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Tailgating is back this football season and we have some food ideas

After taking a year off, tailgating has returned to Raymond James Stadium, and we have a suggestion for a meal theme: Eat your opponents.
A tailgater tends to hamburgers outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa before a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018. After taking a year off because of the coronavirus, tailgating has returned this season for fans of the Bucs and the University of South Florida Bulls.
A tailgater tends to hamburgers outside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa before a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018. After taking a year off because of the coronavirus, tailgating has returned this season for fans of the Bucs and the University of South Florida Bulls. [ JIM DAMASKE | Times (2018) ]
Published Sep. 27
Updated Sep. 27

Tailgating is back for the University of South Florida Bulls and Tampa Bay Buccaneers home games at Raymond James Stadium this fall, and football fans will be champing at the bit to hang out in a sweaty parking lot to eat before the big game.

Here’s an idea for a theme: Eat your opponents.

Chicken can serve as a stand-in for any bird opponent, whether it's the Philadelphia Eagles or the Temple Owls, which play the University of South Florida Bulls on Oct. 23.
Chicken can serve as a stand-in for any bird opponent, whether it's the Philadelphia Eagles or the Temple Owls, which play the University of South Florida Bulls on Oct. 23. [ EVE EDELHEIT | Tampa Bay Times (2013) ]

Think about Chicago hot dogs when the Bucs play the Bears Oct. 24, or some Texas barbecue when the Bucs play the Dallas Cowboys. Chicken can serve as a stand-in for any bird opponent, from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Temple Owls, which play USF on Oct. 23.

Related: USF home games returning to full capacity, starting with Florida Gators game

You could go with New Orleans gumbo, made the night before and reheated on a portable propane camp stove, when the Bucs play the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 19, a game that will be shown from Tampa on Sunday Night Football. But an even better way to make use of a cheap camp stove is a Louisiana shrimp boil that you cook on site and then dump onto a picnic table so everyone can just grab what they want from the pile of shrimp, corn, potatoes and sausage.

These ideas can also work at a party in your backyard if you feel like sticking closer to home.

We took a look at the home game schedules and came up with some ideas based on the regional specialty of enemy territory.

A shrimp boil awaits fans at a tailgate before the USF game on Aug. 31, 2013.
A shrimp boil awaits fans at a tailgate before the USF game on Aug. 31, 2013. [ EVE EDELHEIT | Tampa Bay Times (2013) ]

Tailgating tips

To-go bag: Keep the supplies you need each week — rain gear, bug spray, garbage bags, plates and silverware, paper towels and bottle openers — in a box or bag for the season. That way they’re in one place at all times.

Use your freezer: Earlier in the week, marinate and freeze the meat you plan to cook in plastic freezer bags. Take the bags out the night before to 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. Also, freeze bottles of water to do double duty in the cooler as ice packs and drinking water.

Tools: You can get a portable propane stove for less than $50. It uses a standard propane tank and offers one or two burners, good for heating up chili or jambalaya or scrambling eggs for an early game. You can also find a tabletop grill that uses charcoal or is powered by propane that can also be had for less than $50.

Cook ahead: If the drive to the stadium is less than 30 minutes and it’s a super hot day, we have found it is easier to cook or grill at home and pack the food in aluminum foil or use a propane burner to reheat it on site. That way you have the food ready to eat when you arrive and no messy cleanup of charcoal. If it’s too hot to spend time over a grill, make some cold foods the night before, such as wraps or chicken salad, and bring really good bread or croissants for serving.

We picked a few home games from each of the Bucs’ and Bulls’ schedules at Raymond James Stadium to spark some ideas to “eat the opponent.” You can find the full Buccaneers schedule at buccaneers.com and the USF schedule at gousfbulls.com.

Bucs home games

Tennessee Titans vs. Bucs, Aug. 21 (preseason): People drive from miles around for a plate of Nashville’s famous hot chicken. A quick way to make a copycat is to add a large amount of spices and hot sauce to your favorite fried chicken, such as Publix chicken tenders, and turn it into a slider.

Copycat Nashville Hot Sliders

2 pounds of your favorite fried chicken tenders or nuggets

1 cup vegetable oil

6 tablespoons cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon salt

12 dill pickle slices

12 bakery dinner rolls

In a bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, garlic powder, smoked paprika and salt. Tip: The longer this oil sits, the hotter it gets. Dunk the cooked chicken chunks in the oil.

Leave rolls connected; do not break apart or separate. Instead, cut the entire group of rolls in half horizontally to make 1 large top and 1 large bottom. Place pickle slices on bottom half of rolls. Place chicken on top of pickles.

Cut into 12 sliders and serve.

Source: Perdue.com

Buffalo Bills vs. Bucs, Dec. 12: While Buffalo’s most famous food export is the chicken wing, it really should be known for the best sandwich ever: beef on weck. The crucial element is the kummelweck roll, an invention of early 20th century German immigrant bakers who topped a Kaiser roll with coarse salt and caraway seeds. It’s soft and chewy on the inside, crusty and salty on the outside. The top of the bun is dipped in a bit of au jus and perfectly holds a heaping pile of rare roast beef and a smear of sinus-clearing horseradish. It’s easy to pull off with a skillet on the grill while tailgating. We came up with a way to mimic the Buffalo staple with regular Kaiser rolls and deli roast beef.

The "Beef on Weck" sandwich is Buffalo's lesser-known food export, but it's a great sandwich.
The "Beef on Weck" sandwich is Buffalo's lesser-known food export, but it's a great sandwich. [ MCINTYRE, SCOTT | Times (2010) ]

Beef on Weck

6 plain store-bought Kaiser rolls with no seeds

1 egg beaten (or 1 egg white beaten with a little water)

1 to 2 tablespoons coarse salt, such as kosher or rock salt

1 to 2 tablespoons caraway seeds

3 cups prepared au jus sauce

2 pounds thinly sliced roast beef

¼ cup prepared horseradish

Place the rolls on the grill, cut side down. Brush the top of the roll with the egg wash, then sprinkle the coarse salt and caraway seeds on top. Be generous. Close the grill and let them bake for 5 to 7 minutes until golden brown. Warm the au jus sauce in a saucepan over medium heat on the grill. Add the roast beef and let it warm up at the same time.

Serve the sliced beef on the rolls with the au jus and horseradish on the side.

Source: Sharon Kennedy Wynne

New Orleans Saints vs. Bucs, Dec. 19: A Cajun shrimp boil is a very easy tailgating recipe. The dish is similar to the Lowcountry dish from South Carolina, but simplifies the seasoning. To serve, place newspaper in the center of a picnic table and pour the shrimp boil on top. Guests are encouraged to use their hands to pick out their favorites among the sausage, shrimp and corn, with butter and cocktail sauce on hand for dipping.

Cajun Shrimp Boil

5 quarts water

1 (4-ounce) pouch of Louisiana or Zatarain’s brand seafood-boil seasoning mix (add a second pouch if you like it spicier)

1 pound sausage, such as kielbasa, cut into 3-inch pieces

8 to 12 small new potatoes

4 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 large onion, sliced

2 whole garlic heads, cut in half

4 large ears corn, shucked and cut in half or into thirds

2 to 3 medium lemons, quartered

2 pounds jumbo shrimp (about 20 to 25 per pound)

Cocktail sauce and melted butter, for serving

Using a large 10- to 12-quart pot and a camp stove, add the water to the pot, along with the crab boil mix. Bring to a rapid boil. Stir in sausage, potatoes, celery, onions and garlic. Return to boil; cover. Boil 15 minutes. Add corn and cook for 8 minutes. Squeeze juice from lemons into the water and add lemons to the pot. Add the shrimp and bring to a boil. The shrimp will cook fast, so keep a close eye on them in the next 3 to 5 minutes. They should be opaque rather than translucent. Don’t overcook them.

Drain all of the ingredients and place them in the center of a newspaper-covered picnic table. The onion and lemon slices may be removed, but you can keep them in for flavor and color. Have cocktail sauce and melted butter handy for tailgaters to grab their favorites from the pile.

Source: Zatarain’s

USF home games

Temple vs. USF, Oct. 23: For teams like the Temple Owls, chicken can substitute for the bird required to eat your opponent. But since the school is based in Philadelphia, what could be more emblematic of Pennsylvania than Wawa? The gas station food mart with a cult following has a brilliant system for ordering fresh subs from a touch screen. Wawa finally has a firm footing in the Florida market, so you can pick up some subs for the game. Consider the chicken Parmesan, a favorite of the mom Beverly Goldberg from the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs, set in the ‘80s in Pennsylvania, where Wawa is often mentioned.

Cincinnati vs. USF, Nov. 12: Cincinnati’s chili is famous for its combination of a saucy beef chili with flavors of nutmeg and even chocolate subtly added — and then they serve it over spaghetti with a huge mound of cheese. As odd as that sounds, it is delicious (and you can even pick up a to-go order from the Skyline Chili location in Clearwater). That’s an awfully tough dish to pull off for tailgating, so why not make it as a dip? Spread cream cheese across the bottom of a casserole dish and top with chili, chopped onions and lots and lots of shredded cheddar cheese. You can warm it on the grill and serve it with corn chips.

Texas toast: SMU (Oct. 2) and Houston (Nov. 6) vs. USF: The Bulls play two teams from Texas this year, Southern Methodist University of Dallas and the Houston Cougars, so think about a Tex-Mex twist with a walking taco bar. You can lay out all the ingredients and some bags of corn chips and people can pile on their favorites. Just put out some plastic forks and guests can roam about the parking lot and head to the cornhole game with their food in hand.

Walking Taco

This state fair staple revolves around a bag of corn chips topped with whatever you would usually put in your taco. You can grill chicken or reheat the meat portion on the grill. (If your car has an electric outlet, you can plug in a slow cooker full of seasoned meat for the tacos.) You can heat some tortillas on the grill for those who want a more traditional taco.

Start with a nice chip base (you might want to pound them a bit), add your meat and other taco toppings. After you have your desired taco extras added, roll up the top of the bag and shake it around, mixing everything inside. Open up the bag, grab an eating utensil and you now have a walking taco.

In addition to bags of corn chips, set out any of the following options:

Salsa

1 pound ground beef cooked with taco seasoning

Chicken tenders cooked on the grill or in advance

Shredded cheese

Sour cream

Shredded lettuce

Sliced jalapenos

Diced green onions

Slices of lime

Black beans

Diced avocado

Hot sauces