So in my last post I mentioned that as part of our review of the Knob Creek whiskey products we had the opportunity to bounce a few questions off of celebrity chef, Michael Symon. So without further adieu here it is:
Tailgating Ideas: I see in your bio you’re from Cleveland. Are you a Cleveland sports fan, or do you find yourself supporting other clubs?
Michael Symon: Cleveland, all day, everyday. Period. End of conversation.
Tailgating Ideas: Are you able to tailgate very often?
Michael Symon: I definitely enjoy tailgating with my buddies at the game, but more often than not, I enjoy the game at home with friends and family. While I may not tailgate in a parking lot that often anymore, I definitely like to have my own tailgate at home where I grill some great meats, like wings or rib eye, with easy rubs and marinades made with Knob Creek Bourbon, which really brings out the smoky flavors from the grill.
Tailgating Ideas: What are your favorite foods to prepare for tailgating?
Michael Symon: I like to make simple, yet delicious, recipes that you can prepare right on the grill – no fuss or mess in the kitchen. Cleveland has a huge Eastern European influence, so I enjoy cooking up some bratwurst and sausages in a spicy jalapeño and Knob Creek Bourbon sauce, or I’ll grill some great Korean BBQ-style wings with a Knob Creek Bourbon glaze.
Tailgating Ideas: Do you make changes to your menu based on the weather? If so what do you like to prepare for hot weather vs. cold weather?
Michael Symon: I’m one of those guys who will never let weather deter him from the grill – if I have to shovel a path from my house to the grill during winter, I’ll do it! I like to bring some of the flavors of the season to my recipes when I cook. For example, if I’m grilling in the summer, I’ll use citrus and fresh herbs in my marinades, along with some Knob Creek Bourbon, to create a fresh marinade that can stand up to the heat of the grill. In the winter, I like to add ingredients that enhance the smoky flavors of the grill, like smoked paprika and coriander, and the spicy flavors of Knob Creek Rye, which combine to really enhance the big full flavor of Knob Creek bourbon.
Tailgating Ideas: What is the most creative food item you’ve seen thus far at a tailgate?
Michael Symon: I think some of the more creative recipes at tailgates right now involve the grill in every aspect, even when it comes to your drink. One of the big grilling trends right now is to add grilled ingredients to your cocktail. For me, I like to add grilled peaches or other fruit to my Knob Creek cocktail. The flavors from the grill really enhance the big, full flavor of Knob Creek Bourbon, and when combined with citrus and sugar, it really makes for a refreshing cocktail that pairs perfectly with whatever meat you might be grilling at your tailgate.
Tailgating Ideas: In one of the videos for Knob Creek you mentioned KISS, or Keep it Simple Symon. What are simple things that the average tailgater/cook can do to make their life a little easier?
Michael Symon: I think one of the easiest things you can do is to prep your meat ahead of time. Make a brine using Knob Creek Bourbon, some vinegar, a little honey and some fresh herbs and spices, and let your meat marinate in it over night, so once you’re at the game, all you have to do is take it out and grill it.
You can do the same with dry rubs and sauces – make them ahead of time so all of the flavors have a chance to marinate. These recipes are simple and easy to make, but are packed with big, full flavor.
Tailgating Ideas: What are key things to remember when prepping food before heading out to the parking lot?
Michael Symon: I would say to keep in mind how many people you are cooking for, and to do as much as you can before you get to the parking lot, so all you really have to do is throw your food on the grill and serve. Half the fun of tailgating is getting to hang out with your buddies, so do as much of the work as you can beforehand so you can really enjoy yourself. Make your sauces ahead of time, and put a dry rub or brine on your meats the night before, so all you have to do when you get to the parking lot is grill up your food and enjoy yourself.
Tailgating Ideas: Are there any foods that come to mind that should not be prepped beforehand, and that should only be done on site?
Michael Symon: If you’re using fresh fruits or vegetables, I would try to prepare them when you get to your tailgate, or cut them up right before you leave. Since those foods are so fresh, they will start to oxidize and turn brown once they’re out for too long, so prepping those right before you plan to eat them ensures they have as much flavor as the meat you’re cooking up.
Tailgating Ideas: Many tailgaters find themselves using slightly smaller grills that are more easily transported. What advice do you have for cooking on a smaller grill surface?
Michael Symon: Using a smaller surface can sometimes be a blessing in disguise; it means you have more food coming off the grill throughout the day in smaller batches. To cook on the smaller surface, I make sure not to put too much of the meat on there at one time, so that it all has a chance to cook evenly and absorb the big, full flavor of that Knob Creek Bourbon marinade I like to use. Make sure you keep an eye on the food while it cooks, since it may cook a little
Tailgating Ideas: There’s always a big debate over charcoal vs. gas. What is your take on the subject?
Michael Symon: Gas and charcoal both have their benefits when it comes to grilling, but I personally like to use a charcoal grill more often than not. I sometimes like to use the indirect heat method of grilling, building up smoked apple wood chips on one side of the grill and then place your meat on the other side and let the heat and smoke come together to make a really flavorful and tender piece of meat.
Tailgating Ideas: Beyond a grill do you think that there are any other cooking apparatuses that a tailgater should try to have on hand?
Michael Symon: Obviously I’m a big fan of grilling, but I also will sometimes use a smoker to smoke the meat before hand, since it makes it tender and packed with great flavor. Its great to slow cook richer meats like a short rib or pork chop.
Tailgating Ideas: Since we got in touch with you due to Knob Creek, let’s talk beverages. What does a Chef like to sip on when cooking for a crowd?
Michael Symon: I know a lot of people choose to drink beer at a tailgate, but for me, it’s all about a Knob Creek Bourbon cocktail. I always like to enjoy a bourbon cocktail when I’m watching the game. One of my favorites that I like to make at tailgates is the Knob Creek Smoke and Char, which combines grilled peaches, fresh basil, citrus and simple syrup, along with Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon, which creates a delicious cocktail that incorporates the flavors of the grill and pairs nicely with the meat that you’re grilling.
Tailgating Ideas: When creating a cocktail what sorts of flavors would be better suited for Knob Creek Bourbon? How about the rye?
Michael Symon: Knob Creek Rye is one of my favorite expressions to use when mixing up bourbon cocktails, because the high rye content and spicy flavor can really stand up to the other ingredients in the cocktail. One of my favorite cocktails to make with Knob Creek Rye is the Knob Creek Ginger Twist. It combines Knob Creek Rye, some fresh lemon juice, bitters, Elderflower Liqueur and ginger beer to create a really refreshing cocktail that is both tart and a little spicy.
Tailgating Ideas: Are there any cocktail recipes that are easily scaled up for let’s say a pitcher size quantity?
Michael Symon: The Knob Creek Smoke and Char and the Knob Creek Ginger Twist can both easily be made in large quantities, though I wouldn’t recommend adding ice until you pour in each individual glass, so the ice doesn’t water down the bourbon.
Tailgating Ideas: Last question, which of your Knob Creek recipes (one food, one drink) would you be most excited to find at a tailgate party?
Michael Symon: I think I’d be most excited to see my pork meatballs on skewers recipe. They’re a crowd favorite and so easy to make ahead of time and throughout the day. They taste so fresh with the herbs and fresh lime juice combined with Knob Creek Rye, which mix together to create a sauce that is full of the big, full flavor that Knob Creek Bourbon is known for.
For a cocktail, I’d be happy to see tailgaters mixing up cocktails that incorporate flavors from the grill. Like I said, the Knob Creek Smoke and Char is the perfect cocktail companion to the grill, because it incorporates ingredients straight from the grill.
For more information on Knob Creek and it’s products you can visit their site at www.KnobCreek.com.