• Tommy Centola

Tailgate Season upon us all

Football season is upon us, so is Tailgating season. On Saturdays and Sundays throughout America, millions will be starting their sports day cooking, eating and socializing. While it is unknown where tailgating first started, there is a New Orleans connection, the Commissioner of Tailgating (self-proclaimed) Joe Cahn.

Joe is a self trained chef who started the New Orleans School of Cooking in 1980. He figured he could teach people how to cook while learning how himself. And learned he did. He was selected chef of the year by the Louisiana Restaurant Association in 1991. The amazing part of this award was that Joe has never owned a restaurant.

In 1996, he was ready for a change. He sold his business, sold his house, bought a motor home and hit the road to explore what he calls “the new American community” Tailgate Parties. He created his job as Commissioner of Tailgating and is probably the only professional tailgater. He tailgates at football stadiums, NASCAR tracks, concert venues and anywhere there is a party in a parking lot.

His food is traditionally New Orleans cuisine but he has picked up many recipes while on the road for over 20 years. The two recipes I am sharing today are recipes from his New Orleans School of Cooking days that are also great tailgating dishes, Jambalaya and Pralines.

There is no telling how many people Joe has taught this recipe to. A staple from his teaching days, Jambalaya is a great dish for tailgating. Many people from Louisiana, myself included, have a large 5-10 gallon cast iron pot with a propane burner for cooking at tailgates. The best thing about jambalaya is that you can use whatever meats you wish, to make it your own. Here is Joe’s recipe.

Joe Cahn’s Jambalaya

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless Chicken Breast, cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and Black Pepper

1/4 cup Vegetable Oil

1 1/2 pounds Sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices

4 cups Onion, chopped

2 cups Celery, chopped

2 cups Green Bell Peppers, chopped

1 tablespoon Garlic, minced

5 cups Chicken Stock

2 tablespoons Kitchen Bouquet (browning agent)

2 tablespoons Seasoning Salt

4 cups uncooked long grain white Rice

2 cups Green Onions, sliced

Season chicken with salt and pepper; brown in hot oil in an 8-quart Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add sausage; cook 5 to 7 minutes. Remove chicken and sausage from pan; set aside. Add onions, celery, green peppers and garlic; cook, stirring 7 to 10 minutes or until vegetables begin to wilt. Stir in chicken stock, reserved chicken and sausage, seasoning salt and Kitchen Bouquet. Bring to a boil; add rice and return to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 10 minutes; remove cover and stir. Replace cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir in green onions and serve.

Note: For red jambalaya, substitute 2 tablespoons of Paprika for the Kitchen Bouquet.

Another recipe from Joe’s teaching days is Pralines. This dish is probably better made before you get to your tailgate party. This unique New Orleans dessert is a great addition to any meal. But be very careful, this hot candy mixture will quickly burn if it gets on your skin.

Joe Cahn’s Pralines

1 1/2 cups Sugar

3/4 cup light Brown Sugar, packed

1/2 cup Milk

1 teaspoon Vanilla

6 teaspoons Butter

1 1/2 cups Pecans ( roasted, optional)

Combine all ingredients and bring to a soft ball stage (238-240℉), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir until the mixture thickens, becomes creamy and cloudy, and pecans stay suspended in the mixture. Spoon out on buttered wax paper, aluminum foil or parchment paper. Makes 1 to 50 pralines, depending on size. When using wax paper, be sure toe buffer with newspaper underneath, as hot wax will transfer to whatever is underneath.

Note: To roast pecans, bake them on a sheet pan at 275℉ for 20-25 minutes, until slightly browned and smell permeates.

Tailgating was not around when I use to attend the New Orleans Saints games in my childhood. I am hoping this year to take a trip to Atlanta ( the home of Super Bowl 53) to tailgate and cheer on my Saints.

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