Whether your tailgate party involves a custom rotisserie and team color-coordinated tents, or a simple picnic on an old blanket, no pregame ritual is complete without the spread. This is one party that’s as much about the food as it is about the actual game. And while it’s easy to want a menu just as intense as all that face paint you have on right now, we have a bit of advice: Simple really is better.
“When we tailgate, I don’t do stuff that takes a long time, like ribs and brisket and stuff. I’m pretty pedestrian,” says Meathead Goldwyn, a proud Florida Gator and the man behind the popular Amazing Ribs barbecue website. “I make sure I’m doing simple foods I can cook quickly that are really good.”
Goldwyn offers sage advice with a set of tailgate tips on his site. Suggestions include planning for food that can be eaten with your hands (no one wants to deal with utensils at any party, especially a tailgate). And do as much prep in advance, so you’re not working the entire time.
Finger foods are perfect — just don’t forget napkins or paper towels. Wings and dipping sauce are just right for this kind of event.
For a main dish, make something easy to carry, like chili or burgers. Make the chili the night before or assemble the burgers so all you have to do later is throw them on the grill.
Finally, plan so you can keep clean-up at a minimum. After eating with your friends, you want to go to the game, not clean up an entire buffet. And keep food safety (proper temperatures, cleanliness) in mind at all times.
Then just sit back and enjoy the game.
Look for more recipes on C2.
Grilled Chipotle Wings
6 to 8 cloves garlic
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo, or as desired
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more as desired
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups orange juice
3 pounds trimmed chicken wings, cut at the joint and wing tips removed (30 to 36 pieces)
Spray oil, for greasing the grill
1. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, onion, chipotle peppers and sauce, cayenne pepper, cumin, oregano, salt and oil. Pulse a few times to chop the garlic and break up the peppers. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the orange juice to form a marinade.
2. Divide the wings between two gallon-sized sealable freezer bags and evenly pour the marinade over each. Squeeze out any excess air, place the bags in a large baking dish or bowl (in the event of any leaks) and refrigerate the chicken at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
3. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium heat until hot. Remove the wings, shaking off any excess marinade. Lightly grease the grill rack and grill the wings until the flesh is firm and opaque and the outside is well-colored on each side, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and cool slightly before cutting the wings at the joints. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
2 roasted or poached boneless chicken breasts, shredded (about 3 cups)
6 ounces (3/4 package) cream cheese, softened
8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing, plus more for drizzling
1/3 cup of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, or more to taste
Chopped cilantro, pickled jalapenos or sliced green onion for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together shredded chicken, cream cheese, cheddar and blue cheeses, blue cheese dressing and Frank’s Red Hot. If it’s not saucy (or spicy) enough, add a little more hot sauce.
Spoon into a casserole coated with nonstick cooking spray and bake until cheeses are hot and bubbly, and chicken is heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Garnish with chopped cilantro, pickled jalapenos and/or sliced green onion. Serve with crackers, pita chips or corn tortillas.
Serves 8 to 10.
1 pound hickory-smoked bacon, chopped
1 (8-ounce) container button or crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 onions, chopped
2 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup red wine
3 pounds ground beef chuck
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
Sliced cheese, if desired
12 hamburger buns
1. Place the bacon in a large, heavy skillet and heat over medium heat. Cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon crisps, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain the bacon on paper towels. Drain the bacon fat (save it for sauteeing), leaving 2 to 3 tablespoons in the skillet.
2. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat until hot and add the mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until tender, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with the salt. Remove from heat and drain the mushrooms, leaving the fat in the pan. Combine the mushrooms and bacon in the bowl of a food processor.
3. Heat the skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook the onion, stirring frequently, until it softens to a rich golden color, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped garlic and continue to cook just until the garlic is aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine, scraping any flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and add the onions to the food processor.
4. Process the mixture until the bacon, mushrooms and onions are finely ground. Remove from the processor and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate the mixture, uncovered, until cold.
5. In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck with the bacon mixture, along with the celery salt, black pepper, cumin, paprika and chile powder, working with your hands to knead the mixture until evenly combined. Form the mixture into 12 patties. The patties will taste best made the morning of, but can be made up to a day in advance; separate each patty with a piece of wax or parchment paper and cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
6. Heat a grill over medium-high heat until hot. Place the patties on a lightly greased grill rack and cook until charred on the outside and medium (about 135 degrees) in the center, 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness. If adding cheese, place the cheese on the burger about a minute before removing it from the grill to give the cheese a chance to soften. If toasting the buns, place them cut-side down on the rack to warm and toast slightly for a minute or two.
7. Place each grilled burger on a bun and serve immediately. Let guests garnish as desired. Makes 12 burgers.
Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
Fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Place sour cream, blue cheese, milk, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and vinegar in a medium bowl.
Whisk thoroughly, until completely combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if desired.
Nachos De Puerco
1/2 cup sour cream
1-pound bag crispy corn tortilla chips
2 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
6 ounces Slow-Cooked Pork Barbacoa, shredded (recipe follows)
2 avocados, pits removed and diced
2 cups salsa
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, whisk sour cream with juice of lime.
Spread 1/3 of the chips in a single layer on baking sheet lined with nonstick foil or parchment paper. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese and pork, add another layer of chips, cheese and pork, and then build a final layer of chips and cheese. Reserve remaining 1/3 of pork. Bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Add half the salsa at this point.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining pork. Spoon rest of salsa and the avocado over the top; drizzle with lime sour cream. Serve immediately.
Serves 8 to 10.
“Pure Pork Awesomeness” by Kevin Gillespie
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
5 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
1 onion, quartered
10 cloves garlic, peeled
3 dried bay leaves
Adjust rack in oven to lower level so roast will easily slide in. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In small bowl, combine salt, chili powder, cinnamon and cloves. Pat pork dry and generously season all over with salt mixture.
Cut large piece of heavy-duty foil and place in roasting pan. Add pork, onions, garlic and bay leaves and wrap everything up tightly in the foil. Roast for 3 1/2 hours.
Remove pork from oven and let rest, still wrapped in foil, for 30 minutes. Foil will keep all the moisture and flavors in the packet and the shoulder will braise as it cools, creating very tender and juicy meat. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaves before shredding meat.
Spooky Season White-Bean Chili
3 tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 pound ground turkey breast
3 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth (low sodium is best)
2 cans (11 ounces each) whole tomatillos, drained, rinsed, whirled in food processor
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped mild green chilies, such as hatch
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh jalapeno
1. Soften: Heat oil over medium in a large pot. Tumble in onion and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 9 minutes. Scrape in garlic and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in cumin, coriander, pepper and bay leaf.
2. Brown: Drop in turkey; cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until it begins to brown, about 8 minutes.
3. Simmer: Add beans, broth, tomatillos and chilies. Stir, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, partially covered, until thick, 35-40 minutes.
4. Serve: Discard bay leaf. Taste chili. Doubtful it will need salt. It may need 1-2 teaspoons sugar to balance out those tangy tomatillos. Scoop into bowls, scatter on cilantro and jalapeno; add a spoonful of sour cream and serve. Makes 6 servings.