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The ultimate Lehigh tailgate

What is it that draws thousands of people to stand around Lehigh University parking lots, sometimes in the bitter cold and rain? Is it the spectacle of sports fans in team colors? The infectious enthusiasm? The vast array of tables spread with every kind of food imaginable, from the chilled to the grilled?

Tailgating means different things to different people. For a lot of folks, it's about being a good fan and supporting the team. But the most raucous revelers say it's not only about the game; it's about the party, dude! Some people come just for the food and drinks. After all, who can resist the sweet and sticky lip-smack of smoked Kansas City ribs? The spicy voodoo of a big ol' pot of Louisiana gumbo? Or the snap of grilled bratwurst served on a crusty roll and slathered with grainy mustard, grilled onions, and peppers? Not to mention the refreshing joy of a cold beverage.

Eating and drinking have a long history in American spectator sports. "Way back in 1869, at the very first football game between Rutgers and Princeton, students met before the game to eat, drink, and socialize," says Mark Bernstein, author of Football: The Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession. And so a tailgating ritual was born.

Over the past 100-odd years, the tradition has evolved, but it's still focused on one central theme: getting together with friends and fans to celebrate. "Tailgating is the last great American neighborhood," according to Joe Cahn, a professional tailgater who has logged more than 200,000 miles and visited more than 90 college and pro football stadiums around the country. In an age of cell phones and e-mail, the parking lot is one of the few open spaces where Americans can simply enjoy each other's company.

Want to take your next tailgate to the next level? See Upgrade your tailgate.

Whether it's about the game, the fans, the party, or the community, one thing is for sure: Tailgating is huge. According to a recent Gallup Poll, more than 50 million Americans tailgated in 2005, and even more plan to tailgate this year. So pull up a camp chair, fill up your plate, and enjoy yourself during the rest of this year's college and pro football season, and get an early jump on preparing for next year's Mountain Hawks' season.

CHIPOTLE PECANS

Munch on these addictive nuts on the way to the game. If you plan to eat some at the game, make a double batch. The nuts don't stick around very long. Most grocery stores carry pure chile powder and ground chipotle powder in glass bottles in the spice aisle.

Makes 2 ½ cups

1 egg white

1/3 cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons ground chipotle powder or cayenne

1 ½ teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon pure chili powder (such as ancho)

¼ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 ½ cups pecan halves

Before You Go: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In medium bowl, using electric mixer on medium speed, beat egg white until very foamy and no clear liquid remains. Stir in everything but pecans until blended. Stir in pecans until evenly coated. Spread in single layer on a baking sheet (ungreased).

Bake until fragrant and toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Loosen and break up nuts with stiff spatula (nuts may be gooey but will crisp as they cool). Cool completely in pan on rack. Store cooled nuts in an airtight container up to 1 week.

When You Get There: Pass them around (if there's any left).


LEHIGH-LAFAYETTE CHILI

I developed this chili for my buddy Dale Mack. Dale's a Lafayette fan, but I forgive him. As long as he brings this chili to the Lehigh-Lafayette game this year! Serve with sour cream to show off the Lehigh team colors of brown and white. For a Chili Cheese Dog, grill up your favorite frank, stuff it in a bun, and pile on the chili and shredded Cheddar.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

1 pound ground chuck

2 medium onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped

2 cans (28 oz. each) chopped tomatoes (with juice)

4 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups beer

Juice of 2 fresh limes

½ to 1 cup water, as needed

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Hot pepper sauce to taste

Before You Go: The night before or the morning of the tailgate, cook beef in large soup pot over medium heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove beef to bowl and drain off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan. Add onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers to fat in pan. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes (with juice) and cook 5 minutes. Add beans, beer, lime juice, ½00 cup of the water, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, black pepper, and reserved beef. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until nice and thick, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and chill in refrigerator or cooler.

When You Get There: Reheat chili over medium-low heat. When reheated, if chili is too thick, add more beer and/or water. If it's too thin, raise heat to medium and cook until thickened. Keep warm over low heat.

Scatter on cilantro and hot pepper sauce to taste.


BRATS IN BEER

Let these brats stew in the pan on the grill for up to three hours. Go enjoy yourself. The brats will only taste better and better when you return.

Makes 10 brats

2 ½11 pounds of your favorite fresh bratwurst (about 10 links)

2 cups sauerkraut, drained

1 bottle or can (12 ounces) beer (nonalcoholic if necessary)

1 green bell pepper, cut into short strips

1 onion, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil, optional

10 crusty sausage or steak rolls

½22 cup coarse German mustard

When You Get There: Heat grill to medium and let rack get good and hot, about 10 minutes. Scrape and oil rack, then grill brats until nicely browned all over, turning now and then, about 15 to 20 minutes total. Put brats in a large disposable aluminum pan directly on grill. Mix in kraut, beer, bell pepper, onion, and butter or oil, if using. Grill in pan, mixing occasionally, for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 hours (for a charcoal grill, add fresh coals every hour or so). Serve on rolls with a steaming slew of kraut, peppers, onions, and a thick band of mustard.


BUFFALO WINGS

Keep a spray bottle of water at the grill to douse any flare-ups. Chicken skin tends to drip some fat. To save time, replace the dressing with bottled blue cheese dressing.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Wings and Sauce:

4 pounds chicken wings, about 16 whole wings

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of ½3 lemon

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 ½4 cups mild hot-pepper sauce (such as Frank's or Crystal)

½5 teaspoon salt

½6 teaspoon ground black pepper

½7 cup (1 ½8 sticks) butter

Blue Cheese Dressing:

½9 cup sour cream

½0 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

½1 teaspoon salt

½2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup crumbled blue cheese

3 ribs celery, trimmed and cut crosswise into thirds, optional

Before You Go: The night before, cut off and discard wing tips. Cut wings into two pieces through the joint. Mix oil, lemon juice, garlic, 1/3 cup of hot sauce, ½3 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper in 2-gallon freezer-weight zipper-lock bag (or 2 smaller bags). Drop in wings, seal, and chill in refrigerator or cooler overnight.

Make the dressing by stirring together all ingredients in medium bowl. Chill in refrigerator or cooler. Bring butter, remaining hot sauce, and remaining salt with you.

When You Get There: Remove wings and dressing from cooler about 20 minutes before grilling. Heat grill to medium and let rack get good and hot. Use a wire grill brush to scrape the grill clean, then wad up some paper towels, soak them in vegetable oil, and use tongs to brush the grill with oil. Grill wings until well browned all over and no longer pink in center near bones, 5 to 8 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, melt butter, remaining 1 cup hot sauce, and remaining ½4 teaspoon salt in large disposable aluminum pan on side of grill (or over a separate burner). If pan is small, pour half of sauce into another aluminum pan. Toss wings with sauce in pans; or, if you don't mind dirtying a bowl, put the wing sauce in a big bowl and toss with wings until fully coated. Serve warm with dressing and celery sticks, if using.


CHAMPION CHIP COOKIES

These oversized cookies give you a serious hit of chocolate. To quickly soften the butter, cut it into several pieces in a microwaveable bowl and microwave in 10-second increments until soft enough to be easily dented with a finger.

Makes about thirty-six 3 ½5-inch cookies

1 ½6 cups flour

½7 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process

1 ½8 teaspoons baking soda

½9 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

½0 cup packed light brown sugar

½1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups bittersweet, semisweet, or white chocolate chips

1 ½2 cups pecan halves, coarsely chopped

Before You Go: The night before, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 large baking sheets with foil. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until relatively free of cocoa lumps.

Put butter, brown sugar, sugar, and corn syrup in large bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed until blended and creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in eggs and vanilla on low speed. Stir in flour mixture with a spoon. Stir in chips and nuts and chill dough 10 minutes.

Drop by 2-inch balls about 2 inches apart on prepared sheets. If you like, shape the balls into footballs. Bake just until cookie centers look dull instead of shiny, 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies will feel soft to the touch, but resist the temptation to bake further. Cool 5 minutes in pan. Slide foil off baking sheet to transfer entire batch of cookies to cooling rack. Loosen from foil when cookies are firm enough to hold their shape. Cool completely on cooling rack.

Using two cookie sheets, you'll need to do two separate bakings. Put fresh foil on the baking sheets after previous batches are removed. Put cookie dough in fridge between batches to keep it from softening too much. When all cookies are cooled, transfer to crushproof, airtight container.

When You Get There: Munch away, if there's any left from the car ride to the tailgate.

--David Joachim

For more recipes or to purchase The Tailgater's Cookbook, visit davejoachim.com.

Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Fall 2006

Posted on Monday, November 06, 2006

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