He may be a renowned chef, cookbook author and no-nonsense judge on Chopped, but when it comes to tailgating, Aarón Sánchez is just like every other footfall fan on game day. “Everyone thinks that, ’cause I’m a chef, I’m going to want all this really decadent stuff,” Aarón told FN Dish recently. “No, sometimes you can’t mess with the formula of a tailgate.” We recently caught up with him in New York City at an event hosted by Ortega, where he was celebrating his partnership with the Mexican food company, and he explained that there should be just a few classic eats at every tailgate spread — not over-the-top dishes or fancy fare.
“Ideally you want things to be eat-with-your-hands. At tailgates I don’t think there should be any silverware out,” Aarón noted. “I always think that you need to have a nice variety, so, like, I always try to have something vegetarian, something with meat, something with chicken.” Some of his favorites include turkey wings and nachos. “These are all essential elements in tailgating,” he said, explaining that these fuss-free options are ideal for casual entertaining, as they take the worry out of properly timing a multiple-component meal. At this week’s Ortega event, Aarón prepared several of his party-ready bites, including Sticky Salsa Turkey Wings (pictured above) and Mini Meatball Fiesta Flats (pictured below).
Tacos are another go-to game-day pick in many homes, and while the classic beef-and-cheese filling may be a family favorite, Aarón says it’s indeed possible to update this Mexican staple with creative ingredients and a crunchy shell. He suggested tender lamb and lobster as two modern fillings, but he explained that adding texture is an easy way to create a next-level taco, which is why he enjoys Ortega’s hard shells and Fiesta Flats. “The fact that these are hard [shelled] … is a lot of fun, ’cause it keeps your palate engaged,” he said.