Celebrity Chef Melissa Cookston Helps You Score Big on Game Day

Thursday 19th, September 2019 / 13:31 Written by
Celebrity Chef Melissa Cookston Helps You Score Big on Game Day
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Game Day Appetizers & Tailgating Dishes by BBQ Hall of Famer and Celebrity Chef Melissa Cookston

It’s time to huddle up! Game days are almost here, and celebrity chef Melissa Cookston has smokin’ appetizers to share with you this football season!

Taken from Cookston’s cookbook, “Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” and “Smokin’ Hot in the South”, the below award-winning recipes for zesty pimento cheese, smoked pork meatballs, bacon wrapped shrimp with Thai chili glaze, grilled pineapple bacon salsa and maple chipotle baked beans from scratch will help you go the distance and into the red zone this football season so that you can score big on game days!

“Everyone in the South has a favorite pimento and cheese recipe, or several!  This recipe for a zesty pimento and cheese is one of my favorites.  It’s a very simple recipe, and so much better than store bought.”

Pimento and cheese, also known as just “pimento cheese” around these parts, is a staple in the south.  It gets served at almost every social function or afternoon tea.  Usually, I see it made into tea sandwiches, or served with in a bowl with plenty of crackers.  Personally, it is my favorite thing to eat at a BBQ contest!  When I have my face in a BBQ pit for hours, the last thing in the world I want is hot food.  A simple, cool pimento and cheese sandwich really hits the spot!”

Make It Zesty!

“If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m not a fan of bland.  Even a dish such as pimento and cheese can be jazzed up slightly.  Instead of the normal little jar of diced pimento peppers, I like to either roast my own peppers or purchase some roasted piquillo peppers, which have a bit more of a freshness and flavor to them than pimentos.”

“I also love to add my homemade candied jalapeños.  You can find my recipe for those in my book Smokin’ Hot in the South.  They are one of my favorite things, and quite addictive. Candied Jalapeños will add a little bit of spice, some sweetness and crunch.  For a bit of spice, I drop in a couple of tablespoons of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce, or you can use your favorite hot sauce.”

Make it Creamy!

“The one trick to making your pimento and cheese creamy is using an electric mixer.  Leave your cream cheese sitting out for about an hour before making this recipe.  Then, add it with your mayo and let that mixer run.  I like to let it whip for about 3-4 minutes on a medium high speed.  After that, you’ll add in the rest of your ingredients and mix for another 2-3 minutes on a medium high speed.  The other option you have for creaminess is the cream cheese/mayo ratio.  I like it creamy, but with enough body that it’s nicely spreadable but can also be used to top a burger and melt some.  For that, I usually use one 8-ounce block of cream cheese to a half cup of mayo.  If you want to go creamier than that simply up the mayo another couple of tablespoons.

And Voila, you have pimento and cheese!”

ZEST PIMENTO AND CHEESE

  • 8 oz cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 2.5 TBS roasted piquillo peppers diced
  • 2 TBS candied jalapeños optional
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1.5 TBS Tabasco Chipotle Sauce or your favorite hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  1. Place the room temperature cream cheese and mayo in a mixing bowl and mix on medium high for 3-4 minutes
  2. Add in peppers, jalapeños, garlic, salt and pepper and mix for 1 minute
  3. Add in shredded cheddar and mix for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using.

“These delicious Smoked Pork Meatballs make a great appetizer or snack! I recently cooked these up on my Pit Boss K22 Ceramic Grill. I like them just a bit spicy, so I used a bit of hot sauce in the recipe and a spicy BBQ sauce to glaze them. However, feel free to adjust them as you like. In this recipe I also call for “BBQ Seasoning” and “BBQ Sauce.” Feel free to use your favorite types. You can also use my recipe for Sweet Memphis BBQ Rub.”

SMOKED PORK MEATBALLS

Chef Melissa Cookston
“Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” recipe by Chef Melissa Cookston
  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 2 TBS hot sauce adjust for taste
  • 1 TBS BBQ Seasoning
  • 2 TBS worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TBS ketchup
  • 1/3 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup finely diced poblano pepper
  • 2 TBS panic bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup BBQ Sauce
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients except BBQ Sauce. Mix thoroughly, then roll into 1.5-2 oz balls (depending on your preference.) Spray a round cookie sheet with non-stick spray, then place balls on sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Start smoker and heat to 250 degrees. Add cookie sheet to grill and cook for approximately 50 minutes to 1 hour. Check internal temperature of meatballs to ensure they have reached 165 degrees.
  3. Remove meatballs from cookie sheet and place in a pan with at least a 1″ lip. Add sauce and gently roll meatballs to coat. Return to smoker for 10 minutes to allow BBQ sauce to “set.” Enjoy!

“Gulf shrimp, bacon and a grill – what could be better?  Glaze said shrimp with a sprightly Thai chili sauce, that’s what!”

“If you are going to cook shrimp, be picky. There are a lot of shrimp on the market that I won’t buy- mainly raised in Vietnam. Regardless of what the FDA says, I don’t trust imported shrimp and steer clear. In addition to not being sure of the handling of the shrimp, the texture of most imported shrimp is not near as good as domestic shrimp. particularly Gulf shrimp. I always look for wild-caught shrimp from Texas through Alabama. I like 21-25 count shrimp (the count means the number per pound on average) as I think they are the best combination of size and flavor.”

“Ok, enough shrimp ranting. Bacon wrapped shrimp is a classic dish as it is one of those combinations where each item makes the finished dish so much better than the parts. The fresh, briny flavor of the shrimp, along with the succulence of bacon are almost perfect. Together, they hit nirvana when you add a nice glaze from a spicy-sweet Thai chili sauce and a bit of char from the grill. This may be a little prep heavy, but it will be worth it!”

“This dish will work well as either an appetizer or an entree, so don’t hesitate to try it out at your next meal! Enjoy!”

Chef Melissa Cookston
“Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” recipe by Chef Melissa Cookston

BACON WRAPPED SHRIMP WITH THAI CHILI GLAZE

  • 8 oz cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 2.5 TBS roasted piquillo peppers diced
  • 2 TBS candied jalapeños optional
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1.5 TBS Tabasco Chipotle Sauce or your favorite hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  1. Peel shrimp, leaving tails on. Devein shrimp.
  2. Cut bacon slices in half, then wrap around shrimp and secure with a toothpick.
  3. Heat grill to medium high. Place shrimp on grill and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until bacon is crisping up.
  4. Glaze shrimp with Thai chili sauce, allow to “tighten” for 1 minute, then flip over and glaze other side. Allow glaze to tighten another minute and remove from grill. Enjoy!

“My grilled pineapple bacon salsa is a versatile dish. I love to make this when we are grilling skirt steak for tacos or spoon it over some grilled pork chops. I have loved pineapple ever since a trip to Hawaii many years ago. A pineapple, absolutely fresh from the orchard, is an amazing thing. I have not had a pineapple as fresh or juicy since, but they’re close enough to still love them.”

Chef Melissa Cookston
“Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” recipe by Chef Melissa Cookston

GRILLED PINEAPPLE BACON SALSA

  • 1/2 pineapple cored and cut into spears
  • 4 slices bacon cooked crispy
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbs Jalapeno diced
  • 1/2 lime juiced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper diced
  • 1/3 red onion diced
  • 2 tbs Cilantro diced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper
  1. Cut peel from pineapple. Core, and cut into spears.
  2. Using a paper towel, pat dry the pineapple spears. Place on a hot grill and sear on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side.
  3. Remove from grill and let cool. Assemble all other ingredients except bacon in a mixing bowl. Chop pineapple and add to bowl. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.
  4. Immediately before serving, add bacon and stir into salsa. Enjoy!

“Good side items at any BBQ party are mandatory, and with a little work can be the star of the show!  At any outdoor picnic, baked beans are good. However, maple chipotle baked beans made from scratch are awesome! Revel in the recipe requests from your friends and family, soak up the adoration from those poor souls still making baked beans from a can. Yes, you too can win “Battle Baked Bean” (and fool everybody into thinking it was hard work!)”

MAPLE CHIPOTLE BAKED BEANS FROM SCRATCH

Chef Melissa Cookston
“Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” recipe by Chef Melissa Cookston
  • 1 lb northern beans soaked overnight (or see instructions above)
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper green or red, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/4 cup Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
  • 1 TBS Basic BBQ Rub 
  1. Drain soaked beans, then place in stockpot and cover with water to about 1″ above beans. Bring to a boil then simmer for 1 hour, adding water if necessary. Drain beans.
  2. Cook Smithfield bacon in a pan until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, leaving rendered fat in pan. Crumble bacon after it cools.
  3. Add onions and bell peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened but not translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, then remove from heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large baking dish add beans, onion/pepper/garlic mix from skillet and remaining ingredients. Mix well. 
  5. Bake for 1-1/2 hours or until beans are tender and liquids have thickened around beans. Serve! 

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