Of course, that is not really news to anyone living below the Mason-Dixon line. We all know fans who happily bleed orange and blue or red and black. Some even bleed purple and gold. But the one thing we all have in common is our love of good food, and maybe even a beverage or two before the big game.
Tailgating is serious business in the South. Anyone who’s been to the Grove before an Ole Miss game can heartily testify. Whether you’re looking to go all out with chandeliers in your tent or just park a good ole Weber grill at the back of your truck, we hope these recipes will inspire you to try something new before your next home game. After all, it’s not whether your team wins or loses, but how well you eat.
Bacon Takes a Dip
Our love of pork is legendary in the South. Some of us have been known to make emergency trips to Allan Benton’s place in East Tennessee when the larder runs low. Why not give the bacon its due and make it the star attraction?
2-lbs thick-sliced bacon (preferable Benton’s), sliced in half to double your servings
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Place strips of bacon on the rack of a broiling pan. Place pan in the preheated oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees. Continue cooking until bacon browns and begins to get crisp, about 15 to 20 minutes. Careful not to overcook. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to remove any excess oil. Pack in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3) Prepare the following dips and pack in airtight Mason jars for travel.
GAME DAY: Place the bacon in half-pint Mason jars tied with raffia or ribbons the color of your home team. Guests can enjoy the bacon “straight” or with a dollop of any of the following dips:
- Honeyed Peanut Butter with Sea Salt: Mix ¼ cup of your favorite local honey with an 18-ounce jar of natural peanut butter (we love the fresh grinders available at most Whole Foods Markets). Stir to combine and pour into a Mason jar; seal tightly with a lid to transport to the tailgate party. Just pop the top at the party to serve. Fill a pretty shaker with sea salt and encourage your guests to add a light sprinkle to the honeyed peanut butter bacon. We call this ‘gilding the lily.’
- Fig Preserves: This is the perfect time to pull out some of those fig preserves you labored to put up earlier this summer. Oh, you forgot to do that? No worries—there are plenty of commercial brands we like that would work well. Just transfer your favorite kind to a Mason jar and seal for travelling and serving.
- Pimiento Cheese: The creamy texture of classic pimiento cheese is a natural foil to the chew of great bacon. You can make your own or pick some up and serve out of Mason jars.
Corn Chowder Shooters
The perfect tailgate includes foods that are easy to eat. They should also be substantial enough to see your guests through halftime. Serve this corn chowder warm, not scalding hot, in shooter-style cups to fit the bill nicely.
4 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups minced yellow onions
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced carrot
7 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
6 cups good-quality chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup half-and-half
Garnish: chopped red bell pepper, minced roasted poblano pepper, chopped bacon, minced chives.
1) Melt butter in large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot and celery and sauté 3 minutes.
2) Add 5 cups corn and thyme and sauté 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender and liquid is slightly reduced, about 30 minutes.
3) Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return soup to pot. Mix in half-and-half and remaining 2 cups corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate if not serving promptly.
GAME DAY: Pack hot soup in a large insulated container for travel. Serve in small, heat-proof cups and let your guests garnish as desired.
Who can resist food on stick? No one we know. When you realize you’ve forgotten the utensils at home, you’ll be glad this is one item that doesn’t require a knife and fork.
1 pork loin, about 5 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
1 bottle (32-ounce) bloody Mary mix (we love Not Yo Mamas)
24 small (1-inch) white potatoes
2 large bell peppers (red, green, yellow—any color will work here)
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 package 6- or 8-inch bamboo skewers
1) Cut the pork loin into 1-inch cubes. Add to a large heavy-duty zip-top bag. Pour bloody Mary mix over pork, remove any air from the bag and zip to seal. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
2) Add the potatoes to a large pot of cold water, making sure they are covered with at least an inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. (Potatoes should not be mushy as they will continue to cook on the grill on game day.) Drain the potatoes and let cool.
3) Cut peppers into 1-inch pieces. Add to a separate zip-top bag and add olive oil, salt and pepper. Add cooled potatoes and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to grill.
4) Fill a third zip-top bag with ¼ cup water and the bamboo skewers. Remove excess air, zip and pack for the party. Thoroughly wet skewers will prevent grilltop flare-ups.
GAME DAY: While the grill gets hot, remove the skewers from the bag. Thread each skewer with pork, potato and bell pepper, alternating each ingredient. Discard marinade. Cook over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 155 degrees. Remove the skewers to a serving platter and tent with foil until you are ready to serve.
Still hungry? Maybe all you need is a little something sweet to nibble on before you head into the stadium. This one will even travel well if you prefer to snack after singing the team’s fight song.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon dry pumpkin pie spice
Honeycrisp apples, sliced just before serving
1) Combine the first three ingredients in a medium bowl. Use a hand-mixer to mix thoroughly; the result should look slightly whipped. Transfer to a short Mason jar, seal and refrigerate until ready to serve.
GAME DAY: Arrange the sliced apples on a plate and let guests dip in the prepared cream cheese. Remember, no double-dipping allowed!
Christiana Roussel lives in Mountain Brook, Ala., and enjoys all things food-related. Follow her culinary musings online at ChristianasKitchen.com or on Facebook or Twitter (Christiana40).