Last weekend, I prowled the grounds and parking lots immediately outside ISU’s Hancock Stadium for Homecoming weekend and let me just say, aside from a Jimmy Buffett concert, I have never seen such extreme tailgating. Nothing can beat the Buffett tailgate – the back of pick-up trucks are turned into sand dunes, weed wackers somehow become blenders, temporary Tiki huts are set up and two-story shark fins are attached to SUV rooftops.
At the ISU Homecoming, the extreme element includes the variety of food that can be found. It’s not just your typical burgers and brats on the grill (although you can find that too), but it’s about bringing the luxury of home cooking to the great outdoors. SEE ALL OF THE FOOD I FOUND IN THIS FACEBOOK PHOTO ALBUM.
Ruth Kay of Bartlett is the mother of a softball player who says all the parents always bring delicious food to the games as a way for them to bond. “It’s a family and it made us a cohesive group.” She stressed just like families do, they share meals. “We’re all part of the Redbird family. That’s the way we look at it.”
Boy do they bring food. Their tailgating tent not only had a home-made quilt signed by all the female athletes, it also featured a spread of home-made cannolis, turtles, brownies and boiling pots including one with the most delicious-looking chicken chipotle soup. Kay was nice enough to share her recipe below. About the soup, Kay says she keeps it simple. She uses rotisserie chicken bought at Costco and doesn’t do the messy stuff when she serves it. “I don’t do the dollup of sour cream or the cilantro on top.”
There are also some extreme tailgating traditions. The ISU Communications Department and ISU Spokesman Jay Groves cook eight turkeys every year for the past 13 years. He and friend Mike Downey carve up 176 pounds of meat that will serve 250 people. That effort is rivaled by Retired Grounds and Fleet Director Mike O’Grady who cooks up enough turkeys to serve 80 people including support personnel such as police, the grounds and parking crews, and the athletic staff. The night before, he injects his turkeys with lemon butter and sets them on turkey cannons that are a lot like the beer chicken you might have seen with the cans in the cavern of the bird. O’Grady insists on using charcoal and hickory. He also gets exotic by smoking oysters with garlic and lemon and made his own wine to go with it. The concoction has a kick which almost reminds you of the startle you can get from whiskey. “That’s from the oak barrels I keep it in,” he said.
At the Homecoming tailgate, people come from all over and they bring a little of their hometown flavor with them. Tom and Sue Cross from River Grove were like a well-oiled machine, slicing and dicing like sous chefs. There were preparing sautéed green peppers and onions that were to go on top of their Italian sausage and jumbo hotdogs. The two are seasoned food prep veterans. They run the concession stand at Guerin Prep High School. “We’re bringing a little of the city here,” said Tom as he went over to stir his boiling pot of home-made hot chocolate. This was the second meal of the day. Earlier, they made scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage. Two meals and it wasn’t even noon!
Even students got into the groove (ISU’s Homecoming theme by the way) of more elaborate grilling. Heartland Community College student Andre Anderson hopes to one day open a bar and restaurant so he’s studying accounting. He’ll be a success for sure if he runs his business as well as he grills. He made a sumptuous chicken shish kabob with a sauce of teryaki, sesame oil, hot sauce, honey and barbeque. He says he just made it up.
It was also great to see former football players return to campus, fancy food in tow. Tim McCarthy ’84 who was a linebacker was stirring a pot of meatballs in red sauce. He credited his wife Beth with making them. Fellow linebacker Bob Pfeifer ’84 looked hilarious carefully going into the huge boiling pot and dipping in an oversized Frito and balancing the meatball on it. “It’s a great combination,” he said grinning. Their buffet also included some ISU cookies, pre-ordered from the go-to place for such things in B-N, Denny’s Donoughts and Bakery.
There’s one more ISU home game and it’ll be a big one with the McLean County Chamber’s CommUniversity as part of the tailgating. We might not see the level of cuisine found at Homecoming but I bet there’ll be at least a few who will be willing, once again, to go to extremes. Check out the winning recipes from the ISU Homecoming Recipe Contest.
You can reach Colleen at email@example.com
Ruth Kay's Chicken Chipotle Soup
8 Servings Prep: 15 min. Cook: 30 min.
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups frozen corn
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
In a Dutch oven, saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1
minute longer. Add the broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chipotle
peppers, adobo sauce, cumin and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce
heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Stir in chicken; heat through. Garnish with sour cream; sprinkle with
cilantro. Yield: 8 servings (3-1/4 quarts).