It’s almost here, folks. The best time of year. While it wouldn’t be fair to say “the weather is turning” yet... we can all picture those days just around the corner: crisp fall air, autumnal colors on the trees, and switching our summer lagers and margaritas for malty marzens and toasty dunkels. Football is here and it’s almost tailgating time.
Whether you’re setting up in the lots outside Scott Stadium, perched over in Fontaine Research Park, or lucked into a plot on The Lawn, you’ll want to make sure your menu is up to the challenge of the moment. We’re talking week by week diversity and intrigue! Don’t get me wrong: I love a hot dog. But UVA tailgates deserve more than the usual - and they don’t make Zima anymore so we’ve got to think outside of the box with the culinary side of the food + beverage equation.
With that, here are some specific tailgating recommendations and recipes - that keep in consideration both ease of preparation and thematic connection to that week’s opponent - here to enhance your home game spreads:
Saturday, September 3rd 12:30pm - Richmond Spiders
As far as tying in things thematically, it doesn’t get more unappetizing than considering spiders... so we’re immediately going in a different direction with the home opener. However, the answer here is an easy one: crab cakes. It’s Labor Day weekend - and on Labor Day weekend, we pick crabs. Plus crabs sort of resemble spiders but let’s stop thinking about that. I present to you all: Pierce’s Favorite Crab Cakes.
Take an egg, a quarter cup of mayo (if you’re not using Duke’s, change your ways), a couple teaspoons of dijon mustard, worchestershire sauce, and lemon juice and mix it all up. Chop up a small handful some aromatic veggies like chives, green onion, or parsley (or a combo). You just want a tablespoon or two of them - and you throw them in the sauce. Then you throw in a pound of crab meat (you’re best using jumbo lump) and half cup or so of crushed up saltines. Add a little salt and a teaspoon or so of Old Bay. You can do all of this the night before, of course, then bring the mix to the tailgate.
Heat a little oil or butter in your cast iron or griddle — scoop the mix in half-cup portions and cook 4-5 minutes on each side. Serve them just like that (or on a small bun if you prefer) with some remoulade. Remoulade is easy: Duke’s, hot sauce, and relish.
Starting off the year with a fancy one, as is our nature and joy. Bon Appetit.
Saturday, September 17th 2:00pm - Old Dominion Monarchs
What oh what to do with ODU. The Monarchs. Big Blue. Mascot is a lion. I don’t think we’re allowed to eat lions. or butterflies. Our state school friends down in Norfolk... ah there it is. 757. Hampton Roads. The Commonwealth’s little slice of beach life. Let’s make some fish tacos.
Once again, there’s a day-before component you can do with this one that’ll make rocking with these at a tailgate surprisingly easy. Let’s go with rockfish as well, but you can use whatever white and flaky choice you prefer. Also, if you’re cooking on a griddle or cast iron, that’ll work fine, but you can grill the fish as well if that’s your tailgate setup. Grilled Rockfish Tailgate Tacos:
Easiest thing to do is make the slaw the night before: dice up a mango and a cup or so of pineapple. Mix those with a couple of diced jalapeños, a couple cups of shredded purple cabbage, and juice a lime into that mix. Add a couple minced garlic cloves, four (or if you’re like me...8-12) tablespoons of cilantro.
In another bowl, mix a half of cup of Duke’s with a quarter cup of red wine vinegar. Add some salt n pepa to that and throw the dressing into the slaw. Refrigerate and bring to the tailgate. You can also make a spice mix for the fish in advance: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, chili powder, cumin
Whether you’re grilling or skilleting or sitting a pan over a camping stove... all’s similar for cooking the fish. But, for grilling, spray the grill a little and spice up your deboned rockfish fillets (a couple pounds) with the mix you made. Grill them for six minutes per side, or til it starts to really flake. Corn tortillas today, for sure. Grill those for a minute on each side before serving. Put the fish and the slaw on the tortilla and you’ve successfully created a taco. Nice work. Maybe mix a lime’s worth of juice (and if you’re feeling super zesty... some lime, well, zest) with a cup of sour cream for an added dash of splendor to the meal.
Saturday, October 8th (Time TBD) - Louisville Cardinals
Homecomings tailgate! Maybe it’s finally cooler out by the second week of October. Let’s eat some cardinals!
Just kidding, I assume it’s a felony to eat your state bird. We can eat chickens, though! Fried Chicken Sandwiches:
There’s one step to these that I highly recommend following — but it’s the one you really want to do the night before: brining your chicken in pickle juice. Get a jar of pickle slices (to use on the sandwiches, later). Take four chicken thighs and throw them in a ziplock bag with a cup of juice. Repeat for as many sammies as you plan on making and let them marinate in the fridge overnight.
The next day at the tailgate, I definitely recommend a cast iron pan or some sort of deeper cooking vessel. You could griddle these if that’s not doable, I suppose, but we want some of that deep fried crisp on these things, optimally. So, heat up the cast iron with a decent layer of oil - peanut or vegetable oil will work fine - the oil is hot enough when you can drop a bit of the batter (getting to that in second) into the pan and it sizzles triumphantly and immediately.
For the batter, have two bowls ready, one with a cup or so of buttermilk, the other a couple of cups of flour (you can season the flour with some salt and pepper too). Pat your brined thighs off with a paper towel, dunk them in the buttermilk, then dunk those thighs in the flour. Make sure to press the batter around the thighs for some full coverage - but you can shake off the excess flour as well when you transfer them to the oil. Use a pair of tongs to do just that. A couple of minutes on each side in the hot oil should be enough. 3 minutes per side at the most. But once you see them golden brown, set them on a paper towel lined plate and you’re all set.
Fried thighs + potato roll (or your favorite bun) + pickles = glorious sandwich. Mix some Duke’s with a few dashes of hot sauce and throw that on there too if you’re feeling saucy. Chicken (cardinal?) mascots are delicious.
Saturday, October 29th (Time TBD) - Miami Hurricanes
Not really sure how we could cook a storm system and definitely not looking to eat a stork or whatever that is. So... can we make some tailgate cuban sandos? You bet your pork butt you can. We’re not using pork butt though — probably best to go with a pork tenderloin — but whatever cut you want to roast in advance is up to you. That’s this recipe’s day-in-advance homework: roasting a pork loin.
Instructions for this: rub some stuff on a pork loin. The stuff should probably be onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Put the loin on a roasting pan at 400 — fat side up — for 10 min. Turn heat down to 350 for 20 minutes per pound of meat after that. Let it rest for a while before you slice it up for the tailgate.
At the tailgate, we take our hoagie rolls (or you could make some sliders on some Hawaiian rolls that sounds pretty good too) and you butter all four sides of your bread. You skillet that bread on your skillet or pan... and if you’re grilling you go ahead and grill that bread. Once it’s nice and toasty, you fill that bread with some yellow mustard, a few slices of deli ham, a slice or two of that roast pork goodness, some swiss cheese, and those long dill pickle slices. mmmmmMMMmmm. Then you take that sando, wrap in foil, and throw it for a couple of minutes back on the grill, pan, skillet, campfire idk just heat it up again. Go Hoos.
Saturday, November 5th (Time TBD) - North Carolina Tar Heels
When we think of our neighbors to the south, we think of pulled pork (which is amazing, of course), but while I wish everyone out there brought a smoker to the their tailgate and started smoking a pig in the Scott Stadium parking lot the night before... I’m going to go with a more accessible recipe that still fits the them our our South’s Oldest Opponent: Lamb Sliders, babbbyyyy
This is so so easy — but even easier if you want to make the lamb in advance: ground lamb, chop up a few garlic cloves, salt and pepper, oregano, and LEMON ZEST. Mix all that and make some little burgers, heretofore referred to as “sliders” because they look like baseball bases. (is that true? I’m not looking it up).
You can buy some tzatziki sauce for these pre-made, but if you want to really impress just chop up a cup of cucumber, add it to two cups of plain greek yogurt, two teaspoons of lemon juice, two teaspoons of dill, and some salt and pepper... and some garlic. Yeah.
But back to the lamb. At the tailgate, grill (or pan/skillet) your adorable sliders over medium heat for really just like 3 minutes or so on each side. Toast some little slider buns (also adorable). Add some crumbled feta, sliced red onion, slice of lettuce, and your sauce. Easy!
Saturday, November 12th (Time TBD) - Pitt Panthers
Two home games left - but this is the final home ACC game for the season — and it’s against the Steel City Jungle Cats which hardly brings anything appetizing to mind. Most of the food I’ve had in the Pittsburgh area has been well, bad — the whole french fries on a sandwich thing is a really weak effort. I once went to a pizza place outside Pittsburgh that advertised throwing slices of American cheese on its cooked pizza as the “regional style.”
Anyway, all is not lost. The PA folks love perogies, from what I can tell, and those are delicious - so let’s potato up this tailgate with some Cheddar and Potato Perogies:
As usual, we’re going to do some prep before: making the dough and stuffing it with potatoes cheese. Take 4.5 cups of all purpose flour and mix 2 tsp of salt with it in your mixer. Add 2 cups yogurt (or sour cream), 2 large eggs (crack those first), and a tablespoon of water.
Boil 4 or 5 potatoes. The baked potato kind. Russet. Chop them up first and throw them in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain them, add a couple cups of shredded cheddar cheese, and mash that all up. You could use a fork but let’s invest in a potato masher, shall we? They’ve fun. And now you’ve got your filling!
Flatten that dough you made out on a counter/board and punch out 4 inch (ish) circles with a pint glass. Tablespoon of filling into each circle then fold it into a little dumpling. Delightful! Now, boil a pot of water and in batches of 10 or so, cook those little dumplings for a minute (til they float to the top). Drain them and store them for the tailgate.
At the event, we’ll fry these little guys in a pan/griddle situation — use a little butter or oil — I say butter. Top with chopped scallions and some sour cream... and maybe chop up some bacon if you’re feeling frisky.
Saturday, November 19th (Time TBD) - Coast Carolina Chanticleers
More chicken?! Let’s do it. We fried some cluckers earlier, so we’re going to fire up the grill for this one. But we’re going to take a step further than your basic BBQ chicken (though that might be chicken at its very best...) — this is the final home game! These are the Chanticileers! Let’s spice things up: BBQ Chicken and Bacon Bombs
A bomb, as far as I can tell in culinary terms, is rolled up amazingness so we’re going to do our prep and rolling-up at home the day before. Take a big pack of chicken breasts and slice those breast lengthwise into fillets (you could also buy the fillets pre-cut of course). Lay out a couple of sheets of parchment paper and pound the meat in between them — use a mallet, wine bottle, big rock, whatever you have handy. You want them 1⁄4 inch thin or so — and season them with salt and pepper.
For as many breasts as you have, take a jalapeño per breast and slice those guys length wise too - so one slice per fillet. Mix a cup of shredded cheddar cheese with 1⁄2 a cup of softened cream cheese. Slather that mix on your jalapeño slices, place cheese side down on the chicken fillet, then roll it up. THEN. oh then. Then take that wrapped chicken and WRAP IT with a couple of pieces of bacon. It should hold together well with the bacon.
Then wash your hands thoroughly - you’ve been working with jalapeños and raw meat.
That’s it for prep — take those lil bombs to the tailgate and fire up your grill. Cook them over indirect heat for 25 minutes or so — every time you turn them (every 5 minutes), you slap some BBQ sauce on them. Voila! A Chanticleer.
Happy eating, ‘Hoos. See you out there in the West Lot.