How to Throw a Tasteful Tailgate
Experts offer three recipes sure to please.
Cognac-drenched chocolate-dipped figs
Elizabeth Frame has won three tailgating awards at Radnor Hunt. For last year’s “Dinner with a President” theme, she and her friends focused on Christian Grey, the Fifty Shades of Grey protagonist who’s CEO of Grey Enterprises in the erotic romance novel. “Everything on the menu was an aphrodisiac, all tastefully done,” says Frame.
Here’s a nibble from the tailgating pro’s race-day spread.
1 14-oz. package of figs
2 dozen almonds, preferably Marcona
4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tbsp. orange zest
1 cup honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup cognac or dark spiced rum
1 lb. tempered dark chocolate for dipping
To create a pomegranate-orange syrup, simmer pomegranate juice, sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Stir frequently. Meanwhile, make a small slit in each fig, then insert an almond.
When the syrup has reduced by one quarter, remove from the stove. Let it cool for 15 minutes, then transfer it to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir in one cup of the pomegranate-orange syrup and one teaspoon of vanilla with the cinnamon, cloves, honey and cognac. Add the figs, and stir to coat evenly. Place the mixture in a sealed container, then marinate overnight.
The next day, drain the figs, reserving the liquor in a small bowl. Place each fig on a small skewer or toothpick with the stem up, then dip them in dark chocolate tempered over a double boiler. Place the figs in paper candy cups or on parchment paper. Serve as soon as possible. The candies should hold for a few hours.
Whip the heavy cream with one teaspoon of vanilla until stiff, and add some of the leftover liquor to taste. Serve alongside figs and 1.5-inch-square pieces of pound cake or sponge cake.
Rare Roast Beef and Potato Salad
To plan the menu for a Willowdale Steeplechase tailgate inspired by James Bond, Shawn Roberts and his teammates watched 007 movies, noting the secret agent’s favorite foods and beverages, including martinis—shaken, not stirred. Here are two of their menu highlights.
1 6-pound beef tenderloin
2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 medium rib of celery, chopped fine
2 tbsp. minced red onion
3 tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 tsp. powdered mustard
3/4 tsp. celery seed
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
Let the beef tenderloin come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper, then brown it on all sides in a skillet. Roast the tenderloin until it reads medium-rare on a meat thermometer.
For the salad, place the potatoes in a large saucepan, then cover them with water by one inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add salt, reduce the heat to medium, then simmer, stirring until potatoes are tender, about eight minutes.
Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a large bowl. Add vinegar and toss gently with a rubber spatula to combine. Let stand until potatoes are just warm, about 20 minutes.
In a small bowl, stir together celery, onion, pickle relish, mayonnaise, mustard powder, celery seed, parsley, pepper and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold dressing and (if desired) eggs into the potatoes.
The Pimm’s Pitcher
For Point-to-Point at Winterthur, Brian Cawley and his friends serve refreshing Pimm’s Cups, mixed by proportion. “We used to make them individually, but every time we turned around, someone would be standing there with an empty glass, looking for another,” he says. “Now, we make a pitcher—and another.”
2 parts Pimm’s No. 1
1 parts Tanqueray Gin
7 parts Sprite
1 whole lemon, sliced
1 whole lime, sliced
1 whole orange, sliced
1 English cucumber, sliced on the bias
1 fistful of fresh mint
1 fistful of rosemary
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir. Let it sit while you set up the tailgate, then serve over ice. Garnish with cucumber slices and a sprig of mint.