Southern Living's new cookbook helps Cats' fans plan a delicious tailgate party

Menus reflect Lexington and other college towns

swthompson@herald-leader.comAugust 29, 2012 

No one knows Southern cooking like the folks at Southern Living. And as football and tailgating season gets under way, you can bet the magazine's The Official SEC Tailgating Cookbook (Oxmoor House, $19.95) will deliver plenty of great recipes to make tailgating party food even more competitive.

"Tailgating parties are just so much bigger and more special than ever," said Southern Living test kitchen director Rebecca Gordon, above. "We're extending hospitality beyond the living room and sharing food with people we see once a year during football season. It's a season-long party."

The book is a "long-time" dream of Gordon, an avid football fan and tailgater. "When the opportunity came to get the book rolling, we drew off the recipes that were favorites over the years at Southern Living and we partnered with the SEC to offer something really special for each team," she said.

The cookbook focuses on all 14 schools in the Southeastern Conference and features game-day traditions and menus that reflect each hometown.

The cookbook was a collaboration of the entire staff. "So many on our staff are huge college football fans," she said.

Travel writers shared favorite tourist sites and restaurants in each college town, and the food writers selected Southern Living recipes that would reflect the towns.

In the Kentucky section, the Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland and Three Chimneys farm are listed as places to visit; places to dine include Tolly-Ho, Joe Bologna's, Ramsey's Diner, Merrick Inn, Jonathan at Gratz Park, Dudley's on Short and Table Three Ten.

Along with menus for each team, the editors developed versions of deviled eggs, spritzers and cupcakes.

The Kentucky Colonel is the team spritzer: Muddle 5 mint leaves, 3 lemon slices, 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice in a 10-ounce glass. Fill glass with crushed ice, and top with seltzer water or club soda. Gently stir. Garnish with a lemon slice.

For team cupcakes, make a batch of vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, then jazz them up with your favorite team flavors. For UK, make the mint chocolate chip cupcake by stirring 1 teaspoon peppermint extract and 1 bar (4 ounces) finely chopped bittersweet baking chocolate into frosting. Garnish with shaved chocolate mints and fresh mint.

For the South Carolina game Sept. 29, make a batch of mile-high coconut cupcakes inspired by low-country coconut layer cakes. Stir 1½ cups sweetened flaked coconut into frosting. Garnish generously with toasted coconut.

The Kentucky Wildcats menu features baked bean crostini, flank steak sandwiches with "Go Big Blue" cheese, grilled okra and tomatoes, hot bacon potato salad with green beans, bourbon balls and crunchy pecan pie bites.

"The flank steak sandwiches with the Go Big Blue cheese are fabulous, and we also include a chicken version," Gordon said.

The cookbook also gives insider information on how to throw the best tailgate party in the South. Gordon and her staff have included secret strategies and trick plays called "extra points" to help pull off the game-day spread.

At Gordon's tailgating parties, she's the planning and logistics person. "It's all about organization," she said. "I start midweek before the game and determine the menu, grocery shop, prep, and make ahead anything that makes life easier to tote.

"There's nothing better than a cooler on wheels."

In the September issue of Southern Living magazine, the football frenzy continues. The editors have posted a roster of the top 20 Southern schools with the greatest pregame celebrations. Readers and fans will determine the school that hosts "The South's Best Tailgate." You can vote daily through Oct. 1 at


Here are recipes to make for UK's first game of the season, when the Wildcats play the Louisville Cardinals on Sunday in Louisville.

Baked bean crostini

1 (8.5 ounces) French bread baguette

Vegetable cooking spray

5 thick slices hickory-smoked bacon

½ cup diced sweet onion

1 can (28 ounces) baked beans

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

2 teaspoons diced pickled jalapeño peppers

¼ teaspoon salt

Toppings: chopped fresh rosemary, fresh Mexican cheese, spicy barbecue sauce, pickled jalapeño pepper slices, hot sauce

Preheat grill to 400 to 450 degrees (high heat). Cut bread into 40 1/4-inch-thick slices, discarding ends. Coat 1 side of each slice with cooking spray. Grill bread slices, without grill lid, 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon.

Sauté onion in hot drippings 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in beans and next 5 ingredients; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated and slightly thickened. Spoon bean mixture onto grilled bread slices. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Serve with desired toppings.

Flank steak sandwiches with "Go Big Blue" cheese

2 large sweet onions

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 red bell peppers

6 (2 to 3 ounces) ciabatta or deli roll, split

5 ounces soft ripened blue cheese or Brie

1½ cups loosely packed arugula

Herb-marinated flank steak (recipe follows)

6 tablespoons mayonnaise

Preheat grill to 400 to 450 degrees (high heat). Cut onion into ¼-inch-thick slices. Brush with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cut bell peppers into 1-inch wide strips. Place pepper strips in large bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper; toss to coat.

Grill onion and pepper strips, with grill lid, 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until lightly charred and tender.

Brush cut sides of rolls with remaining olive oil, and grill, cut sides down, without grill lid, 1 to 2 minutes or until lightly browned and toasted. Spread blue cheese on cut sides of roll bottoms; top with arugula, pepper strips, steak and onion. Spread mayonnaise on cut sides of roll tops. Place roll tops, mayonnaise sides down, on top of onion, pressing lightly. Makes 6 servings.

Herb-marinated flank steak

½ small sweet onion, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1¾ pound flank steak

1 lemon, halved

Place first 8 ingredients in a 2-gallon zip-top plastic bag, and squeeze bag to combine. Add steak; seal bag, and chill 30 to 90 minutes. Remove steak from marinade, discarding marinade.

Preheat grill to 400 to 450 degrees (high heat). Grill steak, covered with grill lid, 9 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness. Remove from grill; squeeze juice from lemon over steak. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut diagonally across grain into thin slices. Makes 6 servings.

Hot bacon potato salad with green beans

3 pounds fingerling potatoes, cut in half

1 package (8 ounces) haricots verts (tiny green beans)

½ cup white wine vinegar

1 shallot, minced

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

4 cooked bacon slices, chopped

Bring potatoes and water to cover to a boil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; cook 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Meanwhile, cook green beans in boiling water to cover in medium saucepan 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Plunge in ice water to stop cooking process; drain.

Whisk together vinegar and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Add oil in slow, steady stream, whisking until smooth. Pour vinegar mixture over potatoes, and toss to coat. Just before serving, add green beans, parsley and dill; toss gently until blended. Sprinkle with bacon. Serve immediately, or cover and chill until ready to serve. Makes 8 servings.

Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog:

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