Tailgating is an art that cannot be taken lightly. The pre-game parking lot is the venue. Your SUV is your chariot. The spatula is your sword. And the grill marks your throne. You will have meat to sizzle, beverage to guzzle, and fellow tailgaters to dazzle. The tailgate party offers the “Tailgating Captain” the opportunity to be an all-star amongst peers and a legend to all of those who attend and bite into juicy barbeque, washing it down with a Solo cup full of frothy, frosty brew.
Some may say that being a tailgate pro is a God-given gift. No ordinary man or woman could possibly create the perfect pre-game soiree. And it’s true, without the dedication, preparation, and endurance necessary, all tailgate dreams could easily turn into tailgate nightmares. But everyone has hope, and with proper guidance you could be the next Most Valuable Tailgater at this season’s biggest and most important games.
First step: preparation
Tailgating must have a foundation. What will you need to throw the ultimate tailgate? Make a list. Check it twice. And remember to keep the meat and beer on ice. Most important, you’ll need a grill. It doesn’t need to be gigantic; normally you won’t be roasting a whole pig (although, if you did, it would be hard to top). Just enough grill space to be able to satisfy an ample amount of eaters with each round would be fine. Of course don’t forget your tools: You’ll need a spatula to flip, a fork to skewer, and a brush to scrape.
So what do you eat at a tailgate party? Let’s start off easy. A safe way to feed your guests is to supply burgers and hotdogs. They’re easy to cook, they don’t take long, and, if you burn them a little, extra ketchup goes a long way. Feeling a little more confident? How about some chicken, some steak, or even some shrimp? Anything’s possible as long as you prepare a tasty marinade and watch the meat while it’s cooking. Marinade may be a frightening word to some, but it’s really not rocket science. Take your favorite spices out of the rack, buy some barbeque sauce and, if you’re really in a bind, salad dressings can leave a tasty glaze (although Russian may be a mistake).
For those of you who are up to a bigger challenge, we spoke to tailgating expert and Waterloo chef Ronald Wentworth for a few tips on how to be a champion tailgate cook. He says that even the newest tailgaters can win over the parking lot if they put in the effort and have a good time. Chef Wentworth has created some gourmet tailgate recipes with manageable preparation and execution that will make any tailgating fan choose the food over the game. Your friends will be so impressed they’ll buy you a ticket to the next big game if you promise to cook it again.
With all the succulent bites of barbeque, your tailgate guests will definitely need beverages to cool the palate. Bottled water is a must. Stock your cooler with plenty to go around; it’s hot out there and you don’t want anybody getting dehydrated, especially since there will be plenty of beer drinking going on. Beer is a tailgating staple. Since the genesis of the tailgating tradition, men and women have gathered at the back of their vehicle and toasted to their team’s good fortune.
There are a few options that the tailgater can entertain in fulfilling his beer requirements: First, you could pile in cases of cans. Beer cans are convenient to stack, keep cold, and they rarely skunk. Second, you could clank around a bunch of bottles. Beer bottles are the classiest option; just make sure you buy the brown-tinted bottles. Brown-tinted bottles keep the sun out and help prevent the beer from skunking. Beer bottles that are tinted green or are not tinted may look pretty, but do nothing to preserve the freshness. Finally, you can go big—spring for a keg. Once you get to the parking lot, you can tap it, stick it in a tub of ice, and watch your tailgating disciples flock. Not only does a keg supply more than enough beer, it’s also not pasteurized which makes it taste better.
Now, take these tips “tailgating apprentice.” Grasp the recipes, understand the philosophies, and carry out the game plan. Go on your way to that tailgating destination and blow everybody out of the parking lot. It’s your turf and you now know how to make the most impressive and flavorsome grub for the game. So treat your guests: serve them steaming, dripping, tender meat and icy beer. Let them know that from now on, you will be the “Tailgating King.”
Shrimp Scampi A La Engine
A gourmet meal can be cooked courtesy of your engine. Yes you can cook on your engine. It is perfectly safe. This particular dish takes fifteen minutes to prep and about 40 minutes to cook. Like an oven being preheated it is better if you get your engine warmed up. Drive for about 20 Miles before placing the package on the engine. Minimal cooking skills needed; excellent driving skills required.
• 2 pounds of good sized shrimp, peeled and cleaned
• Olive oil
• Salt, pepper
• 4 cloves of garlic minced
• 1/2 stick of butter
• 2 bay leaves
• Juice of 2 lemons
• Aluminum foil
• 1 car or truck
• Lay out three layers of aluminum foil, 1 ft. square
• Brush the top layer with olive oil
• Place the shrimp in the center of foil
• Season with salt, pepper
• Add the butter, bay leaves, lemon juice, garlic
• Wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
• When you’ve driven twenty miles, pull over and feel for the hottest spot of your engine.
• Wedge the package in the hottest spot. You may need to use a little more foil to fill the gaps.
• Drive for about an hour. Your shrimp will be perfect.
Pulled Chicken is a delectable addition to your tailgate that is surprisingly easy to make. Use this recipe to make great pulled chicken sandwiches!
Time Required: 60 minutes prep time
Skill Required: Minimal to moderate grilling skills needed
• 2 regular-sized bottles of BBQ sauce
• 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
• Salt, pepper, your favorite chicken seasonings, Cajun seasoning
• Season six boneless, skinless chicken breasts to taste, and grill slowly until fully cooked, brushing with your favorite BBQ sauce. It is very important to grill slowly to maintain juiciness.
• In a pot, mix two bottles of BBQ sauce, salt, pepper, and spices to taste, and one cup of water, and bring to a boil while stirring constantly to prevent burning. Lower heat to simmer and stir occasionally while pulling chicken.
• Using two forks, pull the chicken breasts apart into long shavings. If you get tired, feel free to wash hands thoroughly and manually continue.
• Add the chicken to the pot of BBQ sauce and stir until chicken is drenched. Continue to simmer while stirring occasionally for 25 – 30 minutes.
• Serve on buns and enjoy!
Try this great homemade jambalaya recipe for a Ragin’ Cajun tailgate feast. This recipe serves 20-25, but you can pare the quantities down to fit any group.
Time Required: 2 hours
Skill Required: Intermediate cooking skills needed
• 4 lb pork sausage
• 6 lb Boston butt pork
• 8 large onions (white or yellow)
• 2 bunches green onions
• 2 cans diced tomatoes
• 3 bell peppers
• 1 whole stalk celery
• 4 tablespoons minced garlic
• 1/4-cup vegetable oil
• Black pepper
• Cayenne pepper
• Lemon pepper
• Long grain rice
• Slice sausage 1/4” thick.
• Cut pork into 1” cubes. Don’t cut too small or the pork will fall apart.
• Cut onions, peppers, celery and garlic; again, not too small.
• In a large heavy pot (around 20 qt.), preferably cast iron, heat oil on med/high temperature.
• Brown sausage and remove; set aside, leaving grease in pot.
• Add pork and brown.
• Return sausage to pot and lower heat level to medium.
• Add onions, celery, peppers, garlic and green onion and stir well.
• Cover pot and cook, stirring occasionally until celery and onions are clear in color (approx. 30 min).
• Add salt, black pepper, lemon pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. A good measurement is to sprinkle a light layer of each across the pot. You can always add more seasoning later if it’s not enough.
• Add both cans of tomatoes; set one can aside to measure water and rice later.
• Use tomato can to fill pot with water. Fill until water level is 1 inch above meat. Count the number of cans of water and tomatoes you used; this is an important measurement for the amount of rice you will need later. Save one can for measuring rice.
• Bring back to a medium boil, reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for approximately 1 hour, gently folding meat and seasonings
• During this step, you can measure your rice. Using a tomato can, measure and set aside twice as much rice as the amount of water and tomatoes added earlier; for example, if you used 8 cans of water and 2 cans of tomatoes, you need 20 cans of rice. Set aside the rice until later.
• Check taste for additional seasonings. Keep in mind, the rice is going to soak up the majority of the seasoning, so you may want to make it a little on the strong side.
• You can skim some of the grease off the top of the jambalaya.
• Turn heat up to high and bring to a rolling boil, add rice and stir until pot returns to a boil.
• Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
• Remove from heat, let sit 5-10 minutes, fluff with spoon, serve, eat and enjoy!
by David Diehl
David Diehl is a Hobart and William Smith Colleges graduate and now, living in North Jersey, contributes to Nerve Media, Inc. and Planet Shine Magazine.