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Tailgate Warriors

On the athletic field, there are concrete rules of engagement. But there are none governing the fiercely competitive sport of tailgating, meaning unsportsmanlike conduct and one-upsmanship in the parking lot usually get rewarded. Are you still in the minor leagues? Learn some new moves from Steven Raichlen. Score extra points with a platter of Grilled Polenta with Italian Sausage and Peppers. Stun your opponents and delight your fans with Flame-Grilled Prosciutto Panini. Engage in fowl play by serving Steven's indomitable Calgary Wings with zippy Maytag Blue Cheese Sauce. Study the Professor's moves, and you'll be doing your own victory dance.

With Parmesan-Encrusted Polenta and Grilled Pepper Salad
printer-ready version

Adapted from: BBQ USA and How to Grill by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing)
Method: Direct
Yield: 8

2 red bell peppers
2 yellow or orange bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or slivered fresh basil

16 fresh Italian sausages, about 6 ounces each

1 1-1/2 pound package commercially prepared cooked polenta
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or another herb (optional)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium-high.

2. When ready to cook, place all the peppers on the grate and grill until the skins are blistered and charred on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side (16 to 24 minutes in all), turning with tongs. Transfer the hot peppers to a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the garlic and salt in a nonreactive mixing bowl and mash to a paste with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the vinegar and lemon juice and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Whisk in the oil and parsley.

4. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape the burnt skin off the peppers and cut the flesh off the core. Cut the peppers into quarters or strips and arrange them on a platter, alternating pieces of different colors. Stir the dressing and spoon it over the peppers.

You can serve it right away with the sausages and polenta, or let it sit for a few hours (refrigerated) to let the flavors blend. Bring it to room temperature before topping it with the sausages.

5. Lay the sausages on the hot grill grate, and grill 2 to 3 minutes per side (8 to 12 minutes, total) or until an instant read meat thermometer inserted in the sausage (parallel to the grill) registers 160 degrees F. Place the hot sausages on top of the prepared peppers.

6. Meanwhile, while the sausages are cooking, lay the polenta slices on the hot grill grate and cook, 2 to 4 minutes per side, rotating a quarter turn after 1 minute, to achieve an attractive crosshatch pattern of grill marks. Remove to a plate or platter, and immediately sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top; a few grinds of black pepper are optional. Serve immediately.

printer-ready version

Adapted from: Raichlen’s Indoor Grilling by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2004)
Method: indirect grilling
Serves: 3 to 4 as an appetizer (makes 12)

12 whole chicken wings (about 2 pounds)
2 cups wheat beer
2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sriracha (Thai hot sauce; see Note)
1/2 cup Crystal-brand hot sauce or Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley (optional)
1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or oak), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained

1. Rinse the chicken wings under cold running water and blot dry with paper towels. Cut the tips off the wings and discard them (or leave the tips on if you don’t mind munching a morsel that’s mostly skin and bones). Cut each wing into 2 pieces through the joint. Place the wings in a large nonreactive bowl or resealable plastic bag and add the beer. Let the wings marinate for 12 to 24 hours; the longer they marinate, the more pronounced the beer flavor will be.

2. Place the salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, and celery seed in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Set the rub aside.

3. Drain the wings in a colander and blot them dry with paper towels; discard the beer. Place the wings in a mixing bowl. Add the rub and toss to coat the wings evenly. Add the olive oil and toss well to mix.

4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke; then reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center, preheat the grill to medium, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.

5. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grate. Place the wings in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat, and cover the grill. Cook the wings, turning periodically, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, and the meat is cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes. To test for doneness, make a tiny cut in the thickest part of one of the larger wing halves. There should be no trace of red at the bone.

6. Transfer the wings to a clean shallow serving bowl. Pour the butter, Sriracha, and hot sauce over them and stir to mix. Sprinkle the cilantro over the wings, if desired, and serve at once. You’ll want to provide plenty of napkins to your guests.

Note: Sriracha is a sweet Thai hot sauce–think turbocharged ketchup, rather than tongue-blistering hot sauce. It is named for a city on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard. It is available at most Asian markets, or through

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