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Tailgating recipe showdown: Chicken sliders, pigs in blankets and more

If you're a tailgater, you probably have some go-to chili recipes. But how about fried chicken — or salmon —sliders? Add some spice to your next tailgating event with these kicked up recipes from chefs Beau MacMillan of Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and Ericka Burke of Volunteer Park Cafe in Seattle. Fried chicken slidersBy Beau MacMillan6 skin-on boneless chick

If you're a tailgater, you probably have some go-to chili recipes. But how about fried chicken — or salmon —sliders? Add some spice to your next tailgating event with these kicked up recipes from chefs Beau MacMillan of Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley, Arizona, and Ericka Burke of Volunteer Park Cafe in Seattle. 

Samantha Okazaki / Today

Fried chicken sliders
By Beau MacMillan

  • 6 skin-on boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons hot sauce
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Biscuits (see recipe below)

1. Cut each chicken breast into 2 to 3 pieces that approximately weigh 2-3 ounces each (just large enough to make a slider size sandwich).

2. In a large container, add buttermilk, hot sauce and about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper and mix well. Add the onion, green pepper and chicken and marinate overnight.

3. Season the flour with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika.

4. Dredge the chicken in the flour and fry at 350 degrees until nice and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove when golden brown and place in a 250-degree oven to finish cooking, about 5 additional minutes. 

5. When chicken is cooked assemble the sandwiches by placing one piece of chicken inside of each split biscuit. Add pickles to taste. 

Cheddar biscuits 

  • 3 pounds all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white or black)
  • 6 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions
  • 1 pound cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 cups buttermilk

1. In a large mixer fitted with a paddle, combine all dry ingredients. Add cubed butter and mix until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cheese and chives and mix until combined. 

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Add wet ingredients to the dry mixture all at once.

3. Mix until just combined. Do not over-mix.

4. Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured surface. 

5. Roll out to 1.5-inch thickness and cut into desired shape. 

6. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, rotating once during bake time. 

Samantha Okazaki / Today

Pork BLTs
By Beau MacMillan

  • 12 egg slider buns 
  • 1 cup hot sauce
  • 3 pounds fresh pork belly
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • leaves from 3 sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • Zest from 1 orange, lime and lemon 
  • 1 head crispy butter lettuce 

1. Make the rub by combining the zest, rosemary, sugar and salt. Rub the pork belly with the mixture and cure for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

2. Remove the pork from the rub, rinse and pat dry. Roast in 420 degree oven for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 and continue roasting for 1 additional hour.

3. Allow pork to cool and cut into bacon-like slabs (about 3 to 4 ounces each). Brush the bacon with hot sauce. 

Tomato jam
2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes 
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon chopped shallots

Combine all ingredients and cook to a paste. 

Arizona grilled shrimp and grits
1 poblano pepper
1 pound extra colossal (U10) shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1/2 ounce extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 squeeze lemon juice
Poblano grits (see recipe below)

Combine garlic, olive oil, smoked paprika, parsley and lemon juice and marinate shrimp in the mixture for 30 minutes, then grill. Serve over poblano grits. 

Poblano grits
1 cup Anson Mills grits
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter
1 cup roasted poblano peppers 
1 ounce goat cheese

Bring milk and butter to a light boil. Add grits and cook over low heat for 25 minutes. Add poblano peppers and goat cheese and season with salt and pepper. 

Samantha Okazaki / Today

Pigs in a blanket
By Erika Burke
Serves: 24

  • Puff pastry sheets (12 x 9-inch), cut into 3 x 3-inch squares
  • Caramelized onions (recipe follows)
  • Honey mustard (recipe follows)
  • Egg wash (recipe follows)
  • Fully cooked hot dogs or chorizo cut into 3 pieces per link
  • Sea salt to taste

For the caramelized onions:

  • 3 yellow onions, small dice
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup sherry cooking wine

Make the caramelized onions: Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add diced onions and season with salt. Stir onions to coat with butter. Once onions are translucent (approximately 6 minutes), add sugar and sherry wine. Continue to cook until all the sherry has evaporated. Remove from pan and cool.

For the honey mustard

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard

Make the honey mustard: Place ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Egg wash

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Make the egg wash: Place ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Make the pigs in blankets: On a clean counter, cut 24 3 x 3-inch squares of puff pastry. (Puff pastry should be cold/straight from fridge when you begin to work with it.) Place a dollop of honey mustard in the center of each puff pastry square. Place a small spoonful of the onions on top of the mustard. Place hot dog or chorizo piece in a line from corner to corner.

Fold the top and bottom edges of puff pastry into each other, securing with egg wash so that the dough sticks to itself. Repeat until they are all assembled.

Place on a buttered baking sheet. Brush each with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Preheat oven to 350 and then bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Samantha Okazaki / Today

Salmon sliders
By Erika Burke
Serves: 12

  • Salmon fillet, cut into 2-ounce portions
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Sriracha mayo (recipe follows)
  • Cabbage slaw (recipe follows)
  • 12 each slider buns or dinner rolls

Sriracha mayo:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or more if you like it spicy)

Make the Sriracha mayo: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Stores well refrigerated for 2 to 3 weeks.


  • 1 small green cabbage, julienned
  • 1 red onion, julienned
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 3 scallions (white and green parts), thinly chopped
  • Large handful of cilantro sprigs
  • Small handful of torn mint leaves
  • Salt to taste

Slaw dressing:

  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Salt to taste

Make slaw dressing: In a mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients, except oil. Drizzle oil in slowly while whisking. Season to taste. This dressing will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks.

Make the sliders: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, drizzle a baking pan with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Place the portioned salmon on the oiled tray. Sprinkle with salt and coriander. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the fish. Bake salmon for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from oven.  

Place slider buns or rolls in the oven to warm for a few minutes.

Place slaw ingredients in a bowl and toss liberally with the dressing. 

To assemble the sliders, liberally spread both sides of the buns with Sriracha mayo, top bottom bun with baked salmon, place cabbage slaw on top of salmon and top with top bun. Enjoy!

Samantha Okazaki / Today

Clam & bacon dip
By Erika Burke
Serves: 12 

  • 1 can of clams in juice (6.5 ounces), drained (reserve the clam juice)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 scallions (white and green parts), minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup chopped, crisp cooked bacon (about 6 pieces)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Minced the clams and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese, sour cream and Parmesan using a spatula. Add all remaining ingredients and mix well. Stir in reserved clam juice for desired flavor and consistency. Serve with pita chips, potato chips, baguette slices or celery sticks. Enjoy!