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Crowd Pleasing Recipes to Amp Up Tailgating (September 2013)

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Published: September 2013
Crowd Pleasing Recipes to Amp Up Tailgating  

Football season is well underway, and so is tailgating. Perhaps you are looking to amp up your weekly Saturday (or Sunday) gatherings or just want to try something new. Whatever the reason may be, you've come to the right place for some new ideas. SHM Traveler reached out to various chefs from around the South who not only provide some of their favorite recipes, but also their thoughts on tailgating.

Mike Fernandez, founding partner of Moe’s Original Bar B Cue (various locations), says "nothing compares to tailgating down South."

However he believes that many don't have time to enjoy it because they are too busy trying to do everything on-site.

"There is that one person who is preparing, cooking and getting to the plate while everyone else is having fun. They are basically a slave to the product," he says. "The key is to prepare as much as possible a couple of nights before."

He adds it doesn't have to be too fancy.  "Don't take it too far."

He also thinks  sides are very important to a tailgate spread.

"Cold sides are great since it's pretty warm in the South until November. Things like broccoli salad or slaw work well."

Marinated Slaw

Ingredients for marinate

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1 tablespoon celery seed

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Bring all ingredients to a boil then let cool for a bit before pouring over the slaw mix

Ingredients for slaw mix

1 large green bell pepper

1/2 large red onion

2 cups of sugar

2 heads of cabbage


Cut bell peppers and red onion into into 1/4 inch slices. Core and slice cabbage as thin as you can. Pack 1/2 of the cabbage into a bowl and add 1/2 of the bell peppers and red onion. Then sprinkle with one cup of sugar then repeat the same process adding the rest of the cabbage, bell peppers, red onion, sugar. Then pour the cooled marinate over slaw mix. It is best to let it sit over night mixed and then serve.

Chef Marilyn Markel, cooking school manager, Southern Season (Chapel Hill, N.C.),  believes food for tailgating should be easy to eat, transport and eat. Coming from a family that are huge football and basketball fans, tailgating was a way of life.

“Tailgating is about camaraderie,” she says. “ It’s getting together before the game and sharing food, something we all love to do.”

Cannellini Bean Dip with Roasted Red Peppers and Dill


1  15 ounce can Cannellini beans, drained and raised

2 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste

1 garlic clove, boiled in water for one minute

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup loosely packed dill leaves, chopped

1 whole piquant roasted red pepper, or piquillo pepper

salt and pepper, to taste

pita chips

Method: Combine all ingredients in bowl of food processor.  Pulse until combined. With machine running, add oil slowly until pureed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pita chips.

Grilled Okra Stuffed with Jalapeno Goat Cheese


12 pieces of okra

1/4 pound jalapeno goat cheese

1 tablespoon spicy pepper relish, or mild if you prefer

olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

4 skewers

Method: If using wooden skewers, soak for several hours in water. Preheat grill to medium heat. Rub okra with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill okra, rolling around frequently until tender, about 10 minutes.In a bowl combine goat cheese and relish.  When cool enough to handle, slit okra up the side with a sharp paring knife. Stuff with goat cheese and serve at room temperature.

Espresso Brownies


2/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

6 ounces chopped chocolate (semi or bitter)

1 stick butter

2 teaspoon espresso powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Method: Prepare 8 inch square pan by buttering over all. Cut parchment to the width of the pan and keep the sides long to easily slip out of the pan.  Butter the parchment. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a small bowl and whisk. Combine chocolate and butter in a stainless bowl over a simmering pan of water.  Add espresso powder and whisk occasionally until melted. Whisk in sugars and beat well.  Add eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add flour and whisk until just mixed. Pour into a prepared pan and bake until toothpick come out with we crumbs, about 25-30 minutes.

“In Tigerland, we do tailgating right,” says Chef Damion Norton, Norton Ford’s Oyster House (Greenville, S.C.). He compares tailgating to Mardi Gras, as he points out that “people from different cultures and backgrounds come together and root for their teams.”

He adds it’s the food element that bonds people together.

“With a full stomach, you can bring on the joy.”



1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup diced onion

1/4 diced bell pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon Creole seasoning

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1 Tablespoon Crystal hot sauce

3 cups of Marinara sauce (canned or fresh)

Salt to taste

2 cups of steamed white rice

Method: Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add celery, onion, and bell pepper and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, oregano, cayenne, Creole seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, and Crystal hot sauce. Lastly, add the marinara sauce and simmer for simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve over rice.

“What do I like about tailgating,” says Chef Brian Mottola, e2 Emeril’s Eatery (Charlotte, N.C.) “I like, no love, everything about it. It’s fun.”

To ensure a great tailgate experience, he says, is have food that is easy to eat, like hamburgers, hot dogs and brats.

“For the brats, get a nice big pot and have them cook in beer,” he says. “Just let the love come through.”

Chef Brian’s Bratwurst


1 pound bratwurst

1 cup chicken stock

1 can of Abita beer

1/2 pound sliced bacon, chopped or sliced crosswise

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 head of green cabbage, coarsely chopped

Emeril’s Original Essence, to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and coarsely chopped

Vegetable or olive oil, for brushing

Method: Combine the chicken stock and beer in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the bratwurst and poach until sausage is firm and cooked through. Remove sausage and set aside. Reserve the poaching liquid separately.

Render the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add the onions, cabbage, and a pinch of Essence; season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions and cabbage have begun to wilt. Add the reserved poaching liquid, apple cider vinegar, sugar and apples. Continue cooking until the cabbage and apples are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.

Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Brush the bratwurst lightly with olive or vegetable oil. Grill the bratwurst, turning occasionally, until the sausage is warmed through and nicely marked on all sides. To serve, top the sausage with the cabbage and apple mixture. Serve immediately.

Chef David Guas, chef and owner, Bayou Bakery Coffee Bar Eatery (Arlington, Va.) is a huge football fan. He says convenience is most important when its tailgating time. His BBQ Pulled Chicken & Biscuits are easy to make and transport, and appeal to everyone.

BBQ Pulled Chicken & Biscuits


1/2 cup  all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon  ground cumin

1 Tablespoon  Cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon  chili powder

1 teaspoon  garlic powder

1 teaspoon  kosher salt

4  chicken legs

1/2 cup  vegetable oil

4 cups  Honey BBQ Sauce, divided (recipe below)

8 Buttermilk Biscuits, (recipe below)

Method: Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine flour with spices and salt in a shallow bowl; dredge chicken in flour mixture. Heat a 16-inch cast iron skillet on medium-high heat; add oil. Place chicken in skillet, skin-side down, and brown well. Turn and cook 2 to 3 minutes on flesh side. Place skillet in oven for about 15 minutes.

While chicken is cooking, heat a stove-top grill. Remove chicken from skillet; place in a large mixing bowl and toss with 3 cups Honey BBQ Sauce until well coated. Place chicken on grill, skin-side down, and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is crisp and sauce is sticky. Refrigerate until cold.

With a fork or your hands, pull chicken meat from bones. Mix chicken with 1 cup Honey BBQ Sauce, using a wooden spoon or your hands to break up chicken and mix it thoroughly into the sauce. With a serrated bread knife, cut biscuits in half horizontally. Place about 1/4 cup pulled chicken on bottom of each biscuit and cover with top half of biscuit.

Honey BBQ Sauce


1/4 cup canola oil

3 cups chopped sweet onions

1 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

2 cups tomato sauce

1-1/2 cups honey

1 cup orange juice

1 cup dry white wine

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 Tablespoon chopped garlic

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce


Cracked black pepper

Cayenne pepper

Method: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, peppers and parsley; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add tomato sauce, honey, orange juice, wine, vinegar, lemon juice and garlic; cover and simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Add Worcestershire sauce and season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Purée with a hand-held blender or transfer sauce to a blender and blend on medium speed for 1 minute.

Hungry for more? Read on...

Pimento Cheese (owner and head chef Jack Gilmore, Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Austin, Texas)

1/2 pound cream cheese, softened

1/2 pound Jack cheese, grated

1/2 pound cheddar cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup red bell pepper (roasted, peeled and seeded), cut into 1/8 in pieces

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Method: Place all ingredients in Hobart and mix well using whisk attachment.

Guacamole (Cocina 214 in Winter Park, Fla.)


5 Avocados

1/4 red onion, diced

2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

dash of black pepper

1 jalapeno, diced

1 Roma tomato, diced

dash of Kosher salt

1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice

Method: Place avocados and lime juice in large stainless steel mixing bowl and mash, fold in the remaining ingredients. Taste for seasonings it may need to be adjusted. Chill in the fridge for ultimate flavor.

Crispy Oyster, Country Ham Leek Reduction & Sun Choke Relish (Chef James Clark, Carolinas Crossroads at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N.C.)

*Note 16 Fresh Oysters shucked save the liquor and bottom shell to serve in

Ingredients for Country Ham Leek Reduction

½ cup Diced Country Ham

½ cup Diced Leeks

1 teaspoon Garlic

1 tablespoon Olive oil

Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

1 cup Heavy Cream

Oyster Liquor 2 tablespoon Pernod

Method: In a heavy bottom sauce pan heat olive oil and brown the country ham.  Remove the ham and add the leeks and garlic and cook until soft.  Add the ham back in and deglaze pan with the Pernod and reduce the Pernod by ½ and add the cream and oyster liquor and continue to reduce until liquid is thick and begins to coat ham and leeks season with ground pepper.

Ingredients for Oysters

16 Shucked oysters

1 cup AP flour

1 cup fine corn meal

2 tablespoon Old Bay

Enough peanut oil to fry oysters at 365 degrees

Method: Mix the dry ingredients together and then toss in the oysters and coat well.  Place each oyster in the hot oil and fry for only about 30 sec. until crisp.

Place a small spoonful on the reduction down on the shell and then top with the crispy oyster strait from the oil and finish with some Sunchoke relish.

And then there's Louisiana Seafood Gumbo (Restaurant R'evolution in New Orleans)

Top chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto, are all about college football. So much so that, in 2011 they hosted the first ever "Louisibama Gumbo Bowl" at the tailgate for the famed rivalry game of Louisiana State and Alabama.

The gumbo  was served up in what was officially the world's largest size in a cast iron pot, winning them a Guinness World Record and of course, ultimate tailgating bragging rights

Seafood gumbo is the premier soup of Cajun Country and is known worldwide as the dish to taste when visiting South Louisiana. Every Louisiana home has its own unique ingredients and methods for cooking gumbo. Of course, you can always add your favorite seafood ingredients such as crawfish, catfish and alligator meat to the pot.

Here’s a smaller version of their recipe


1 pound (35-count) shrimp, peeled, deveined and divided

1 pound claw crabmeat

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat

2 dozen shucked oysters, liquid reserved

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup flour

2 cups diced onions

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced bell peppers

¼ cup minced garlic

½ pound sliced andouille sausage

1 cup chopped frozen okra

3 quarts shellfish stock

2 cups sliced green onions

½ cup chopped parsley

salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Louisiana hot sauce to taste

Method: In a 7-quart cast iron Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour, stirring constantly until a brown roux is achieved. Add onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic. Sauté 3–5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted. Blend in andouille and sauté an additional 3–5 minutes. Stir in claw crabmeat, ½ cup shrimp and okra. Slowly add hot shellfish stock, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly. Bring to a low boil, reduce to simmer and cook 30 minutes. If necessary, additional stock may be used to retain volume. Add green onions and parsley. Season to taste using salt, cayenne and hot sauce. Fold in remaining shrimp, lump crabmeat, oysters and reserved oyster liquid. Return to a low boil and cook approximately 5 minutes. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

(photo credit: Moe's Original Bar B Cue, Norton Ford's Oyster House, Jack Allen's Kitchen, Carolinas Crossroads at The Carolina Inn, and Restaurant R'evolution)