Photo by Will Crooks

It is a truth universally acknowledged that here in the South, tailgating on football Saturdays is serious business.

It doesn’t matter if kickoff is scheduled for noon or primetime — people start arriving in the early morning hours to set up their coveted spot.

Stroll through the grounds of any major college campus on game day, and the sea of tents, flat-screen TVs and satellites, grills, and appropriately outfitted vehicles is quite a sight to behold.

But whether you’re keeping it simple or going all in on your tailgating operation, there’s one element that’s going to make or break the revelry: the food. And that’s why the Greenville Journal asked some local chefs, “What would you bring to a tailgate?”

Photo by Will Crooks

Jeff Kelly | Stella’s Southern Brasserie

“Anytime I think about tailgating, especially college football, I think of chicken wings. I am a huge fan of Grilled Chicken Wings. Brining the wings is essential for flavor and not drying them out. The marinade will add a lot of charred aromatic flavor. The wings can be done a day or two ahead to make it quick and easy. If you don’t have a grill when tailgating, then you are not doing it right.”

2-3 lbs. chicken wings (from a good-quality bird)

For the brine
3 cups water
¼ cup salt
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 bay leafs
1 tsp. whole black peppercorn
1 tsp. pepper flakes
¼ cup honey
4-5 cups ice

For the marinade
1 shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
½ cup cilantro, minced
¼ cup parsley, minced
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Add all ingredients to a pot for the brine. Bring to a boil, and turn off and pour into a container appropriate for holding hot liquids. Add ice to brine until chilled.

Place wings in brine for at least four hours or preferably overnight. Mix ingredients for marinade in a bowl. Set aside or place in fridge overnight. Take chicken wings out of their brine and let dry for 20-30 minutes. Once the wings are dry, toss well with the marinade. They are ready to go on the grill.

Heidi Trull | Grits and Groceries

“My pick is the New Orleans Muffuletta. It’s a working man’s traditional New Orleans Italian sandwich: layers of ham, salami, mortadella, cheese, and olive salad on Italian bread. I love to take this anywhere. I make it the day before and wrap it in wax paper. I take my package to the tailgate party, hold it back for awhile, and then open the wax paper so the garlic and olive salad can be smelled by all!”

Olive Salad for Muffuletta Sandwich, yields 8 cups
1 ¾ cup large pitted green olives, chopped
1 ¼ cup large pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
2 small carrots, finely chopped (about ¾ cup when chopped)
1 large or 2 small celery ribs, finely chopped (about ¾ cup when chopped)
¼ of a small cauliflower head, chopped (about ¾ cup when chopped)
About 1/3 cup capers, rinsed and drained
1 small sweet red bell pepper, cored and seeded (about ¾ cup when chopped)
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. white vinegar
2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the vinegar and the olive oil in a large bowl and toss together. Heat the oil and vinegar over medium high heat until mixture reaches 140 degrees. Pour mixture over vegetables and stir together. Let mixture cool to room temperature and cover. Leave at room temperature overnight.

Stir mixture well and place in an airtight container; refrigerate until ready to use. Salad will keep for several weeks refrigerated. Serve with muffuletta or as a tapenade on grilled bread, or just tossed with your favorite salad greens.

New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich, yields 8 portions
Olive salad
2 (1 lb.) loaves Italian bread or 1 loaf muffuletta bread
8 oz. thinly sliced Genoa salami
8 oz. thinly sliced cooked ham
8 oz. sliced mortadella
8 oz. sliced mozzarella cheese
8 oz. sliced provolone cheese

Slice each loaf of bread in half lengthwise, and hollow out some of the bread to make room for the filling. Spread each piece of bread with the olive salad and make sure you use some of the oil. On each bottom half of the loaves, layer half the salami, ham, mortadella, mozzarella, and provolone. Top with the remaining halves. Cut each sandwich loaf into quarters.

Greg Teal | Table 301 Catering/Soby’s on the Side

“These Blackberry Jalapeño Glazed St. Louis Ribs are always a favorite choice for a tailgate or just out on your back porch with your friends and family. Since St. Louis ribs are so meaty, I like to cut them down into one-bone portions after they’re cooked but before I grill them so they are easy to pick up and eat. Douse them in the rich blackberry barbecue sauce and give ’em a quick sear on the grill for the finishing touch. Bet you can’t keep from lickin’ your fingers.”

For the sauce
½ cup white vinegar
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup ketchup
¾ cup brown sugar
12 oz. fresh South Carolina blackberries
2 jalapeños

Begin by roasting the jalapeños on the grill until evenly charred on the outside. Place jalapeños in a covered container so they are easier to peel. Once jalapeños are peeled, halve and seed them. Then combine in a saucepot with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Puree sauce and strain to avoid seeds.

For the ribs
2 racks St. Louis-style ribs
3 cups water
1 cup dark brown sugar
12 oz. Texas Pete or Frank’s Hot Sauce
3 tsp. sea salt

First, remove the membrane from the ribs, and then cut them into four even pieces (so they fit into a slow cooker.) Mix remaining ingredients and pour over ribs in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for four to five hours, or until tender. Remove ribs from slow cooker and allow to cool (this will make them easier to handle). Brush ribs with sauce and sear on a chargrill for best results.

Tiger O’Rouke | Henry’s Smokehouse

“My go-to is our award-winning Bacon Maple Bourbon Chicken Wings. This wing recipe was developed for the Project Host barbecue competition four years ago. Personally, I love a chicken wing. They are the perfect item for a tailgate, because they almost have a built-in handle to eat with. I am a complete wuss when it comes to spice, so I have a tendency to make things sweet and flavorful. This recipe gives you an excellent-tasting wing with a small kick. Your mouth will be filled with the sweetness of the sauce, and then the distinct flavor of the bourbon hits you, followed shortly thereafter by a small bite of heat from the seasoning.”

For the sauce
3 tbsp. of bacon drippings
1 small onion, minced
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup bourbon
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. of Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Prepare the grill. In a charcoal grill, light your charcoal and let it get hot. The coals will turn white. Place a couple of chunks of your favorite wood right next to the charcoal. You want the wood to burn slowly; placing it directly on the coals will cause it to burn quickly, not giving you the smoke flavor you’re looking for. I like to use a cherry wood for both the flavor and color it gives the wings.

For the seasoning
Chicken wings
¼ cup kosher salt or coarse sea salt
2 tbsp. garlic salt
2 tbsp. mustard powder
2 tbsp. crumbled dried thyme
2 tbsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle generously on the wings, coating both sides. Let the wings sit for about 10 minutes. On the grill over an indirect heat, smoke the wings. You want to create a nice color and firmness to the wing. Bring the temperature of the wings to about 145 degrees (15-20 minutes). In a fryer with your oil at 325-350 degrees, fry your wings for about six minutes or so, bringing them to 165 degrees. Pull wings and drain. Toss wings in a bowl with sauce and serve.

Anthony Gray | Bacon Bros. Public House

Photo by Will Crooks

“Here is my recipe for Brisket Chili. This is a perfect tailgating food for its rich, spicy, smoky goodness. It can be easily made ahead of time and is a great way to use leftover brisket. We typically use the burnt ends, but really any smoked meat will do. I also like the addition of hominy for texture and body. You can garnish it with whatever you can think of, but I typically use a combination of fresh jalapeño, shredded cheddar cheese, scallions, hot sauce, and sour cream. And don’t forget the bags of Fritos. Fritos pie is perfect for tailgates! Just crush up the chips, spoon the chili in the bag, and top it with all the goodies.”

Brisket Chili, feeds up to 10
1 stout or porter beer
2 cups diced sweet onions
2 tbsp. minced garlic
2 jalapeños, roasted and chopped (remove the seeds if you want it less spicy or add less)
2 cups hominy
6 cups canned whole tomatoes, crushed
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups ketchup
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. paprika
1-2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. chipotle powder
2 ½ lbs. chopped smoked brisket

Chop onions, garlic, and jalapeños in a food processor, and then add to a pot set over medium-high heat.

Add 2 tbsp. of bacon grease or cooking oil. Quickly cook, stirring so not to burn. Add tomatoes, brisket, and cook for two to three minutes. Add beer and cook until it has reduced by half, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until it comes to a simmer, and then turn to low and cover. Be sure to stir every now and then to make sure it is not sticking or burning. Cook for about an hour or until it tastes good and the brisket is falling apart. Taste and adjust seasoning as you see fit. Pack it up and go.

Deviled Egg Potato Salad is also perfect for tailgating. I take two crowd favorite and combine them.

Deviled Egg Potato Salad
5 lbs. russet potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into even pieces
6 hard-cooked eggs cut in half
1 ½ cups Duke’s mayonnaise
¼ cup yellow mustard
1 cup diced celery
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
4 dashes of hot sauce
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. dried dill
½ cup dill pickle relish
½ cup diced sweet onion
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1 pound bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled (reserve grease for your chili)

Add the potatoes to a large pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Gently boil the potatoes until tender, when the potatoes are tender enough to break with a fork. Strain into a colander.

Don’t let the potatoes cool completely, because if they are still warm when they are put into the dressing, they will absorb more flavors.

While the potatoes are cooking, peel the boiled eggs and place them in a large bowl. Mash the eggs using the back of a fork or a potato masher until they are broken up. Set aside. In another bowl, add the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, hot sauce, relish, and sugar. Stir together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the potatoes into the dressing as you work. Add the chopped eggs, along with the celery, green onions, and bacon. Mix gently but thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least four to five hours before serving. Top with smoked paprika before serving.

Photo by Will Crooks

Gregory McPhee | The Anchorage

Miso brings out the best in grilled items, especially vegetables. This is a really easy dish to throw together, so you can enjoy your time with friends and family instead of stressing over the food.”

Miso Grilled Corn
6 ears of corn on cob
½ pound soft butter
1 tbsp. white miso
1 tbsp. gochujang (red chili paste)
1 tsp. brown sugar
Fresh lime wedges
Benne seeds

Whip all ingredients except lime and benne seeds. Rub corn with mix and grill until smoky and charred. Garnish with benne and lime to taste.





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