TAILGATE LIKE A REAL SOUTHERNER
By Patsy R. Brumfield
The Southfacin’ Cook
If you’ve never tailgated, you’ve missed lots of good food and fellowship.
Tailgating can wear you out or it can be as simple as you want it to be. Acquire all kinds of tables and cloths, chairs, tents, cooking equipment and a TV/generator. Or bring a few folding chairs, a blanket and a couple of coolers. You choose.
My tailgating experience comes from one of the South’s most beautiful (yea, may I say, THE most beautiful) setting – Ole Miss’ Grove, where tens of thousands of bleery-eyed fans enjoy themselves to the fullest before, during and after the campus gridiron matches.
Having gone from lavish to simple, let me recommend a few recipes to be prepared in advance, then stored in hot or cold boxes (coolers?) to get you where you’re going. I also recommend acquiring at least one dolly or hand-truck, and going to the Big Box warehouse store for a couple of stainless chafing dishes with sterno heat, if you’re too fancy for the throw-away aluminum pan style. I’ve done it both ways.
So, here’s our Fall 2015 menu
If it’s a morning game, start with breakfast:
- Sausage & Egg Breakfast Casserole
- Cheese Grits
- Biscuits (buy those frozen ones at the grocery store)
- Orange juice, coffee etc.
Lunch (or dinner):
- Red Beans & Rice
- Garlic bread
- Green salad
- Sour-cream Pound Cake
As for drinks, you’re on your own. But a caring host provides plenty of bottled water.
If all else fails, call your local deli for a meat and cheese platter, then pick up an assortment of breads, condiments and plastic tableware. And don’t forget dessert, olives and pickles.
Sausage & Egg Breakfast Casserole Serves – 6-8
(You may want to make several batches, depending on your anticipated crowd. Prepare a day before the game.)
1 lb. ground pork sausage
6 slices bread (try a french bread loaf for variety)
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups Half & Half
1 teaspoon dry mustard
LET’S GET STARTED
Preheat oven 350.
In skillet, brown sausage into crumbles. Drain on paper towels. Spread butter on bread slices, then cut into cubes. Layer bread in 9×13 casserole dish. Sprinkle crumbled sausage, top with cheese. Combine rest of ingredients, beat well and pour over casserole contents. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4-6 hours.
Game day, preheat oven 350. Cook covered casserole 40 minutes, remove foil and cook another 10-15 minutes until top browns.
Make this easy: Buy those frozen ones in the big bag. Bake them at home and butter when they’re done. Bring along your favorite jams and jellies with plastic spoons to serve them. (These can be kept warm in the chafing dishes, too.)
Cheese Grits Serves- 8-10
1 cup grits (I use 5-minute. Never use instant.)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
REST OF IT:
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. shredded gruyere cheese
1 stick butter or margarine
2 eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup milk
LET’S GET STARTED
Preheat oven to 300.
Make your grits according to the package. Here’s my advice for novices: After you pour the grits into boiling salted water, set 5 minutes on your timer and whisk about 30 seconds. Cover, reduce heat to simmer. After about 2 minutes, carefully lift the lid and whisk again because you’ll find the grits has settled to the bottom. With about 1 minute to go, do the same again. Be careful because hot-popping grits will really hurt.
When grits are done, add butter/margarine and grated cheese. (Yes, I am using the same model food processor as you see on “Golden Girls.” Thanks, Mama.) Stir to melt butter and cheese into grits.
In a cereal bowl, beat your eggs well, then add milk and beat some more.
Turn off the heat under your cheesy grits. Slowly stir small amounts of egg/milk mixture into grits. Taste to see if you want more salt. (Unlikely it needs more but they are your tastebuds.)
Pour into buttered casserole dish.
Bake 1 hour. Cover with heavy foil for traveling.
(NOTE – I’ve never done this, but I suspect that if you poured the grits mixture onto an inch-deep, buttered baking sheet and baked for 20-30 minutes, you’d have something like polenta, which you could cut into rectangles or other shapes and serve fancy with chic omelets, barbecue or whatever.)
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Red Beans & Rice Serves – 8-10
(This recipe started with my part-French grandmother, the beautiful and willful Rosalie Dial and matured in my kitchen across 40 years. Remember, you cannot make good beans without good sausage. If you don’t already have a favorite, buy small quantities at your local grocery and see what you like. Also, remember good beans must be cooked slowly. If you try to speed it up with too much heat, the beans will never get tender enough. I learned this the hard way. And always have your preferred brand of hot sauce at the ready when you serve.)
2 lb. bag dried red kidney beans
1-1.5 lbs smoked pork sausage (cut into 2-inch links)
1 small bag carrot sticks or shredded
2 large onions
6 cloves fresh garlic, minced, or 6 teaspoons pre-minced garlic
2-3 bay leaves
RICE – 1 cup raw for about 4 servings. (I’ve started using brown rice. Cook 1 cup with 1 3/4 cup water etc. for just 30 minutes. Container directions are too watery, mushy for my tastes.)
LET’S GET STARTED:
Rinse beans in warm water. Pour away water. In blender, add 1 cup carrot sticks and enough water to puree them. I know this sounds weird, but trust me and Rosalie. Leave the carrot slush in the blender for now.
Heat dutch oven on a medium burner. Add sausage with 1/2 cup of water. Cover. Cook sausage about 5-7 minutes. You’re not cooking the sausage. You’re sweating out some juice to start your beans in. Remove sausage to plate.
Leave the pan juice in your dutch oven and layer bay leaves, roughly sliced onions, garlic, 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. The goal is to heat the bay leaves to sweat out flavor oils. Watch this and don’t let anything singe.
Feel free to stir after a couple of minutes. If it looks like it needs water, add a little. Cook this mixture 5-10 mins. Add the carrot slush from the blender, your rinsed beans and enough water to cover the beans. Remember, the beans will absorb water as they cook, so you will need to add a little water every now and then. The trick is to figure out how much is enough without being too much. We’ll talk about thickening as this gets done.
Bring your beans to a slight boil, reduce heat to simmer uncovered. Stir every 15 minutes or so but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to break the beans as they get more tender. After 20 minutes, return the sausage to the pot. Don’t add any more salt until you’ve cooked 30 minutes. Remember, sausage has salt to impart to juice. Taste the water and see what you think. Add 1 teaspoon vinegar. It’s important to taste as you go along. Bean flavor depends on good juice. Now, you’ve got a sweet-sour-salty thing going on. This balance will determine what you want it to taste like.
Continue to simmer and stir every 15 minutes. Make sure the simmer isn’t too “hard.” Does it need more water? The object is to keep the beans just barely under water.
After an hour of slow simmer, taste your beans for tenderness. You don’t want them so tender that they all fall apart. Keep testing periodically until you’re satisfied. Beans should be getting done soon. Add juice of half a lemon. Adjust other flavors as needed. Add pepper flakes now, if you like.
(Time to start your rice. Put garlic bread into oven. See recipe below.)
When your beans are done, look at the consistency. Do you want it thicker? I usually do. If so, remove 1 to 2 cups of beans, pour them into a metal bowl and use a masher or pastry cutter to mash well for your thickener. When you’re done, add mashed beans back into the pot and stir. (Some people use cornstarch to thicken. I’ve done this, too, but the reason to cook a large quantity of beans in the least amount of water is to have enough beans to use as the thickener. I think it tastes better this way.)
Taste and make final adjustments like salt, sweet/sour, if necessary. If you think it’s too sweet, a little lemon/vinegar can offset it. Reverse also is true.
Remember: Whenever you use bay leaves to flavor a recipe, retrieve them from the finished dish before you serve it. While I have never eaten a bay leaf, my mother, Betty, swore repeatedly it would kill you if you did. ‘Nuff said.
SERVE: Serve 3-to-1 beans to rice. Rice goes on the bottom, then beans and sausage. Another version – serve with a scoop of rice centered on top of the rice. Serve with hot garlic bread and a green salad.
NOTE: Try to make more beans than you can eat at one sitting. They get better with a little time in the fridge (like 2-3 days).
Garlic Bread Serves – 6-8 per loaf
Loaf of your favorite French bread
1/2 cup margarine or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (remember margarine has more water in it)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
4 cloves fresh garlic or 4 tsp pre-minced garlic
(Some folks also like to add 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese to this mixture. This is very good.)
LET’S GET STARTED:
Preheat oven 325.
With bread knife, slice loaf down center, lengthwise (horizontally). Open bread, insides up.
In small bowl, combine softened margarine/butter, olive oil, parsley, garlic, pinch of salt (and parmesan, if you like it.)
Spread butter mix onto insides of bread. Put bread back together, and wrap well in foil. Place bottom-up on baking sheet. Heat 10 minutes. Turn top-side up and heat another 10-15 minutes. If you like your bread crunchier, peel back the foil when you turn it top-side up.
Remove from oven onto cutting board and slice across for serving in a bread basket. Cover with clean kitchen towel to help keep it warm (if it lasts that long).
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Sour-cream Pound Cake Serves – A dozen, depending how you slice it
(My father, Bob, didn’t do much cooking. Chiefly, he’s remembered for accidentally setting fire to the kitchen while trying to cook bacon and watch the World Series simultaneously. So much for multi-tasking. But the man could make a really good pound cake – dense, crusty, delicious. Where he got his recipe is unknown to me, but lately I found one very much like it in my mother’s recipe box. It was an old, brown newspaper clipping taped to a file card.
It is beyond delicious! It’s tall and just the right density, and so buttery. You will love it, and your guests will think you are the greatest baker ever.)
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon soda
2 sticks margarine, softened (to room temp or 15 secs in microwave)
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla (or lemon extract or both)
LET’S GET STARTED
Preheat oven to 325.
Set mixing bowls side by side. Measure flour into one bowl. Set sifter into the other bowl, transfer flour into sifter and sift. Repeat two more times back and forth. On second sift, add soda and dash (1/2 teaspoon) of salt.
In your mixer, cream the softened margarine on medium-low speed (Use the batter beater, not the whisk one).
Slowly add 3 cups sugar and cream well until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl bottom with your spatula to ensure everything incorporates well. Add 6 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in sour cream. Lower mixer speed. (If the mixer’s on too fast, it will blow flour all over the place.) Carefully add dry ingredients 1/3 cup at a time, beating constantly. Scrape bottom with spatula again.
Stir in vanilla extract. (Just don’t over-beat the batter. I have no definition for “over-beat” – just do it long enough to incorporate everything.)
Hold your tube pan over the sink and spray it thoroughly inside, tube too, with flour-cooking spray. Pour cake mixture into it.
Bake 1 hours 15 minutes (75 minutes).
Allow to rest 10 minutes, then place large plate on top of cake pan and (with heat pads) carefully flip so that the plate is on the bottom. Carefully lift cake pan away from cake. Place another plate onto the cake’s bottom (which is facing up.) Flip cake/plates again so that your cake is now upright and ready to cool. Terrific plain, but out of this world with real whipped cream (and some berries, too).
OTHER SUGGESTED TAILGATING DISHES:
- Pulled pork BBQ with soft rolls
- Coleslaw, preferably not mayo-based
- Favorite pies
- Lasagne, garlic bread, salad
- Red or white chili, cornbread, pasta salad
- Seafood gumbo, french bread
Recipes for the gumbo, lasagne and white chili can be found on my Southfacin’ Cook blog on www.newinnola.com .
Food photos provided by Patsy Brumfield
Ole Miss tailgating photos courtesy University of Mississippi Communications