'Are you ready for some…tailgate food?'
By Kara Kimbrough
When you glanced at the headline, you may have thought the tagline would be…”football!” I have a confession to make. Unless it’s Homecoming and I want to see what the court’s gowns look like, I sometimes skip the main event and stay in the tailgate tent. That’s where the real fun happens, at least in the ones I frequent. Besides socializing with friends, partaking of a bounteous spread of one of my favorite food groups – appetizers – is reason enough to brave the south Mississippi heat that lasts until the Thanksgiving to tailgate at my alma mater.
This year, I’m going to have to step up my tailgate food game. I’ve been invited to be a full-time member of a tent located in what I consider to be the best location on campus. In case you haven’t guessed by the hint above, it’s at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. Located on a spacious corner within throwing distance of the football stadium and next to the street down which the football team, band and cheerleaders make their way during “Eagle Walk,” it’s a prime spot. Lots of friends and alumni either tailgate there or drop in, so my food has to be special this year.
One of my stand-by tailgate appetizers is brown sugar Smokies. Little Smokies are wrapped in bacon, coated in brown sugar and baked to an irresistible crunchiness. They travel well, withstand the heat and are easy to pick up and eat. However, they aren’t visually-appealing. I’m looking through my cookbooks and recipes now for new and innovative ideas. If you have any favorite tailgate themes and dishes you’d like to share, please drop me an email. I welcome any and all ideas and recipes.
It’s too early to nail down any specific item just yet, as the primary host has deemed each game’s tailgate food will center around a theme. He’s thrown out ideas like Cajun/Creole, Southern-style and grilled favorites. Jambalaya and gumbo, fried chicken, grilled burgers and ribs have been mentioned, but nothing’s yet been set in stone.
In the meantime, I’ve been perusing a column I wrote in 2016 on the occasion of Super Bowl 50. It almost killed me, but I managed to create, gather or edit 50 appetizer recipes to publish before the big game. Here are just a few of my favorites from that column to provide inspiration as tailgate…I mean, football season, approaches.
Delish Bacon-Onion Dip — Cook 2 thinly sliced yellow onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove onions and cool; fry 6 slices of bacon in same skillet. Chop bacon and cooked onions and combine with a cup of sour cream, 2 chopped scallions and seasoning salt to taste.
Spicy Football Spread — With mixer, combine 3, 8-ounce packages softened cream cheese, 3 cups cheddar, 1 cup of grated Romano cheese, 1 cup of sour cream, teaspoon of Worcestershire and dash of hot sauce. On plastic wrap, mold mixture into football shape or (or use a lined, medium plastic football dish). Place football on serving dish and cover with chopped toasted pecans and dried cranberries.
Old Bay Snack Mix — Toss together party-size bag of regular potato chips, 2 cups each Cheez-Its and Goldfish crackers and mini pretzels, ½ stick melted butter and a tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning. Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes, stirring once.
Vegetable Pockets — Warm 12 pita pockets in the microwave. Snip off the tops and fill with a mixture of hummus, crumbled feta, chopped olives, cucumber, lettuce and tomato. (Can add sliced sandwich meat if you want). Serve with fresh dill dipping sauce.
Fresh Dill Sauce — Combine 1 cup each mayo and sour cream, 2 tablespoons dill weed, 2 tablespoons Beau Monde seasoning and 1 teaspoon minced onion. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour before serving. Serve with Healthy Vegetable Pockets, sliced vegetables or crackers.
Better Than Store-Bought Pimiento-Cheese Dip — Mix ½ pound each grated cheddar and pepper jack, ¼ cup each mayonnaise and sour cream and 2 tablespoons diced pimientos. Season with hot sauce, onion and garlic powders and mix well; serve with crackers.
Touchdown Drumsticks — Combine a cup of jarred picante sauce, ¼ cup of honey, tablespoon of soy sauce and ½ teaspoon grated ginger in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Brush half the mixture on 12 chicken legs (can use chicken tenders) in a foil-covered baking pan; bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Turn legs and brush with remainder; continue baking 20 minutes or until tender. Serve with picante sauce.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi and a travel agent. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.