Grill the Competition - Columbus Edition

Following is an update from a post we ran last week leading up to the Columbus game. Several people in our parking lot wanted to know more about the marinade I used for the chops, and there was also an addition to the menu. So here it is. New sections are in italics.

Some of you may know my group this year is doing a "Grill the Competition" themed tailgate every match. For Columbus, deciding on a menu has been particularly difficult. In fact the easiest thing to decide was the dessert, since there's an iconic dessert connected with Columbus. The first two ideas that were floated to me I rejected because they don't seem like "grill food" and that's what I really love for tailgates. By the way, those two ideas were Skyline Chili (which is really more of a Cincinnati thing and is more like odd spaghetti than anything else) and Johnny Marzetti. The Marzetti is more authentic to Columbus, but it's a casserole made with noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef, and cheese. Sounds tasty, but not exactly something you'd cook on the grill.

The next thing we thought about is what gets served at Mapfre Stadium. I've been to Columbus for a college football game, and one of the iconic restaurants is a place called Schmidt's Sausage Haus, a great German place that has all kinds of sausages. I've eaten there and it's very good, and they also have concession booths at the soccer stadium, so that would be authentic. But when I first looked at the schedule, I earmarked Chicago as the hot dog and bratwurst match, so I was reluctant to double up on that. So finally I've settled on something suggested by a friend of mine who works for the state Department of Agriculture.

She told me that the two biggest agricultural exports from Ohio are pork and corn. And thus, this was what finally helped me settle on a menu.

Main Dish - Marinated Pork Loin Chops

I've got the basic idea for a marinade for this one with oil, soy sauce, garlic, and Dijon mustard. Dang that sounds good--I really shouldn't write these tailgate blogs on an empty stomach. I'll whip up the marinade on Friday night and get the loin chops into the fridge so they can soak up all the goodness for a full day before we put them on the grill.

Here's an update on the marinade, by request. People at the tailgate said the pork chops turned out so good they wanted more information on the marinade. Here's the ingredient list:

  • Olive oil
  • Zesty Italian salad dressing
  • Crushed garlic
  • Country style (course ground) Dijon mustard
  • Low sodium soy sauce
  • Ginger
  • Black pepper

When I got ready to make the marinade I just combined the liquids right in the container where I would marinate the pork loin chops. I added the crushed garlic and a couple of large spoonfuls of the Dijon mustard and then stirred that in to spread the spices around. Then I sprinkled in the black pepper and put in a teaspoon of the ginger and once again stirred that in. Finally, I put the pork chops into the container and sealed it with the lid. Before it went in the fridge on Friday afternoon I shook it up once. Then I shook it up again just before going to bed Friday night, and a couple of times on Saturday--the last being just before I put it in the cooler to head out to the stadium.

I let the chops sit in the marinade for close to 24 hours since we were cooking over charcoal. Charcoal can take a little longer to cook than a gas grill, and pork has to be cooked thoroughly, so making sure the chops soak up a lot of the marinade to get saturated with moisture is key. If you start with chops that are too dry, they can become like charred bricks when you cook them over the coals.

Veggie - Corn on the Cob

In addition to being the top food crop export from Ohio, corn on the cob is also yellow, which goes well with the Columbus colors--not that we've worried about that before but hey--it will work. I'll pre-butter the cobs and wrap them in foil on Saturday before we head to the stadium.

The pre-buttered corn came out fantastic. I used about a half-stick of butter for five full ears of corn, and when it melted down in the foil it just got down into all the kernels and tasted absolutely delicious. For any veggies I am going to do on the grill, I always wrap them in the aluminum foil with the shiny side in (next to the food). This is because I want the heat to radiate inward to help with the cooking. You could experiment with the shiny side out and see if you like it better, but this is the way I do it.

Surprise Appearance: Johnny Marzetti

We do like being authentic, and a buddy of mine has taken this idea of regional cuisine for each tailgate to heart. He felt like the pork loin chops were a little too generic Midwestern, so he looked for something that actually originated in Columbus. He had mentioned Johnny Marzetti when we first looked at Columbus on the schedule, but I like cooking stuff on the grill instead of just reheating it.  You see, Johnny Marzetti is a casserole that originated in the 1890s in an Italian restaurant in Columbus called "Marzetti's." The classic ingredients are macaroni noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef (or sausage), and a topping of melted cheese. It's some good eating.

My buddy looked at some of the optional ingredients and in addition to mixing both ground beef and sausage into the casserole, he also added celery for some additional crunch. Our buddy who made the casserole detests anything to do with the SEC when it comes to college sports, so of course that led several people to start calling the casserole "Johnny Manziel" all afternoon, much to his chagrin. But it turned out delicious and was a big hit along with the pork chops.

Dessert - Buckeye Candies 

Buckeye candies are named after the Buckeye nut that also serves as the Ohio State mascot. While the nuts are poisonous, the candies are sinfully delicious, being essentially chocolate and peanut butter. In looking around town, I've informed our dessert committee that there appears to be only one place in town to buy them, so they may have to make them. The shop that sells these is called Sassafras Sweet Shoppe on Morse Avenue in Winter Park. 

The other option is a no-bake recipe that I found online at RealSimple.com. Indeed, it looks pretty simple. It just requires some peanut butter, chocolate, melted butter, and confectioners' sugar. I'm not sure how many of these we will eat, but probably we'll all eat more than we should...

Beverages - Locals Only

While we "Grill the Competition" in our tailgates for each match, we drink locally. Every game day we make sure we get our stash of adult beverages from Hourglass Brewery in Longwood or Orlando Brewing just south of downtown. In addition to the adult beverages, we always have water and Gatorade in our coolers to be sure we don't get dehydrated during the match.

So that's our tailgate plan for this week. It should be tasty, and hopefully it has the same effect that the chicken fajitas did against the LA Galaxy! Vamos Orlando! Crush the Crew!