College Football: 12 Great Tailgating Recipes to Try Each Week
One of the great things about college football is the tailgating. Rather than a simple sporting event, college football becomes a day-long, or sometimes several-days-long, festival.
The best part is, it happens every week from early September to early December.
There are over 650 NCAA football programs across the United States (and now Canada, too). That means there are probably more than 650 different opinions on what is the best tailgate food.
Each region has its own flavor, and each school has its own traditions. But if you're looking to mix things up a bit this season, here are 12 great recipes that will get you through the season.
Note: All of the recipes used serve four people unless noted. To increase the size, simply double the proportions to serve eight, triple to serve twelve, and so on.
Week One: Easing in
When you finally have the chance to haul out the old tailgating grill, you might be a bit rusty when it comes to your grilling skills. Not to worry. We're going to start off slowly, building up your confidence before we try something really challenging.
Remember, just because it's simple doesn't mean it won't be good.
For the opening week, we'll start off with an old favorite: Hamburgers—with a twist.
You didn't think we'd just have plain old hamburgers, did you?
For four burgers, you'll need 1-1/2 pound of ground round, 1/2 cup of cooked and minced bacon, 1/2 cup of your favorite barbeque sauce (we use “Bone Suckin' Sauce”), and 1 small minced onion.
Mix the ingredients together, shape into patties, and grill over prepared grill until done to taste. It's best to top this burger with steak sauce, but plain old ketchup will do, along with all of your favorite hamburger toppings. For a slightly higher skill level, you can include cheese in the patty, or if all else fails, simply add a slice to the top.
Add your favorite tailgating sides—such as baked beans—and you and the gang will be enjoying a better-than-ordinary burger.
Week Two: Something Sweeter
Tailgating isn't just about the meat. Okay, it's mostly about the meat. But most of us like a little treat every now and then, and having discovered this little treat while tailgating, it seemed sensible to include it here.
You'll need pancake batter and the requisite ingredients (although it's best to use “instant” batter in this case), Oreo cookies and a small at-home deep-fryer. That's right, we're deep-frying some Oreos.
It's pretty simple. Mix up the pancake batter. Coat the Oreos. Fry until golden brown.
Just remember that this tiny little treat is packed with fat and calories, so if you're on a diet, you should probably avoid these little pieces of perfection at all costs.
If you're not on a diet, eat up. You'll need those extra calories when the weather turns cold anyway, right?
Week Three: High Class Tailgating
We've had burgers, and we've had fried cookies, so week three will be used to showcase the fact that red-blooded tailgaters can have a little blue-blood food once in a while.
For our grilled, stuffed portobello mushrooms, you'll need the following: four large portobello mushrooms, 12 ounces of baby spinach (remember to wash it before you leave for the stadium), 1 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1/4 of diced black olives, 2 minced cloves of garlic, salt, black pepper and olive oil.
You're going to need some extra equipment for this recipe, but your skill and preparation will really impress your buddies, not to mention the ladies. In a saucepan, cook the spinach until it's wilted (about two minutes), constantly stirring. Remove the spinach from the heat and drain. Add olive oil to taste, as well as garlic and onion to the pan. Cook until the mixture is tender, then add the tomatoes (both ripe and dried), olives, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another two to three minutes.
While the grill is heating, remove the stems from the mushrooms, and cut off the black tips. Brush olive oil onto the mushroom caps, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the caps on medium heat for four to six minutes, and remove from the grill. Fill the caps with the spinach and tomato mixture. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs with salt and pepper, and use that mixture to top the mushroom cap. Put the mushrooms back on the grill, and cook them for another five to ten minutes over medium heat.
Remove and serve, and watch how impressed your fellow fans will become with your football culinary skills.
Week Four: A Midwestern Favorite
The season is now in full swing, and it's also the time of year when the harvest has come in. Depending on your location, there's a decent chance that you'll be driving past a farmer's market or roadside farm stand on your way to the game. Now would be a perfect chance to pick up some ingredients for our next recipe.
Grilled corn on the cob is a great American classic, and is a real crowd-pleaser at tailgaters. The ingredient list this week is pretty simple. Fresh corn (remember to leave the husks intact), butter and your choice of herbs.
Again, remember not to remove the husks. This is the most important step, and the most oft-repeated mistake. Keeping the corn in the husks allows the moisture to remain in the corn as it cooks, and prevents the corn from burning on the grill. Burned corn not only looks bad, but it tastes like it looks. You'll quickly destroy your parking lot culinary reputation.
While keeping the husks intact, try and remove as much of the corn silk as possible (that stringy stuff in the corn). After you have removed as much silk as you can, soak the whole cob in water for about 20 minutes. While the corn is soaking, you can mix up your butter concoction. Take your favorite herbs (experimenting is part of the fun) and mix them thoroughly in softened butter.
Once you take the corn out of the water, peel back (but not off) the husks, and coat the corn with your signature herbal butter. Now, cover the corn back up with the attached husks, and tie the husks in place with a spare, thin piece of husk near the top of the cob.
Place the corn on the grill for about 15 minutes, and remember to periodically rotate the corn.
Week Five: Adding Some Spice
At the risk of offending LSU fans, we're going to try our hands at a cajun-spiced recipe. Most of the country doesn't live in Louisiana, and most of the country isn't intimately familiar with the various kinds of cajun spices and recipes. So our friends in Baton Rouge will have to forgive us while we muddle through. Hopefully, the folks down in the bayou will find this at least palatable.
This recipe is best when you have enough time to prepare it. There are some schools that (gasp) limit tailgating hours—some to as little as four hours (for shame!). If you're heading to one of these locations, this probably is a recipe that you'll need to prepare a bit at home before you leave.
From start to finish, this recipe will take at least a couple hours to complete.
You're going to need the following: 4 pounds of pork spareribs, 3 tablespoons of chili powder (more to taste), 3 teaspoons of black pepper, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of onion powder, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1 teaspoon of oregano.
Mix the dry ingredients, trim and clean the ribs. Rub the ribs with the dry mix, and let the ribs sit for at least one hour. Preheat the grill, and cook the ribs over medium heat for 45 minutes. Turn the ribs once. You'll need to keep a close eye on your ribs to ensure that they don't burn. There's nothing worse than ribs with a crispy coating. If you're new to ribs, a good rule of thumb is to put a knife through the meat between the ribs. If it passes through easily, and there's no pink visible, they're done.
This recipe is surprising simple. It's easy enough that rib novices should be able to handle it without ruining perfectly good meat, yet delicious enough that even rib experts will enjoy the results.
For extra seasoning tips, consult the nearest LSU fan.
Week Six: Halftime
By this time of the year, the weather has definitely taken a turn for the colder. As the mercury drops, add a little extra heat in your life. So as we reach the half way point of the season, we'll kick up the heat a notch with some grilled seafood stuffed jalapenos.
This is a pretty quick and painless recipe, for which you'll need: 18 jalapenos, 1/4 pound of shrimp, 1/4 of crab meat, 1/4 cup of finely diced onion, 4 slices of bacon, salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Start by cutting the bacon into pieces about one inch in length. Sauté (cook in a skillet) the bacon, garlic, and onion with olive oil for about two minutes. Then, add the seafood, salt and pepper to taste, and continue to sauté for another three minutes. Remove from the heat, and while it cools, remove the stem and seeds from your jalapenos. Stuff the jalapenos with the seafood and bacon, and grill for about seven minutes. You'll need to rotate the jalapenos occasionally for even cooking. You'll also likely need to lightly oil your grill grate, as jalapenos tend to stick to the grate as they cook.
Remove from the heat and serve hot. For those of you who aren't fans of spicy foods, or have friends or family that don't care for hot foods, the jalapeno gets most of its spice from the seeds. The “shell” isn't nearly as spicy as one might think, so be brave and give it shot.
Week Seven: Recycling
Since we're all trying to be Earth-conscious these days, we're going to try and make the most of things that we likely already have on hand. Many of us live in states with can deposits. Michigan, for example, leads the nation with a ten cent deposit. With this recipe, you're sadly going to lose your dime—but it's worth it.
This is another recipe that will take some time, so make sure you start this one early. You'll need at least two hours, as well as: 1 whole chicken, 1 can of beer, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of chopped rosemary, 1 teaspoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest.
Yes, there are some ingredients that have been duplicated. That's important.
Combine the last six ingredients in a bowl, and set it aside. This will serve as your dry rub. To prepare the chicken, remove the giblets and neck. Cover the chicken, including the cavity, with your dry rub. With your can of beer, open it and “discard” half of it. We'll leave it up to you as to how to get rid of the first six ounces of beer.
Place the minced garlic, rosemary sprigs, thyme, lemon juice squeezed from the lemon, and pepper flakes in the beer. Puncture the top of the beer can a couple of times, making some extra holes on the top.
Now, as you've probably guessed, put the can up the chicken. The chicken should sit upright on top of the can without being held up. Preheat your grill, and place the chicken sitting upright on the can over medium heat, and cook for 90 minutes to two hours. It's handy to have a meat thermometer on hand for this one. You'll know the bird is done when the thigh's internal temperature reached above 180 degrees. Remove the chicken, and let it sit, on its beer can, for ten more minutes. Carve away. This recipe will likely serve more than four people.
Week Eight: The Early Bird
What happens when you're headed to a noon game, and the tailgating is getting underway in the predawn darkness on campus? It's probably not the best time for ribs or chicken or burgers. You're thinking breakfast. So, let's have some breakfast!
You're going to need: 2 pounds of Italian sausage, 2 cans of sliced potatoes, 2 chopped large onions, 12 eggs, 2 dozen tortillas, salsa, and shredded cheese.
Obviously, this recipe will serve a lot more than four people, as well.
Brown the sausage in a dutch oven or large pot. Remove the meat, and use the sausage grease to sauté the onions and potatoes. Return the sausage, and combine with the eggs and salsa. Constantly stir while cooking until the eggs are finished to taste. Serve on a tortilla, and cover with cheese.
Simple, delicious and filling.
Week Nine: Time to Warm Up
By this time in the season, the snow is on its way, if it hasn't arrived already. Standing outside with a few thousand of your closest friend is a lot more fun if you have something warm to eat while you're doing it.
Brunswick Stew is a great dish that you just can't seem to get enough of. The original origins of the dish are a matter of some dispute. The southeastern United States claims the dish as their own, yet there are Europeans who claim they exported it to the US, and the Canadians have put their own distinctive spin on the dish as well.
Regardless of where it came from, it's become quite the popular cold-weather dish across the northern US, and it's quickly becoming a favorite in the tailgate lots.
We'll start with the sauce. You're going to need: 1/4 cup of butter, 1 3/4 cup of ketchup, 1/4 cup of mustard, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper, 1/2 ounce of liquid smoke, 1 ounce of Worcestershire sauce, 1 ounce of hot sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar.
On low heat in a sauce pan, melt the butter and add in the ketchup, mustard, and vinegar. When that concoction is smoothly blended, add in the chopped garlic, black pepper, red pepper, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and lemon juice. After that is blended until smooth, then add the brown sugar. Stir the mix constantly while increasing the heat to a simmer. It's important to not boil the mix, but keep it simmering for about 10 minutes.
Set the sauce aside.
Now, we'll make the stew. You'll need a large pot to mix to following: 3 cups of diced potatoes, 1 cup of diced onion, 30 ounces of chicken broth, 1 pound of baked chicken meat (both light and dark meat), 10 ounces of smoked pork, 1/4 pound of butter.
Mix these ingredients on low heat, until the butter is completely melted. Then bring to a rolling boil, and stir constantly until the potatoes are done. Then you'll add a few more things. 8-1/2 ounces of early peas, 30 ounces of canned stewed tomatoes, 16 ounces of lima beans, another 1/4 cup of liquid smoke, and 15 ounces of creamed corn.
Once all of those ingredients are mixed, add in the sauce you prepared earlier. Let the whole thing simmer slowly for about two hours.
This should keep you warn throughout the rest of the afternoon.
Week Ten: Winging It
We'd be completely remiss if we didn't have at least one recipe for wings.
Since it's likely pretty cold outside, we need something hot, and what better than some spicy chicken wings.
For this recipe, you're going to need: 5 pounds of fresh chicken wings (tips removed), 1 bottle of hot sauce, 1 stick of butter, 1 (small) bottle of Tabasco sauce, 1/2 bottle of Mongolian Fire Oil (this might require a special trip to an international foods market), 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 chopped Habanera pepper, 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning (which is a mix of sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano), and lime juice.
Grill the wings until done (about 30 minutes, depending on size of the wings). While the wings are cooking, mix fire oil and butter over low heat until butter is melted. Add the peppers, and let simmer for a couple of minutes until the peppers are soft. Add in lime juice to taste, hot sauce, Tabasco sauce, and paprika, and stir. Finally, add in the Italian seasoning, and black pepper. Let the mix simmer for ten minutes.
Open the pan and inhale. If you cough, the sauce is as it should be.
When the wings are halfway cooked, about 20 minutes in, you can begin brushing them with sauce. Keep sauced wings away from high heat, as the sauce will caramelize—unless you like it that way, then heat away. Make sure you keep the wings well basted until finished.
Then, serve them up.
A word of warning. These wings are not for the faint of heart or sensitive of tounge.
A second word of extreme warning. If you drop any of the sauce down into your grill, make sure you wash your grill. The peppers make the sauce fairly reactive to metal, and it can eat a hole right through the bottom of your grill! Now the first warning seems even more important, doesn't it?
Week Eleven: The Home Stretch
By this point in the season, one of two things is likely. First, your team is tearing through the competition, and is in the hunt for a conference championship and BCS berth. Or, more likely, the season is, championship-wise, all but over, and you're looking to drown your troubles.
Well, our week eleven recipe is designed to help you cope—or indulge in the revelry, depending on the fate of your team.
It's a very simple, yet satisfying beverage.
You'll need just three things. Apple cider, cinnamon schnapps and Southern Comfort. The directions are pretty simple. Mix to taste. Since it's pretty freaking cold outside by now in much of the country, this is a very nice drink served warm. It also has the proper late-autumn taste.
A cinnamon stick adds a nice touch, but for the enthusiastic drinkers, usually just gets in the way.
While tailgating is all about the fun, make sure you're responsible (or at least with someone else who is!).
Week Twleve: The Just Desserts
It's been a long season, and things have either gone really well or we're already looking forward to spring practices.
Either way, we have one last week of tailgating before we hang it up for another long off-season.
For our last hurrah, we're going to prepare a tasty treat that goes along with the Thanksgiving time of year. For this pumpkin roll, you'll need: 3 eggs, 1 cup of sugar, 2/3 cup of pumpkin, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 3/4 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1+ cup of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 4 teaspoons of butter, 1 cup of chopped pecans (optional).
Beat the eggs, then add in granulated sugar, pumpkin, and lemon juice. In a different bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Fold this mixture into the pumpkin mix, and spread onto a greased 15x10 cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 330 degrees. Turn out the baked pumpkin mix on a tea towel, and coat liberally with the powdered sugar. Then roll it up, and set it aside to cool.
Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar (1 cup), vanilla, and butter. Add in the pecans, if desired. Unroll the baked pumpkin mix, and spread the topping on. Roll everything back up, and refrigerate before serving.