Football season is here and that means we have an excuse to put out a big spread of food, spend the afternoon with friends and embrace garish colors and painted faces.
There is no shortage of hard-core tailgaters in the bay area, thanks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the University of South Florida Bulls, who both play at Raymond James Stadium. A group of former First Union bankers shows up at every Bucs game as soon as the gates open, and Dunedin banker Bill Vandeven sets up a misting station and an A/C unit blowing cold air into a floor fan. They feast on steak sandwiches, shrimp boils, rack of lamb. At the Thanksgiving game, the group deep-fries eight turkeys and installs an alcohol ice luge while a DJ gets the party started for some 150 people.
"There's quite a few people who come to tailgate with us and won't even go to the game," said Mark Spence of Clearwater, who runs a mortgage company.
Others, like Tyler Ellis of Brandon, a biotech scientist, will cook some sausages while listening to tunes. Ellis has a specially modified 80-quart cooler that he has rigged with speakers and an iPod dock.
American ingenuity at its finest. You'll find plenty of it at home Buccaneers and Bulls games. We were at last week's games surveying the scene in the sweltering heat. When you're a fan, you figure out ways around that.
The essentials of tailgating include meat, a cornhole game, music, beer and more meat. In Florida, you can add shade or maybe even a fan to beat the heat because the first few months of football season can be brutally humid.
But that won't stop die-hards, because the ritual of tailgating is as big a part of being a fan as the fight song.
"The ideal tailgating dish is one that is portable, accessible and fun," said Taylor Mathis, the North Carolina author of the new cookbook The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, and the South (University of North Carolina Press, 2013).
Those tuna steaks might be delicious, but they are hard to eat standing up. Better to go with a skewer or a burger. If the forecast calls for rain, consider a cold menu and wait out the drizzle under a canopy.
One of my family's favorite tailgating tools is a portable propane stove, which you can find for less than $50. It uses a standard propane tank and you then have one or two burners, good for heating up chili or jambalaya or scrambling eggs for an early game. We also have a table-top grill that is powered by propane that can also be had for less than $50.
With a little planning, the choices are endless. You could go with New Orleans gumbo when the Bucs play the New Orleans Saints for their first home game Sept. 15. Mathis suggests you "eat the competition" and serve pork if your team is playing the Arkansas Razorbacks or use chicken in the Spiedies recipe that accompanies this story as a stand-in for the eagle, owl or ibis your team will be tackling. I pried the recipe for this delicious sandwich made from marinated cubes of meat from some friends in upstate New York years ago. It's a proud specialty of Binghamton, N.Y.
While setting up the grill and lounging around all afternoon can be half the fun, if the drive to the stadium is less than 30 minutes, we have found it easier to cook or grill at home and pack the food in aluminum foil or use a propane burner to reheat on site. That way you have the food ready to eat when you arrive and no messy cleanup of charcoal. If we do grill, we tend to only grill things that can be cooked fairly quickly on a propane grill, such as sausages or wings.
Our favorites have been jambalaya or chili (reheated on the burner and served in a bowl over cooked white rice), Spiedies, quick-cooking sausages and drumsticks or dry-rubbed wings that are just as good cold as they are right off the grill.
For drinks, a pitcher of Bloody Marys was a big favorite last year for an early game, and don't forget about dessert. Mathis' cookbook contains a recipe for Training Table Brownies, based on the brownies his grandfather, a former athletic recruiter at Duke University, used to have on the players' training table. They are a good tailgating option because by serving them on a large sheet cake pan, you don't even have to cut them ahead of time. Guests can decide how big or small a serving they want.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• From tailgater.com: "We developed our checklist over the years and laminated it. As we are packing, simply check off the items with a dry erase marker. When all done, wipe it off and you are ready for the next game."
• Keep the supplies you need each week, such as rain gear, bug spray and bottle openers, in a box or bag for the season. That way they're in one place each week.
Use your freezer
• Marinate chicken or flank steak and freeze earlier in the week in plastic freezer bags. Take them out the night before and thaw in the refrigerator. They may still be partly frozen when you put them in the cooler, but that's a good thing. By the time you get them to the game for the grill, the meat is still very cold.
• Freeze bottles of water to do double duty in the cooler as ice packs.
• Keep your guacamole from changing color by placing a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the green stuff.
• Keep the drinks in a separate cooler from the food. This saves the meat cooler from being opened and closed with every drink order.
Grilled garlic bread: Make your favorite garlic bread and toast it on the grill. Be careful of flareups from the butter. The presentation of bread with grill marks looks nice.
Dessert: Make grilled pound cake with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Slice a store-bought pound cake into half slices (they're easy to handle) and brush with butter on both sides. Grill on both sides just until toasted, about 1 minute. Top with chocolate.
Cooking in the heat
Chicken salad: For those especially hot Florida tailgate days, make cold chicken salad with mayonnaise and stir in something sweet like quartered grapes, chopped apples or dried cranberries. Add walnuts or jazz it up with curry powder or spicy Cajun salt. Serve on really good bread or croissants.
Deviled eggs: A staple of Southern tailgate gatherings, deviled eggs are easy to make and easy to transport. Better yet, top them with Bucs-inspired colors, with paprika and black olives standing in for Pewter Power's red and black. For the Bulls, go for parsley since the filling is already goldish.
Food on a stick
The best part of skewers is you can make them the night before.
• Make a deli tray on a skewer by threading cubes of turkey, ham, cheddar, a cherry tomato and a mini gherkin pickle.
• An Italian skewer consists of wrapping salami slices around cubes of mozzarella. Thread the cheese cubes, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, marinated button mushrooms and olives on skewers and marinate the skewers in good Italian dressing the night before.
• Skewer cold shrimp alternately with pineapple chunks and roasted red bell pepper slices and put out cocktail sauce for dipping.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne
Training Table Brownies
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
7 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
4 to 6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
To make brownies, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 18- by 13-inch sheet or jelly roll pan. Line pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour the parchment paper (or use cooking spray for this).
Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; add baking chocolate. Stir until chocolate has melted. Take the chocolate off the heat and stir in sugars until incorporated. Let cool 10 minutes.
In a bowl, beat eggs with a fork until mixed. Beat in salt and vanilla. Pour beaten eggs into cooled chocolate. Stir to combine.
In a large bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Stir dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture to form a thick batter.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
For frosting: In a stand mixer, or using a handheld electric beater, beat the butter, sugar, whipping cream, vanilla and salt on low speed, until sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium and mix until a thick frosting forms.
Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler. With mixer running on low, pour warm melted chocolate into the frosting. Mix until incorporated. Increase speed to medium. Beat until frosting is fluffy, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons cream, if needed.
Frost cooled brownies. Let set for an hour before wrapping in plastic wrap.
Makes 20 to 36, depending on how large you cut the pieces.
Source: Taylor Mathis, The Southern Tailgating Cookbook: A Game-Day Guide for Lovers of Food, Football, and the South (University of North Carolina Press, 2013)
One of our tailgate favorites is a pitcher of this Bloody Mary recipe that I got from an Atlanta Junior League cookbook. It's great for a morning game. The longer the flavors meld, the better, so it can be made a week ahead of time.
1 (48-ounce) container of tomato juice, such as Spicy V-8
3 ounces lime juice
2 ounces Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons horseradish
Dash of hot sauce
1 pint (2 cups) vodka
Optional: lime wedges, olive, pickled okra and a stalk of celery as garnish
Mix all the ingredients and let the flavors meld at least 1 hour. The longer the better. This will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator and gets better with time.
Source: Atlanta Junior League
Spiedies are the celebrated sandwich of Binghamton, N.Y., that consists of cubes of chicken, pork, lamb, veal, venison or beef. The meat cubes are marinated overnight or longer, then grilled. These are my favorite things to make for camping or tailgating because they are so easy to eat standing up.
2 to 3 boneless chicken breasts
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 garlic cloves (finely chopped or pressed)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 loaf of Italian bread or hot dog rolls
Optional: a second batch of the marinade to be drizzled on the sandwich
Dice chicken into 1-inch cubes.
Whisk marinade ingredients together. Set some aside for basting or sauce if desired (I usually go ahead and make a second batch of marinade for this). Do not use marinade that has come in contact with raw chicken for sauce.
Add marinade to chicken and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally.
Thread four or five cubes onto metal or soaked bamboo skewers and grill for a few minutes on either side, just until meat is firm (remember, they're already partly cooked by the marinade).
Place two skewers on a fresh bread roll or Italian bread, grip the meat firmly with the bread and pull out the skewers. Drizzle with the extra marinade if you'd like.
Serves 3 to 4.
Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tampa Bay Times
This recipe is open to interpretation and you can add more shrimp if you'd like or even other shellfish. The sausage is optional and can be spicy or mild.
4 pounds new red potatoes
3 peeled medium onions
6 quarts water
1 (3-ounce) bag of crab boil seasoning
4 tablespoons liquid crab boil
4 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
2 pounds hot smoked link sausage, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
6 ears of corn, halved
4 pounds large fresh shrimp shell on, peeled and deveined optional
Add potatoes and onions to boil pot, then add 6 quarts water and all seasonings.
Cover pot and heat to a rolling boil; cook 5 minutes. Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 5 more minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Add shrimp to stock pot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain.