As football season gets underway, Americans are gearing up for one of our favorite game day traditions – Tailgating! If you’ve never heard of this, tailgating is basically an outdoor parking lot party, and it’s loads of fun!
There are varying levels of tailgaters, from novice (like me) to “professionals” who take their tailgating very seriously. They show up with grills and coolers and set up for an afternoon of serious partying.
I love to see the hardcore tailgaters doing their thing, but that just seems like a whole lot of work. I prefer a kinder, gentler setup – delicious food prepared at home that’s easy to clean up after.
One of my favorite tailgating dishes is chili, because it’s so versatile. You can serve it with cornbread, tortilla chips or even Fritos, and the condiments (onions, jalapenos, cheese, etc.) are easily transported in plastic baggies. And if you’re tailgating with (or near) other people you can barter with it. They’re grilling burgers or hot dogs? Surely they’ll be happy to work out a trade! Chili-dogs, anyone?
Speaking of cornbread, I’m going to do something I never thought I’d do – I’m giving away my best-kept secret! My Bacon Upside-down Cornbread is divine, and friends come from miles away to eat it. It also transports well in foil, so there’s no clean-up beyond the kitchen.
Z’s Bacon Upside Down Cornbread
6-8 slices of thick cut bacon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped
1 or 2 jalapenos, diced (remove seeds if you want less heat)
1 (8-ounce) package cornbread/corn muffin mix
1 tsp ground Cumin
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar, halved
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with enough bacon to cover bottom of dish. Put in the oven while you prepare the rest of the recipe. In a medium/large saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion, peppers and 2 (diced) slices of bacon until tender but not browned – about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the muffin mix, cumin, egg, milk, sour cream, 1/2 cup of the cheese. Stir to combine. Pour evenly over the bacon in the prepared pan, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top, and bake for 30 minutes, until set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. When cool enough to handle, run a knife around edges of bread to loosen from pan, turn it out upside down onto a flat surface and dig in!
No setting up grills for this girl – all of my on-site efforts go to setting up the bar! Choosing wine for tailgating could possibly be the easiest pairing ever. Given that most tailgate foods are meat, meat-based, or generally hearty, just about any light red will do.
For beef dishes I’d recommend something without heavy tannins or alcohol which could clash with the nuanced flavors of chili, condiments or sauces. I would play it safe and go with a Pinot Noir or a Cotes-du-Rhone.
Chicken or turkey needs a full-bodied wine with ripe, juicy fruits and “barely there” tannins. A Malbec or California Zinfandel would be ideal for either.
If you must have white wine, Chardonnay would be the most obvious choice, with Alsace coming in a close second. Both of these pair well with savory foods, so they’re a safe bet for most tailgating fare. Especially if you’re having shrimp on the barbie!
I realize that most people bring beer to tailgate parties because it’s the easier, more traditional choice, but I say bring what you love! I always bring a variety of wines with me because, face it, you never know what you’ll end up eating.
Remember – tailgating is fun, but it’s better with wine.