Whether you are watching college or professional leagues, a key point to football season is the pre-game tailgate. And what's the best thing about tailgating? The super greasy, soul-warming, fill-up-your-stomach food that gets shared over the back of someone's pickup. As a recent Rutgers University graduate (and, most recently, a first-time season ticket holder), there's no better highlight to the coming fall.
Here are my chosen favorites for a great tailgating experience. For some great tailgating wine pairings check out Gregory Dal Piaz's recommendations over on Snooth!
Photo courtesy Ryan Daughton
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Buffalo Chicken Dip, in my mind, is a tailgating staple. It's creamy, it's cheesy, it's spicy, it's tangy, it has chicken in it and it is perfect with crunchy tortilla chips. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. Yummm. This recipe asks for canned chicken chunks, but I recommend buying some skinless chicken breasts and giving them a quick broil before cutting them up and throwing them in the dip. Be warned, there is no way at all that this dip will make it through the entire tailgate, despite how much extra you try to make!
Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Hoisin-Honey Glaze
A tailgate just isn't complete without meat, and any food you can eat by hand makes things about 100x easier (especially if that other hand is busy holding a beer, or playing beer pong or cornhole). The best meat recipe to enjoy with only one available hand? Baby back ribs. These juicy babies have a soy sauce, honey and sherry marinade for a succulent taste that will have you gnawing on each bone. What makes this tailgate fare even better is that they can be prepared the night before; the only thing for you to do on game day is to finish them off on the grill!
Knorr Spinach Dip
To me, this one's a classic for more than just tailgating. Spinach dip made from vegetable soup mix (either Lipton or Knorr) simply can not be beat (I know, I said something similar about Buffalo Chicken Dip, but these dips cannot be compared! They come from two separate worlds of dip!).
I normally make mine with extra spinach and add a packet of onion soup mix as well to ramp up the flavors. Be sure that you drain all of the extra liquid from your spinach before adding it to the other ingredients to keep your dip from turning thin and watery. Serve it up with carrots and celery, or really do it like I do and serve it with Nacho Cheese Doritos. This seems to always surprise people but I've never met a single person who wasn't in love with the combo upon tasting.
Breakfast Sausage Casserole
If you have an early game and are having a breakfast tailgate, we love this Breakfast Sausage Casserole. Yes, for this one you will have to use both hands, eating with a plate and fork, but we promise it is well worth it. Eggs are mixed with cheese, turkey sausage and white bread to make a hearty casserole that will keep your tummy happy through the fourth quarter. And it pairs great with beer and mimosas.
There's no better way to warm up on a chilly game day than with a nice warm bowl of chili. Beef, beans, tomatoes and chili powder simmer down to make a comforting treat that all will love. Though this is usually another two-hander, try eating your chili from a cup to save that second hand. It works, we swear! Where there's a will there's a way. Especially when tailgating.
Our tailgate is unique in that for one game every season, we hold a pig roast. The few roasters get there early, picking out a spot for our tents, preparing the roaster and getting the pig started early enough to be ready before game time (I do have to admit, at times the pig isn't quite ready in time for kick-off and we instead have a post-game pork feast). Though this might not be common tailgating tradition, it is ours and we love it, so I encourage you all to try! We also take a shot of Tequila Rose for good luck before each game but, hey, that's just us. For a simpler take on roast pork, try this Oven-Roasted Kalua Pig recipe, which can be made a bit ahead of time and reheated over the grill.
Photo courtesy Edward Saiff
For More Tailgating Fun
Other tailgating staples I swear by: puffed cheese doodles, chips and salsa, donut holes, soft pretzels with dipping sauce, hot coffee, standing room around the hot grill, extra blankets, water bottles, burgers and hot dogs, bagels.
And be sure to check out Grilled Chicken and Pinot Gris for some more football fun!
Don't forget to head over to Snooth for some great tailgating wine pairings!