Sweet Ike Taylor Tots with Curry Heinz Ketchup


Okayyy, I'll calm down and save the full-on mania for the regular season - but, I'm so excited that preseason games are finally happening! As I mentioned when I began this project seven short weeks ago, preseason = appetizers. And by appetizers, I mean golden, fried, finger foods. I'm sure you would expect nothing less at this point. We have a lot to get through in this post, so we're going to start with a recap of the first preseason matchup.

Game Bites
New York Giants @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Oof. So, this one wasn't pretty. Preseason games tend to be a little rocky, as teams give limited playing time to the seasoned veterans and rookies debut in their first (and for some, possibly their last) NFL games. As Coach Tomlin put it in the post-game press conference, the biggest issues were "Steelers defeating Steelers." Errors, errors, everywhere errors. We're talking a blocked punt, a safety, missed pick-6 opportunities, careless penalties, the works. Here's what happened:

First Quarter: PIT offense began by successfully doing something that they struggled with last season - converting on third down. Roethlisberger completed a pass to David Johnson for a first down. On the next set of downs, Roethlisberger was sacked (on 3rd and 16), bringing out the punting team. Then it got ugly. On the punt, a flag was thrown for the kicking team having an illegal man downfield (Marshall McFadden, #40), forcing the Steelers to re-punt. On the second punt attempt, the kick was blocked and picked up by NYG defensive end, Damontre Moore. 

PIT defensive team saw the field for the first time and cornerback Ike Taylor served up solid coverage on 3rd and goal, holding the Giants to a field goal. 

On the Steelers' second drive, running back LaRod Stephens-Howling broke out with three consecutive runs. After a pass completion to Sanders, Stephens-Howling saw three more hand-offs for a fresh set of downs. The drive ended with a PIT field goal attempt, tying the game at 3-3. 

NYG back on offense, big fat touchdown pass from Manning to Cruz. Boo.

On the Steelers' third drive, Bruce Gradkowski came in at QB. The first quarter wrapped up with a first down run by Jonathan Dwyer. 

Second Quarter: Rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton saw his first pass on the first play of the second quarter. Tom Coughlin challenged the ruling that Wheaton maintained control of the ball, and won. 

Let's see, what else... safety Robert Golden made a nice pass block, but should have been able to capitalize on it with an interception. 

Finally, a bright spot - rookie Jarvis Jones comes up with a fumble recovery! Gradkowski goes for it on 4th and 2 and converts with a short pass to Wheaton. On the next set, they fail to convert, Suisham succeeds at another field goal attempt. 

At the end of the half, outside linebacker Jason Worilds received back-to-back penalties for (1) roughing the passer, then (2) unnecessary roughness. The Giants make a 30-yard field goal attempt with 5 seconds remaining in the half.  

Score at the half: 13-6, Giants

Third Quarter: As the third and fourth sets of players made their way on to the field throughout the second half, it got shakier and my thoughts began to wander to cheesecake and popcorn. Oops. 

Oh, remember Curtis Painter? You know, that abysmal season when Peyton Manning was out and the Colts had... you guessed it, Curtis Painter playing QB. Well, now he's backup QB to little brother Eli. He also got SACKED by four Steeler defenders, bringing up 4th and 15 on his first drive. 

Then Landry Jones came in as QB for the Steelers and it wasn't any better. On his first snap, he had a botched hand-off with Baron Batch, resulting in a safety. Ugh. 

More special miscues from special teams - David Gilreath attempts a fair catch of the Giants' punt, but the ball bounced off of his pads and it's another turnover in the Giants' favor. 

Jarvis Jones made a nice tackle with 11 seconds left in the third quarter, bringing up fourth down for the Giants. 

Fourth Quarter: Praise Saint Myron! Linebacker Adrian Robinson makes a fumble recovery in the end zone for the first PIT TD of the game. 

Fourth PIT QB enters game - John Parker who? John Parker Wilson. He got sacked and went nowhere on the drive.

Giants' ball, linebacker Terence Garvin is the second defender to tip a pass but fails to come away with an interception. NYG make 47 yard field goal attempt. 

Tomlin gets an opportunity to toss a challenge flag on the field when JD Woods makes a nearly out-of-bounds catch. Refs review, Tomlin wins challenge, ruling on the field is reversed. Woods gets the catch.

Finally, John Parker Wilson makes progress into Giants' territory - then gets sacked repeatedly for a loss of 20 yards. The end.

Final Score: 18-13, Giants

For this game, I give you my homemade, potato chip-crusted, stovetop-fried, sweet pa-tater tot recipe! They're crunchy, sweet with a little kick, and all-around pretty awesome. This week was a home game at Heinz Field, so I whipped up some Curry Heinz Ketchup to compliment the sweet potato tots. Lots of flavors in the huddle. It's best to prepare the ketchup ahead of time so that the flavors really get cozy in the fridge for a few hours, but you can serve it on the spot if you're pressed for time. Cornerback Ike Taylor worked his way into the recipe title, so let's take a quick look at him before we make the tots. 

Taylor is another career-long Steeler, thus far, having been on the roster for the past TEN seasons, making the upcoming year his eleventh. Taylor played under both Head Coach Bill Cowher from 2003-2006 and current Head Coach Mike Tomlin from 2007 to the present. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion (XL and XLIII), three-time AFC champion (2005, 2008, 2010) and at age 33, is still considered to be "one of the best conditioned defensive backs in the NFL." (Neal Coolong, Behind the Steel Curtain) He has logged a total of 557 tackles and 14 interceptions in his ten seasons. He also hosts a weekly, hour-long sports talk show on TribLIVE Radio and conducted a really fantastic and heartwarming (yes, heartwarming) interview of Chairman Rooney this past off-season. During the interview, Chairman Rooney describes his introduction to Taylor as a rookie in 2003 - 

"I found him to be a good person. I thought, 'He's a Steeler, he's the kind of people we want here.'"

I hope Ike likes tater tots!

As a final note, I would like to address the torn rotator cuff injury that Plaxico Burress incurred during practice on Thursday - the same day that I posted the Plaxico Straw-Burress Cheesecake Bite recipe. Crap. Well, I actually posted the recipe Wednesday night, but he did retweet it on Thursday afternoon, presumably prior to practice. Am I worried about the implications? Maybe a little. More so, I'm concerned about the injury and hope that Plax makes a speedy recovery. One unfortunate coincidence, a hex does not make. If a second player falls victim to injury on the same day that I create a snack for them, then maybe I'll have to reconsider my game plan. Get well soon, Plax!!

Plates and placemats courtesy of Audy's Steelers Stuff!

Sweet Ike Taylor Tots with Spicy Heinz Dip
A Stiller Nation Snacks N'at Original

For the tots
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
2-3 cups crushed potato chips (about half a bag)
canola oil for frying

For the ketchup
1 cup Heinz Ketchup
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin 

Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sauté scallions and curry powder for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in ketchup, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place in airtight container and store in fridge until ready to serve. 

Peel sweet potatoes and shred with medium shred disc in food processor or with box grater. Put shredded potatoes on a plate and pat with paper towels to absorb excess moisture. Place in large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix in the egg, then flour, then cayenne and paprika (make sure you really mix it all in there).

Heat canola oil in cast-iron pan over high heat for about 10 minutes. You can test the temperature by dropping a small about of potato mixture into oil - if it sizzles and begins to brown around the edges, you're good (if it doesn't sizzle, let it heat up a little more and if it starts smoking, you had better cool it down a bit). 

Begin to form palm-sized tots out of potato mixture, then roll in potato chip crumbs to coat and carefully drop in hot oil. Let tots fry for about 3-5 minutes per side and turn over with slotted spoon when you notice the edges start to brown. After both sides have fried, remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towel-lined plates to cool. Fry in batches of 4-6 at a time until potato mixture is gone. 

Serve with Curry Ketchup!

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