Whether your tailgate includes a custom grill setup and team color-coordinated tents or a simple picnic on a well-worn blanket, no pre-game ritual is complete without the spread. This is one party that’s as much about the food as it is about fans and football.
Here are some tailgate ideas from which to choose, whether you’re thinking main course or sides. No worries, we’ve got dips covered and even include a few breakfast ideas when you have to plan around an early kickoff.
A few, such as the pressed muffuletta sandwich, require advance preparation. Nothing too complicated, just a little planning.
You’ll still have plenty of time to worry about the other important things, like icing the beer and whipping up a pitcher of cocktails.
These aren’t recipes, but here are suggestions for what else to make. The complete recipes can be found at latimes.com/tail gaterecipes.
Bell pepper and corn slaw: Slice a colorful assortment of bell peppers into thin strips and toss with fresh corn and a quick dressing of lemon juice, garlic, oil, agave syrup and a touch of chipotle pepper.
Fennel and white bean salad: Toss drained white beans with thinly sliced fennel, crisp bacon, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil and a dash of hot sauce in this simple bean salad.
Avocado corn relish: Combine sauteed corn with avocados, green onions, bell pepper, roasted chiles, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Set aside to marry the flavors and serve at room temperature alongside steak or grilled meats.
Calabacitas: Flavor chopped zucchini, tomatoes and corn with onion and garlic, then add a little diced jalapeno for a touch of heat in this Southwestern classic. Combine everything in a foil packet and steam until tender and fragrant. Sprinkle crumbled fresh cheese over it before serving.
Stuffed grape leaves (dolmas): Stuff grape leaves with a fragrant blend of rice, pine nuts, lemon zest and fresh herbs, then wrap them up like little burritos. Pack the dolmas in tight layers in a casserole and slowly simmer them in a broth of lemon juice, oil and water until tender.
Carne asada: Blend fresh cilantro, a little garlic, onion, serrano chile, salt and a touch of Worcestershire sauce. Rub the marinade over skirt steak and marinate an hour, up to several, before grilling.
Grilled stuffed pork chops: Stuff thick, center-cut, bone-in pork chops with goat cheese flavored with roasted garlic, spinach, chopped fresh thyme and rosemary up to several hours ahead of grilling.
Bratwurst: Simmer fresh brats over the grill in a deep pan filled with butter, sliced onion and beer, then grill to order. It’s heaven on a roll piled high with sauerkraut, mustard and pickles
Yakitori: Ahead of time, skewer bites of pork belly, peppers, chicken, mushrooms – even tomatoes wrapped in bacon – on soaked wooden skewers, then grill to order.
Grilled pork steaks with fennel: Slice boneless pork butt into steaks and dust with a blend of ground fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt. Grill for a few minutes on each side over a hot fire.
Three-bean and hominy chili: Black, pinto and kidney beans are slow-cooked with hominy and diced tomatoes in a rich chili flavored with garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. It’s so filling your guests might never guess it’s vegetarian.
Roasted Potato Salad
4 pounds new or fingerling potatoes, cleaned and halved lengthwise
3/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound thick-cut bacon
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard, or to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/2 red onion, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices
1/4 cup capers
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the garlic, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Place the potatoes in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast the potatoes until golden brown and tender, about 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Remove and cool.
While the potatoes are roasting, cut the bacon crosswise into one-fourth-inch pieces. Cook the bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 15 minutes. Stir frequently, watching that the bacon does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and drain bacon on a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the grease for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and red wine vinegar. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper. Taste and adjust mustard, vinegar and seasoning if desired.
In a large bowl, combine potatoes and bacon with the sliced onion. Gently stir in enough dressing to coat, then stir in the capers. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.
Cover and refrigerate salad for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to develop. It will keep for 3 days, refrigerated, but allow it to warm to room temperature before serving. Each serving: 420 calories; 11 grams protein; 34 grams carbs; 3 grams fiber; 28 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 29 mg. cholesterol; 696 mg. sodium.
Chicken Apple Sausage
1/2 cup apple cider
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 1/2 pounds boned chicken thighs with skin, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 ounces dried apples, cut into 1/4 -inch dice (you will have about 1 cup)
1/2 cup finely diced onion
About 5 feet medium sausage casings, optional
In a small saucepan, bring the cider to a boil, then reduce to a good simmer. Cook until the cider reduces to one-fourth cup, 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the bouillon cube, stirring until the cube dissolves. Place the mixture in a glass container and refrigerate until chilled.
In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the salt, black pepper, sage, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover the bowl and place the chicken in the freezer just until it begins to stiffen, about 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the freezer and grind with a meat grinder fitted with a three-eighths-inch grinding plate into a large bowl set over an ice bath. Once the chicken is ground, stir in the reduced cider, diced apples and onion. Knead and squeeze the mixture until well blended.
Fry a small patty until done to check the flavor and seasoning (it should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees). If necessary, adjust salt, pepper and other seasonings, then fry another small patty and check again.
Divide the sausage into 7 or 8 portions (each about one-half pound). Alternatively, stuff the sausage into the casing, following the manufacturer’s instructions for your sausage stuffer; tie into 5-inch links. Refrigerate the sausage up to 2 days, or freeze up to 2 months. Each 4-ounce serving: 189 calories; 17 grams protein; 5 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 11 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 64 mg. cholesterol; 414 mg. sodium.
Celery Root and Apple Slaw
1 generous cup chopped pecans
3-1/2 pounds (about 3 large or 4 medium) celery root
2 large Gala apples
1/2 cup dried currants
1 cup sour cream
1-3/4 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the chopped pecans on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Using a knife or vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer skin from the celery roots. Trim to square off the rounded edges so that each celery root is a 2-1/2- or 3-inch cube. Use the julienne setting of a mandoline or a sharp knife to slice them into one-eighth-inch julienne. Transfer the celery root to a large bowl, add just enough cider vinegar to coat, then toss; this will keep them from oxidizing and browning.
Core the apples (unpeeled) and quarter them lengthwise. Cut each quarter crosswise into one-eighth-inch-thick slices. Toss them with the celery root, making sure they have just enough cider vinegar to coat.
Fold the currants and the pecans into the slaw.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, horseradish, Dijon mustard, sugar and 1 tablespoon plus one-half teaspoon cider vinegar. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper, or to taste. Gently fold the dressing into the slaw. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours for the flavors to develop. The slaw will keep for up to 2 days, refrigerated. Each serving: 234 calories; 4 grams protein; 27 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 10 mg. cholesterol; 404 mg. sodium.
1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pitted oil-packed black olives, coarsely chopped
1 (2-ounce) jar pimentos, drained and coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, trimmed and minced, about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup cauliflower florets, blanched and minced
1 carrot, peeled, blanched and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large round loaf semolina bread
1 cup finely shredded lettuce
1/4 pound thinly sliced ham
1/4 pound thinly sliced mortadella with pistachios
1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
6 ounces thinly sliced provolone
Note: To blanch the cauliflower and carrot, cook in boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunge into cold water.
Make an olive relish by combining the green and black olives with the pimentos, celery, cauliflower, carrot, garlic, parsley, oregano, vinegar and oil. Stir to blend, then set aside to marinate at least 2 hours, but preferably 4.
Slice bread in half horizontally. Scoop out some of the bottom part, leaving a retaining wall on all sides. Drain olive mixture, reserving liquid. Spread half the relish onto bread. Top with successive layers of lettuce, ham, mortadella, salami and cheese. Drizzle with a little of the reserved marinade. Spread remaining olive relish over the layers. Top with the reserved half of the loaf.
Wrap the sandwich in plastic film. Place it on a baking sheet and weight it with something heavy such as an iron skillet or canned tomatoes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to compress. Cut into thin wedges to serve. Each serving: 362 calories; 1,212 mg. sodium; 43 mg. cholesterol; 21 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 17 grams protein; 2 grams fiber.Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes Servings: 8 to 10 Source: Los Angeles Times Total time: 35 minutes, plus chilling time Servings: Makes about 4 pounds sausage Source: Adapted from “Bruce Aidells’ Complete Sausage Book” by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. This recipe requires a meat grinder. Recipe courtesy of Los Angeles Times Total time: 25 minutes Servings: 8 to 10 Source: Los Angeles Times Total time: 1 hour, plus 2 to 4 hours marinating and 4 hours pressing Servings: 8 Source: Los Angeles Times
More recipes are available online at latimes.com/tailgaterecipes