Bites of Passage

Tailgate Recipes for Success


For me, the allure of the fall season coming near is teeming with anticipation. It’s football season, and although my excitement recently has not come from the hope that my particular rooting interests will do better than seasons past, it is fun to contemplate the real question: “What will we make for the tailgate?”

The American Southeast is the undisputed world champion of the art of the tailgate. It’s a religion. There is no shortage of opinions on what is the best approach from strategy, aesthetic set up, and most importantly menu. I was not born into this magnificent culture, but I have for the better part of 24 years fortified myself into this culture of food and drink that surrounds the football season in the South. Being a food professional has given me the opportunity to pick the brains of the most seasoned tailgate master. The Zen-like approach that is taken can sometimes be overwhelming to the average weekend tailgater. I too, have done it all in my time: Low Country boils, competition-grade barbecue, burgers and everything in between. This year, I am trying some different approaches to the season: more preparation ahead of time and more time enjoying the tailgate, with little fuss.

Here are some recipes that will let you enjoy more of the family, friends and camaraderie that go along with the next game you attend.


Sweet Tea Brined Chicken Wings

This is a recipe that you can make ahead of time and bring in an insulated dish covered in foil, or simply grill off at the tailgate. Serve with celery sticks and buttermilk dressing for dipping.


2 family-size tea bags

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 orange thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 rosemary sprigs (thyme can be substituted)

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

4 cups ice cubes

1 (3 1/2-to 4-lb.) cut-up whole chicken


Bring 4 cups water to just before boiling add tea bags. Remove from heat cover and steep 10 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add all ingredients, except chicken, cool and add ice stirring to dissolve salt and sugar stir in ice. (Mixture should be cold before adding chicken.) Brine 12 hours or up to 24 hours. Remove chicken from brine, pat dry, grill and serve.

Apple Candy Bombs

8 apples peeled

Your favorite chocolate and caramel candies

Aluminum foil

Core all apples with an apple core tool without going all the way through the apple. You want to leave a half inch on the bottom so that you can stuff candy inside without it falling out of the bottom. Stuff with candy, (I like Snickers and Rolos for their melty goodness) and wrap with foil. Toss the apples on the bottom of the grill, next to the coals after you’re done cooking the wings. Let them roast in the coals for 20 to 25 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so. Let cool slightly and open to find a roasted apple with chocolate and caramel flowing through it. It is a neat thing to do for kids, big and small alike.