5 Chef-Approved Tips For Elevated Tailgating (You Read That Right)!

UPDATE: This story was originally published on September 20.
Football season is in full swing, and along with getting the best seats — even at a bar — game-day food is an absolute priority. When chips and guacamole get old (or shall we say, stale), look to one of these tailgating suggestions from Chicago's top chefs. And these aren't tips on making the perfect crudité platter either — especially considering these masters of meat are leading the kitchens of DMK Burger Bar, Markethouse, Chicago Pour House, Mercat a la Planxa, and a newcomer backed by an ex-NFL player you'll have to read on to discover.
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From learning the proper way to grill meat (don't put that charcoal away just yet), a new recipe to try, and options for those who don't want to cook, you'll be set for the game no matter where you end up watching it!
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Old Town Pour House
Corporate Executive Chef Paul Katz's tips for grilling meat.

1. First and foremost, start off with quality meat.

2. Make sure steaks are thick, at least 1-1 ½ inches. The reason for this is when you sear the meat, it is thick enough to char on the outside, yet not overcook the inside. Searing creates a crust on the meat that will lock in juices and flavor.

3. Bring all meat to room temperature before cooking. This does two things. First, the meat will cook faster. Refrigeration tightens the meat, so bringing meat to room temperature will relax the muscle (meat) and thus cook quicker. Secondly, the meat will cook more evenly.

4. Whether you use gas or charcoal, you always want to get the grill extremely hot (at least 500 to 700 degrees; depending on the grill, you can go even hotter) and sear the meat on one side and then finish with indirect heat. This will allow you to sear the meat and lock in those juices, yet finish cooking without charring too much.

5. ALWAYS let your meat sit before serving. This allows the juices, which have been driven to the center of the meat, to redistribute and reabsorb.

Old Town Pour House, 1419 North Wells Street (at Schiller Street); 312-477-2800.


Photo: Courtesy of Old Town Pour House
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Markethouse
Executive Chef Scott Walton's new line of customizable, made-to-order sausage and charcuterie to be cooked at home.

Markethouse is known for its farm-to-table eats, and now you can adopt the same philosophy in your own kitchen. The spot's new carry-out menu includes a creative array of bacons (bet you never tasted the duck variety), pâtés, and mustards.

Forget about the basic, store-bought brat. Wow your guests with Chef Scott’s specialty sausages utilizing fresh herbs from the restaurant's rooftop garden. Options include:

1. Seafood Sausage: lobster, shrimp, and truffle
2. Lamb Merguez Sausage: smoked paprika, harissa, fennel, and garlic
3. Veal and Pork Bratwurst: nutmeg, braised mustard seeds, and parsley

With the exception of the seafood sausage, which is available at market price, these links average $7.95 per pound. You can also make your own customized sausage (chicken with Marcona almonds and cranberries perhaps?) from a bevy of proteins, spices, and fun specialty ingredients. The cost starts at $6 a pound (with a five pound minimum) and goes up depending on how fancy you get.

Markethouse, 611 North Fairbanks Court (at Ontario Street); 312-224-2200.


Photo: Courtesy of Markethouse
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DMK Burger Bar
A special sandwich only served at a special time.

So, you don't have tickets and you're kinda over sitting on someone's couch in front of the tele. DMK is a great place to catch the game while getting some great grub in the process. Chef Sarah Heintz created a special sandwich called the "Pigskin," a sweet and savory blend of root-beer-braised barbecue pulled pork, Bubbies pickles, and Carolina slaw for $9. If you fall in love with it, the only time it's going to be available is on Chicago Bears game days.

DMK Burger Bar, 2954 North Sheffield Avenue (at Wellington Avenue); 773-360-8686.


Photo: Courtesy of DMK Burger Bar
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Municipal Bar + Dining Company
A multi-purpose sauce that will add a little zing to your traditional tailgating fare.

Opening next month in River North, Municipal Bar + Dining Company will be an upscale sports bar that pays homage to our incredible city. The name comes from the Y-shaped municipal device that represents the three branches of the Chicago River. You've probably seen it stamped on public buildings, bridges, and city vehicles. Oh, and former NFL player and Chicago native Simeon Rice is an investor!

Back to game day food! "This recipe of our bacon-mac-and-cheese sauce is perfect for tailgating," says Executive Chef Jeffery Arasi. "Not only can you make it on top of a grill in a parking lot, you can also put it on all your tailgating foods, such as burgers, nachos, hot dogs, and chili — pretty much anything you want to put cheese and bacon on. This is the sauce for our mac and cheese, so you can put it on pasta also."

Bacon Cheese Sauce Ingredients
8 cups bacon, small dice
4 cups onions, small dice
2 cups garlic, minced
1/3 pound butter
1 ½ cups bacon fat
2 cups flour
1 gallon milk
4 cups cheddar cheese, grated
6 cups American cheese, julienne
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Render all bacon in a sauce pot. Once golden brown and crispy, strain and reserve bacon. Add bacon fat and butter, then sweat the onions and garlic. Gradually add flour and cook for ten minutes while constantly stirring. Add milk, whisk in cheese, and complete with the addition of bacon.

Municipal Bar + Dining Company, 216 West Ohio (at Franklin Street); no phone number yet.


Photo: Courtesy of Municipal Bar + Dining Company
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Mercat a la Planxa
Suckling roast pig to-go from Chef de Cuisine Cory Morris

While we love dining at the modern and hip Mercat, it isn't exactly a game-day spot — but you can still enjoy its incredible Catalan-inspired cuisine at your tailgating feast. Perfect for feeding a crowd, the restaurant offers an entire suckling roast pig to-go. Chef de Cuisine Cory Morris stuffs a deboned pig with marinated pork belly (makes the meat extra tender and juicy), wraps it in banana leaf, and roasts it for six hours.

The suckling pig includes grilled green onions, herb-roasted fingerlings, and rosemary white beans. Half a pig is $220, and a whole $440. You must place the order 72 hours in advance for pick-up.

Mercat a la Planxa, 638 South Michigan Avenue (at Balbo Avenue); 312-765-0524.


Photo: Courtesy of Mercat a la Planxa
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