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Tailgating 101: Get cooking with tips from an aficionado

By on October 3, 2017 in Alumni News, Features with 0 Comments

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Garrett Sublette (’03), far right, and friends enjoy Wildcat Country Tailgating and Sublette's good eats on Opening Weekend of Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.
Garrett Sublette (’03), far right, and friends enjoy Wildcat Country Tailgating and Sublette’s good eats on Opening Weekend of Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium.

Photo by Paul White

Garrett Sublette (’03) isn’t playing around.

He loves to tailgate, and he loves to cook. Put those passions together, and his tent at Wildcat Country Tailgating is the place to be on Gamedays. 

Try not to drool when you read what Sublette and friends whipped up for the first two home games: On Opening Weekend, the menu consisted of beef and chicken fajitas, spanish rice, black beans, pico de gallo, guacamole, queso, and sauteed onions and peppers. The second game saw jalapeno poppers, ribs, sausage, potato salad, baked beans, spicy corn, two different cheese balls and crackers, watermelon, brownies, and homemade peach and chocolate ice cream.

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When planning your menu, Sublette says, try to prepare foods that can easily be eaten from a plate someone is holding while standing or has in their lap.
When planning your menu, try to prepare foods that can easily be eaten from a plate someone is holding while standing, as demonstrated by these Siggies, or has balanced in their lap.

Photo by Scott Delony

“Everyone thinks tailgate food has to be hot dogs or hamburgers, but your options are limitless,” said Sublette, director of enrollment operations at ACU.

Dozens of tents dotted the Campus Mall area for tailgating before the first two home games at Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium, with members of social clubs, local churches and organizations, as well as family and friends setting up to cook, relax and have a good time. Brisket, lemonade, cookies, quesadillas, corn on the cob and raspberry tea were just a few of the items being enjoyed at various sites.

ACU has three home games left – Oct. 7 against McNeese, Oct. 21 (HOMECOMING – SEE SCHEDULE) against Southeastern Louisiana and Nov. 11 against Sam Houston State (PURCHASE TICKETS HERE). If you’re planning on tailgating, here are some cooking tips to get you ready. 

Be prepared.

The biggest things to keep in mind as you plan to tailgate, Sublette said, are the equipment you have, the amount of time you’ll have on site before the game and how much work you are willing to put in. If you are new to tailgating or cooking, keep it simple and don’t make it stressful.

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The women of GATA served fruit-infused tea and lemonade to thirsty tailgaters on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. (Photo: Scott Delony)
Beverages are a great addition to any tailgating event. The women of GATA serve fruit-infused tea and lemonade to thirsty tailgaters.

Photo by Scott Delony

As you plan your menu, make note of the equipment and materials you’ll need to use at home and at your tent. Propane grills and electric smokers are allowed at tailgating, and crock pots can come in handy if you’re near an electrical outlet.

Keep in mind that even though some tents are decked out with rugs and big-screen TVs, most don’t have tables at which people can sit. Try to prepare foods that can easily be eaten from a plate a person is holding while standing up or has in their lap. Sturdy and disposable plates or bowls are a must.

Sublette said he tends to prepare items that are served cold ahead of time, with items served hot made on site. Coolers and aluminum foil are your best friends – you can keep food warm for hours wrapped in foil and set in a cooler with towels. Just don’t open the cooler until it’s time to eat.

Be creative.

Keeping things simple never hurts, but if you’re ready for more of an adventure, have fun with your menu.

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If you want to keep things classic, by all means – go with hot dogs.
If you want to keep things classic, by all means – go with hot dogs.

Photo by Scott Delony

Sublette has been a tailgater for years at football stadiums across the country, and his family has spent the past 10 Thanksgivings tailgating at the University of Texas at Austin game. He used his expertise as part of the Gameday committee that planned ACU’s new Gamedays.

“You can make tailgating as simple or as fancy as you want,” he said. “As long as you have a way to cook the food, it doesn’t matter if you are inside a home kitchen or under a tent in the parking lot or a field.”

In addition to the classic burgers and hot dogs, here are some items Sublette has previously cooked at various tailgates:

  • Whole beef tenderloin with parmesan truffle potatoes and roasted acorn squash
  • Fried turkey and all the traditional Thanksgiving sides
  • Orange/rosemary pork tenderloin with sweet potato puree and kale salad
  • Homemade chili with cornbread and Frito pie
  • Fettuccine pasta with chipotle alfredo sauce, shrimp and sausage
  • Ribeyes with baked potatoes and green beans
  • Grilled sandwiches

“Tailgating is a social event,” he said. “Bring things that you enjoy doing at home outside and share with your friends. At our tailgate you will see yard games, a television showing the day’s football games, music, tons of food and lots people hanging out. Make a gameplan, slowly start collecting materials, and have fun!”

If you need inspiration, try one or more of these recipes from Garrett:

PORK SHISH KABOBS 

4 tablespoons peanut butter
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 ounce rice wine vinegar (or white wine)
5 tablespoons soy sauce
5 teaspoons meat tenderizer
1 white onion
Olive oil
Tabasco sauce
4-6 pounds pork (roast, chop, tenderloin)

Roughly chop garlic and onion. Place 3 tbsp oil in pan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add soy sauce, peanut butter, 1 cup hot water, brown sugar, vinegar and meat tenderizer. Boil mixture until brown and thick, and then add 1/2 tsp tabasco sauce. Cool sauce and pour over pork to marinate in fridge for at least 24 hours. Cut and place on skewers and grill over medium heat at your tailgate.

CHEESE BALL

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
4 ounces chopped ham
1 bunch green onions, chopped fine
Chopped pecans

Mix cream cheese, ham and onions until well mixed. Form a ball and roll into chopped pecans. Serve with crackers.

JALAPENO RANCH DIP  

1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 16-ounce carton sour cream
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch Dip mix
3-4 serrano peppers with seeds removed
1/2 bunch cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of salt and black pepper

Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Chill and serve with chips.

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Sarah Carlson

About the Author

About the Author: Sarah Carlson is communications coordinator for the office of advancement at Abilene Christian University, her alma mater. She returned in 2015 after almost a decade working in journalism and corporate communication.
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