serve as a matching, Mediterranean side dish or as an entree for the vegetarians in the crowd. You can grill the greens on a grill pan first, or wilt them in a sauté pan, then chop them up with the cheese and bread crumbs and stuff the mushrooms ahead of time.

“The key is to put the greens on wet, so they steam while they are grilling,” he said. “Then, just cook the mushrooms over high heat, again, on a grill pan.”

There are several, dessert recipes in the cookbook to choose from, but if you are lugging all your gear to a stadium, something simple may be your best bet.

“If I was at a tailgate, I’d do the grilled pineapple, which is simple, or the bread pudding,” he said. ‘Or, just bring some cookies.”

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“Pass up that store-bought packet of onion dip mix,” Purviance writes. “This classic party dip deserves an update. Our modern version begins by charring the onions on the grill and then chopping them to a chunky finish.” This recipe requires a large, perforated grill pan.

Grilled Onion and Sour Cream Dip

Makes 6 to 8 servings

For grilled onions:

3 medium yellow onions, about 11/2 pounds total

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For dip:

1 cup sour cream

4 ounces (1/2 cup) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, minced or pushed through a press

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives, divided

— Sturdy potato chips or pita chips

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 to 450 degrees). Brush the cooking grates clean. Cut the onions in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4-inch thick half-moons.

In a large bowl, combine the onions, oil, thyme and salt and toss to coat the onions evenly. Spread the onion mixture in an even layer on a large, perforated grill pan. Set the grill pan over direct medium heat and cook the onions, with the lid closed, until soft and golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes.

Remove the grill pan from the grill and let the onions cool to room temperature. Discard any onion bits that have turned black (to avoid any unwanted bitter flavors.)

In a food processor, combine all of the dip ingredients except the chives. Process until blended. Add the onions and pulse to a dip consistency with some onion pieces remaining. Add all about 1/2 teaspoon chives and pulse once. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with the reserved chives, and serve with the chips.

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“Here, you brown the wings first over direct heat without any sauce. That’s when the skin gets crispy,” Purviance writes. “Then you move the wings over indirect heat, where it is safe to layer on the sweet sauce without the threat of it scorching.”

Maple-Bourbon Chicken Wings

Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer

12 chicken wings, about 3 pounds total

— Extra-virgin olive oil

For Chipotle-Oregano Rub:

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For Maple-Bourbon Barbecue Sauce:

3/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup bourbon

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

The chicken wing is made up of three sections: the drumette (attached to the chicken body), the wingette (or “flat” the middle section) and the tip. Each section has a bone ball socket, or joint. Flex each section to find the joint.

Using the tip of a boning knife and keeping the joint extender to expose the socket, cut through the ball socket connecting the drumette and wingette and then through the socket connecting the wingette and tip. Discard the wing tips or save for stock (they tend to burn on the grill.)

Brush the chicken wings very lightly with oil. In a small bowl, mix together all the rub ingredients, then season the wings evenly with the rub. Set aside at room temperature while you prepare the grill. Prepare the grill for direct cooking and indirect cooking over medium heat (350 to 450 degrees).

In a small saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat on the stove, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the wingettes and drumettes over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, for 10 minutes, turning once or twice and watching closely for flare-ups that could scorch the skin.

Brush the chicken pieces with sauce on all sides and move them over indirect medium heat. Continue to cook, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the meat is no longer pink at the bone, 10 to 15 minutes. During this time, stay vigilant, as the sugars in the sauce could burn. Remove from the grill and serve warm.

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“Imagine how easy dinner could be if you mixed — right on the cutting board — a handful of raw ingredients that play well together, and then dragged your steaks through that spontaneous ‘sauce,’” he writes. “Feel free to substitute your favorite fresh herbs and types of oil and vinegar.”

Porterhouse Steaks with Board Sauce

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 well-marbled, top-quality porterhouse steaks, each about 1 pound and 11/4 to 11/2 inches thick

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

For Board Sauce:

2 small shallots, about 21/2 ounces total, minced (about 1/3 cup)

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, and finely chopped

— Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

2 tablespoons high-quality extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, preferably 10 years old

1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

Place the steaks in a single layer on a baking sheet and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the oil into both sides of the steaks and then season them evenly with the salt. Let stand while you prepare the board sauce and the grill.

Arrange all the board sauce ingredients, including 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, in a pile in the center of a large, cutting board, putting the oil and vinegar in the center of the pile. Let the pile stand while you preheat the grill and grill the steak, or for up to 1 hour.

Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium-high heat (400 to 450 degrees). Brush the cooking grates clean.

Grill the steaks over direct medium-high heat, with the lid closed, until cooked to your desired doneness, 10 to 12 minutes for medium rare (125 to 130), rotating and turning the steaks once or twice. To cook the steaks longer, slide them to the indirect heat side of the grill.

Meanwhile, use a wooden spoon to mix the sauce ingredients together gently on the board into a juice, chunky mixture. Spread the board sauce into a layer large enough to accommodate both steaks side by side.

Use tongs to transfer the steaks to the cutting board, laying them flat on the sauce. Season the tops with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Use the tongs to move the steaks around so they pick up some of the sauce flavorings, then turn the steaks over. Let rest, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes.

Cut the meat away from the bone. Next, cut the meat across the grain into 1/3-inch-thick slices. As you cut the meat, turn each slice back and forth in the board sauce until it is nicely coated with the flavorings. Season with salt and pepper if needed and serve right away.

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“Grilling sturdy green is easy when you have a perforated pan to keep them from falling between the grate bars,” he wrote. “Rinse them well and use the water clinging to the leaves to wilt them.”

Portabello Mushrooms with Chard and Feta

Makes 4 servings

4 large portabello mushrooms, each 3 to 4 ounces

— Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing, plus 1 tablespoon

1 very large bunch Swiss chard, 12 to 14 ounces

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 21/2 ounces)

1/2 cup coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 2 ounces)

1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 small scallions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, or several fresh grindings whole nutmeg

1/3 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

— Ground black pepper

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450 to 550 degrees). Using a damp paper towel, wipe the outside of each mushroom cap to clean. Using a small knife, cut out the stems.

Holding 1 mushroom in your palm and using a small spoon, gently scrape out all the black gills, being careful not to tear the delicate cap (it’s important to remove the gills, as they will discolor the filling during grilling.) Repeat with the remaining mushrooms.

Brush a large, perforated grill pan with oil. Rinse the chard under cold running water. Stack the wet leaves on the prepared pan.

Grill the chard over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until the greens begin to wilt, 5 to 6 minutes, turning once or twice with tongs. Remove from the grill.

Cut off the stem at the base of each leaf and discard. Fold the leaves in half lengthwise and twist to wring out the excess moisture. Using a heavy, large knife, coarsely chop the greens. You should have a generous 1 cup.

In a medium bowl, mix together the chopped greens, feta, mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, the mayonnaise, scallions, garlic and nutmeg.

In a small bowl, mix together the panko, the remaining 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Stir 1 tablespoon of the panko mixture into the greens filling. Season the filling to taste with pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon).

Divide the greens filling evenly among the mushrooms, then pat gently with your hand to fill to the edges.

Sprinkle the remaining panko mixture evenly over the filling.

Place the mushrooms on the same grill pan. Grill over direct high heat, with the lid closed, until the cheese melts and the topping is deep brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Using a metal spatula and tongs, transfer the mushrooms to plates and serve.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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