Tailgating is a learned skill – we learn through our successes and mistakes—and like most challenges, we keep trying to perfect our skills. We learn how to keep the food cold and/or hot—how to efficiently pack the car to maximize space, and the best sources for ‘help’—who has the best fried chicken, pimiento cheese, barbecue and desserts.
As with many food memories—we all like what we grew up eating—my family members are die-hard ham biscuit people: my mother-in-law always serves ham biscuits with honey mustard on fold-over rolls at her tailgates. My tennis friends regale me with stories of big rig gas burners with a huge pot of soup or chili before fall games. Other friends say a tailgate is not complete without deviled eggs, and many have a dish, complete with a divot for each egg to show for it! (Do they really like deviled eggs—or are they just stuck with a plate that has no other purpose?) Most men will say the most important thing is meat—most women will say snacks. One friend said that desserts were not a part of tailgating—but I beg to differ.
With any entertaining opportunity, you have to decide how much time and effort you want to put into the project. Some tailgaters are pros—you know they have a whole set of plastic dishes with a football motif and a set of shelves in the garage equipped with game-related supplies. Others stop by the deli on the way to the game and pick up a bag of chips and some sandwiches. You have to decide which suits you depending on your talents (are you better at decorating the table or making the food?) and how much time you have to prep the week before. Many a great tailgate menu has been thrown together from the store, and embellished with a few team flags. Just remember these rules:
Hands free! Most people have a hard time balancing a plate and a drink—and at a tailgate, there are very few places to balance things (usually just the bumper!)—so keep it simple.
I prefer a sandwich or burger wrapped in foil that can be eaten with one hand to a plate full of salads that require a fork.
Leave no trace! This Boy Scout rule of leaving your spot cleaner than when you arrived applies to tailgating, picnics, and all outdoor activities. Remember to bring an ample supply of trash bags, and start the clean-up in plenty of time before the game. Recycle glass and plastic—even if you have to bring it home.
Bring extras! Bring more food than you think you need. It’s much more fun to say “Join us!”, than to worry about if you have enough food. And be sure to bring lots of ice.
Go the extra mile! Decorate in your team colors—and bring a football to toss.
Try these favorites at the next game, or concert, or wherever you fold down your tailgate!
½ cup pitted kalamata olives
15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup tahini
4 cloves roasted garlic (see note)
1/3 cup olive oil
In a food processor, chop olives and set aside.
Place chick peas, lemon juice, tahini and garlic in the processor, and process. Add olive oil, and process until smooth, adding water if the mixture is too stiff. Fold in chopped olives. Serve with pita chips.
Note: To roast garlic, tear off a sheet of foil about 12 inches square. In it, place a handful of whole, peeled garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and close tightly in the foil. Place the foil packet in a preheated 350 oven for about 25 minutes. Keep a few days, refrigerated.
Chicken Wings with a Ginger Plum Glaze
5 pounds chicken wings, separated at joints, tips discarded
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
8 prunes (dried plums)
¼ cup hoisin sauce (Asian section)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup honey
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoons red chili flakes
1 ½ cup water
Preheat broiler to high. Line rimmed sheet pan with foil. Lay wings in a single layer and drizzle with oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Broil about 8 minutes, then flip each wing and cook another 6 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons oil. Add onion, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant but not browned. Add remaining glaze ingredients, and stir well. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes, then puree in batches until smooth.
Toss cooked wings with sauce and garnish with chopped scallions and sesame seeds.
1 cup unsalted butter
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup seedless raspberry jam
1 cup heavy cream
9 ounces chocolate chips
Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with foil, and butter the foil. Preheat the oven to 350.
In the microwave, melt the butter and chocolate. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. Add melted chocolate, vanilla and salt, and stir to combine. Add flour and baking powder, and stir until well blended. Scrape into pan, and cook for 20–25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Spread top of brownies with ½ cup raspberry jam.
Heat cream in a saucepan over low heat until hot. Pour over chips in a small bowl, and let sit for two minutes. Slowly stir until smooth. Stir in remaining ¼ cup jam. Pour over brownies, smoothing top. Chill until the topping has set, about one hour, then cut into squares.