Grill Up a Game Changer

Simple ingredients make game day great

Grilling and game day go hand-in-hand, but if your tailgating menu needs a makeover, it may be time to explore new ways to bring bold flavor to your favorite dishes and drinks.

Chef Justin Smillie, of Upland in New York City and author of “Slow Fires: Mastering New Ways to Braise, Roast and Grill,” relies on a good quality vinegar and roasted garlic butter spiked with a bold flavor like Tabasco Sauce to bring heat and add life to the flavors on the grill for game day.

“I love to use Tabasco Sauce as a flavor enhancer, much the same as you would use a good vinegar,” Smillie said. “It’s a sauce that helps draw out and accentuate flavor.”

Before planning your next game day bash, heed these additional meal prep tips from Smillie:

  • Work with ingredients and techniques that you are already comfortable with and then accent with a new idea.

  • Have foods set up and nearly ready when guests arrive so they only require a few final touches at the grand reveal before you can enjoy the meal.

  • Keep pantry items on hand that bring a little nuance and subtlety to a dish, such as a good vinegar or olive oil with a subtle perfume.

  • Start early, plan ahead and build flavors. The success of good barbecue never starts the day of; it’s a labor of love that only gets better with time.

Find more recipes to spice up your tailgating menu at

Tequila Grilled Shrimp

Recipe courtesy of Chef Justin Smillie of Upland restaurant in New York City

Servings: 4

  • 2          red bell peppers, stemmed and de-seeded

  • 4          limes, cut in half

  • 6          tablespoons Tabasco Original Red Sauce

  • 4          tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for the grill

  • 1/4       cup silver tequila

  • 25        cilantro sprigs, chiffonade

  • 1/2       cup chives, cut into long, thin strips

  • 6          cloves garlic, grated

  • 1          piece ginger (1-inch long), grated

  • 1/8       cup fresh lime juice, plus zest

  • 2          tablespoons agave

  • kosher salt, to taste

  • 16        jumbo head-on and tail-on shrimp, peeled and deveined

  1. Heat grill to medium-high heat and place peppers over flame until charred. Repeat with limes, charring flesh side then set aside. In food processor, puree charred, roasted peppers 30 seconds.

  2. In large mixing bowl, combine pureed red peppers, pepper sauce, olive oil, tequila, cilantro, chives, garlic, ginger, lime juice, agave and salt over ice and allow to stand 20 minutes. Remove from ice, submerge shrimp in marinade and allow to stand 30-40 minutes so marinade can fully penetrate shrimp.

  3. Heat grill to medium-high heat and grill shrimp 2 minutes per side until completely cooked.

  4. Serve immediately with grilled limes as garnish.


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