This Is the Only Grilling Tip You Need for Your Next Game Day

Updated 06/07/18

With fall quickly approaching, it’s time to gear up for one of our favorite activities of the season: tailgating. Besides the game itself, the food is arguably the most anticipated part of the event—but we have to admit that our go-to sliders-and–chicken wings menu has become a bit stale.

So in hopes of elevating our spread this year, we reached out to award-winning chef Curtis Stone, owner of two popular Los Angeles restaurants. Gwen—equal parts butcher shop and fine-dining eatery—focuses primarily on meat dishes with seasonal sides, while Maude features a new single ingredient–based 10-course menu each month.

curtis stone

We figured that a person who serves up juicy steaks and chops for a living was sure to have an opinion on what to serve at our upcoming game-day parties, and we weren’t wrong—the culinary craftsman showed us how to whip up a few dishes that are sure to seriously elevate our next tailgate. The best part? The entire menu can be prepared in advance, so you can spend less time cooking and more time eating (oh, and watching the game, of course).

Ready to go beyond the burger? Discover Stone’s exclusive tailgate recipes that’ll make you the star of the show.

meat spices

Before he got started, we asked Stone about the inspiration for his spread. “We Aussies love our lamb, so we [leaned into that] here with an elegant, luxurious cut of meat and a great cocktail,” he shares. While he tells us that his current favorite dish to serve is pork, for a tailgate, he suggested barbecuing lamb ribs for a truly unexpected dish; plus it takes way less time to cook—just under 30 minutes on the grill, to be exact.

On The Grill: Lamb Ribs

cooking ribs

You may have never considered making your own spice rub, but it’s so easy to do, and it lends a unique flavor to your lamb or other meats. Plus, you can prepare it up to three days in advance. One technique we picked up from Stone for ensuring maximum flavor is to create thin cuts in the lamb on both sides; this helps prevent the majority of the seasoning from ending up on your grill. Another trick Stone endorses for amateur cooks is using a digital thermometer to read the temperature of both the grill and the meat.

The end result: the most decadent ribs we’ve ever had. Your neighboring tailgaters are about to be incredibly jealous.

lamb ribs

Simple Side: Labneh Dip

lemon zesting

Next up is a recipe involving labneh (a Middle Eastern yogurt-based specialty), and we love that it can be used either as an accompaniment for the lamb or as a fancy dip for your chips and crudité. Hey, if the chef permits potato chips, say no more. No matter what you choose to serve it with, Stone suggests preparing the side dish at least eight hours in advance to give the flavors time to meld. His final tip should induce sighs of relief from picky eaters and lazy shoppers alike: “Leave out the herbs that may not be to your liking, and incorporate others that are,” he advises.

labneh dip

Creative Cocktail: Passion Fruit Fizz

chef curtis stone

Since no game-day menu (or any menu, for that matter) is complete without a signature cocktail, Stone created one that has definitely convinced us to skip basic beer for our next tailgate. He chose to center it around passion fruit because it’s currently in season. He also says it was one of his favorite snacks as a kid—the true sign of a chef in the making. His expert tip at picking a perfectly ripe passion fruit? “They taste best when they look their worst,” he advises.

passion fruit cocktail

At first glance, the recipe seems a bit complicated. However, as we watch him mix and stir with ease, we quickly realize that it takes longer to read the ingredient list than it does to actually make the drink. While the whey-foam component is certainly optional, he describes it as “a bit of a magic trick.” We couldn’t help but agree as we sipped on the final creation. The sweet vodka-based concoction pairs nicely with the smokiness of the ribs and the creaminess of the labneh, and it can be transported in glass jars for easy game-day serving.

tailgate meal

As we said our goodbyes to the chef (and picked up a few chocolate croissants and salamis from his butcher shop for the road), we couldn’t help but get excited about putting our own culinary skills to the test. And with a menu as elevated, delicious, and surprisingly simple to execute as Stone’s, we may just have to make tailgating a part of our routine even after fall ends.

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Servings: 8

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients for the Spice Rub:

2 tbsp. black peppercorns

2 tbsp. coriander seeds

2 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tbsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. kosher salt.

Ingredients for the Lamb:

4 lamb racks (about 5 lbs. total)

2 tbsp. olive oil

Directions for the Spice Rub:

In a small frying pan over medium-high heat, stir peppercorns, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds for about 2 minutes, or until spices are toasted. Transfer to spice grinder, and grind to fine powder. In small bowl, mix freshly ground spices with paprika, cayenne, and kosher salt.

Directions for the Lamb:

Preheat the barbecue to medium-high heat. Just before grilling lamb, turn burners on one half of grill off. Coat lamb with oil, and sprinkle spice mixture all over lamb. Grill lamb uncovered over direct heat, turning as needed, for about 8 minutes, or until brown all over.

Transfer lamb to indirect heat, cover grill, and cook 20 to 24 minutes, or until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of lamb registers 125° for medium-rare doneness. The internal temperature of the grill will rise from 300° to 400° as the lamb cooks. Rest lamb on cutting board 8 minutes. Carve lamb racks into chops, and serve.

Serves: 8

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups labneh

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp. Calabrian chiles in oil, chopped

1 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

2 tsp. fresh tarragon, chopped

1 tsp. each fresh oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme; finely chopped 

1 tsp. Aleppo pepper

1 lemon, zested, juiced

Directions:

In small bowl, mix labneh, olive oil, Calabrian chiles, chopped herbs, Aleppo pepper, lemon zest, and 4 teaspoons of lemon juice.

Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.

Servings: 8 cocktails

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Ingredients for the Passion Fruit Syrup:

1 cup fresh strained passion fruit juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Ingredients for the Passion Fruit Cocktail Batch:

12 oz. vodka

12 oz. passion fruit syrup

8 oz. fresh lemon juice

4 oz. Aperol

Ice

Dehydrated passion fruit seeds, ground into powder (optional)

Ingredients for the Whey Foam (optional):

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1 leaf silver gelatin

Special Tools:

Cheese cloths

Fine mesh strainer

iSi whipper

Cream chargers

Directions for the Cocktail:

In small saucepan over medium heat, combine passion fruit juice and sugar. Bring mixture to a simmer, whisking to dissolve sugar. When sugar has dissolved, remove from heat. Transfer syrup to bowl, and refrigerate until chilled.

In a resealable container, stir vodka, lemon juice, Aperol, and chilled passion fruit syrup. Chill until ready to serve.

Discharge about 2 tablespoons of whey foam, if using, into each glass. 

For each cocktail, combine 1/2 cup cocktail batch and 6 ice cubes in cocktail shaker. Place top on shaker, and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, or until shaker is frosty and mixture is frothy. Strain cocktail through shaker top into glass (foam will rise). Sift some ground passion fruit seed on top, if desired, and serve. Repeat for remaining cocktails.

Directions for the Whey Foam:

In small saucepan, add buttermilk. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until buttermilk solids have separated from liquid whey.

Line fine-mesh strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth, and place over small bowl. Pour separated buttermilk through strainer. Transfer whey to refrigerator to cool completely. Discard buttermilk solids.

Let gelatin soften in ice-cold water for 3 minutes, or until soft. Drain softened gelatin, and combine in small saucepan with 1 cup whey. Place over low heat, whisking to melt gelatin. Transfer mixture to refrigerator to set, about 2 hours.

Transfer whey mixture to iSi whipper, and load with 2 cream chargers. Store in refrigerator or cooler until ready to serve.

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Tell us: What are your favorite game-day menu items?

Visit Curtis Stone's Los Angeles restaurants, GwenLA.com and MaudeRestaurant.com. Content created exclusively for American Express Card Members.

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