In Utah, college football season signals tailgating time.
We're not talking about jerks who follow your bumper too closely on the way into the parking lot. We're talking about those fans who come to the game several hours early to feast.
Theoretically, they use the tailgate of their vehicles for preparing or serving the food. But more often it also involves tables, grills even motor homes or trailers. The chow can range from chips and salsa to a full-blown buffet.
Look around the campuses of local universities before a football game and you'll find the parking lots and lawns dotted with awnings, chairs, fans dressed in school colors and the aromas of chili, brats and burgers wafting through the air.
While people have been bringing picnics to sporting events for a long time, the September 1954 issue of Sunset magazine is credited with one of the first uses of the term "tailgate."
Called "The Tailgate Is the Picnic Table," the article described how to lay out a picnic on the back of a station wagon, which were the SUVs of the 1950s.
It's come a long way since then.
"Tailgating is the picnic of the 21st century," said Debbie Moose, author of "Fan Fare," (Harvard Common Press, $14.95). "People used to pack up a picnic and go out into the country to enjoy it. Nowadays, it's about having fun hanging out in the parking lot, even if you're not that much into sports."
That's what a lot of U. fans were doing a few hours before the season-opening game with University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Sept. 6.
Tailgating is a great way to avoid the last-minute traffic heading to the game, said Tim Orton, who was firing up a grill with wife Linda and daughter Emily. "You get here ahead of time, and it gets you into the game mode. Emily and I like to throw the football around. Then you can relax afterward and wait until all the traffic clears before you take off."
Emily said her favorite tailgate food is her dad's wings with his special sauce. "It can really clear your nostrils when you're cooking," added her dad.
Ed Cable's group comes to the U.'s designated tailgating lot the night before, with motorhomes and trailers. "We're tailgating all night long and the day of the game, and all the groups commingle so it's like one giant family," he said.
The group showed its teams colors with red-bread sandwiches. "We had Albertsons bake it for us," Cable said. "But it's just an egg wash that is dyed red and put on the bread before it's baked."
Another group was grilling carne asada. Roger Lorenze had marinated the meat beforehand, and others at the party brought go-withs, such as chips, salsa and guacamole.
"There's a core of about 10 of us who just rotate assignments," said Jim Lyman, a U. alumnus. "One will bring the drinks, another most of the food, another snacks, and so on. We usually come up with some kind of main dish and everyone brings things to go with it."
His advice to first-time tailgaters is, "Start out small and simple. We've learned from our mistakes, when you don't give yourself enough time and end up just getting hot dogs at the game and then eating your food afterward."
On another part of the campus, a crowd of about 30 fans gathered under an awning.
"We've been doing this for eight years, we've got family, friends, alumni and ex-baseball players," said Stephen Hilton of North Salt Lake. "We have a big group, and we coordinate for every event."
He added, "We boycotted the tailgate lot and started our own." (A season pass for the U.'s tailgate lot is $150.)
Hilton's group starts gathering at 2 p.m. for a 6 p.m. game. Although they always have brats, other items have ranged from burgers, omelets, chili, soup and sandwiches. A couple of people brought football-shaped sugar cookies decorated with white icing and a red "U."
They have a basic salsa recipe that can be served as is, or embellished with mango, peach or corn and black beans. "There are only two of us approved to make it," Hilton said.
Moose's book is sprinkled with accounts of tailgating venues across the country. Many NASCAR fans set up motor homes and tailgate for a whole week. At the University of Mississippi, a lot of Ole Miss fans don't even make it into the game, they just bring their own generators, big-screen TVs and satellite dishes.
The Alaska Pacific University tailgaters watch the dog teams in the Iditarod mush through the campus. At the University of Washington in Seattle, fans sail right up to he stadium and tailgate in boats on Lake Washington.
It's true that you can buy ready-made takeout on the way to the game, "but with just a little effort, you can prepare some really good food and feed your friends a little better, and also a little more cheaply, because you pay for convenience," said Moose.
First-timers can simplify things with make-ahead items that don't need actual cooking at the venue. You can try a sandwich-ingredient buffet, with the meats, tomatoes, onions and other fixings sliced at home. Or make a batch of barbecue beef, chili or stew ahead of time in a slow cooker. Wrapped in layers of newspaper or an insulated carrier, the crockery should stay warm for at least an hour.
Moose's Marvelous Mole Chili can be made a day ahead and transported hot or reheated at the site.
She also recommends her marinated green beans, another do-ahead dish. "Everybody asks for them, and they're so easy," she said. "It's also a vegetable, which are sometimes in short supply at the tailgate."
Another veggie dish that she recommends: Mo's Mother's Cole Slaw. "It's a nice change from mayonnaise-y coleslaws, and it can be made the day before. It's also a good foil for chili."
Even if you're serving a main dish like burgers or fried chicken, you should still plan on a few munchies while people are standing around and talking, Moose advised.If you have season tickets or plan to go to several games, organize a big plastic container with non-perishables like plastic forks, plates, napkins, etc. and refill it every time you come back from the game, said Moose. "Then you can just grab it before the game and go."
2 pounds flank or skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat
1 recipe Mojo marinade (recipe follows)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
16 7-inch corn tortillas
Shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
Chopped white onion
Shredded jack cheese
Pico de gallo or salsa
Lay steak on a large baking dish and pour mojo over it. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour or up to eight hours, so the flavors can sink into the meat.
Preheat grill over medium-high flame. Brush grates with olive oil to prevent meat from sticking. Pull steak out of the marinade, season steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill (or broil) the steak for 7-10 minutes per side, turning once, until medium-rare. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the juices to settle. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on a diagonal.
Warm the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side in a dry skillet or on the grill, until toasty and pliable.To make the tacos, stack 2 of the warm tortillas, lay about 4 ounces of beef down the center and sprinkle with lettuce, onion and cheese. Top with pico de gallo or salsa and garnish with lime wedges.
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 limes, juiced
1 orange, juiced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
In a mortar and pestle or bowl, mash together the garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, salt and pepper to make a paste. Put the paste in a glass jar or plastic container. Add the lime juice, orange juice, vinegar and oil. Shake well to combine. Use as a marinade or as a table condiment. Tyler Florence, Food Network
UTE TAILGATE SALSA
1/4 white onion
4 cloves garlic
2 Anaheim peppers
2 jalapeno peppers
2 serrano peppers
2 bunches cilantro
About 12 large roma tomatoes
Use a hand-chopper to grind garlic, peppers and cilantro together. Grate outside of lemon (the zest) into chopper, and then squeeze lemon juice into mixture. Chop to desired thickness and empty these contents into a large bowl.
Chop the roma tomatoes, adding 1/2 teaspoon salt with each tomato. Do not overchop. Mix the tomatoes with the other ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste.
• 4 large mangoes, plus 2 more jalapeno and serrano peppers
• 4 peaches, plus 2 more jalapeno and serrano peppers
• 1 can corn, 1 can black beans, plus 2 more jalapeno and serrano peppers
For best results, let salsa sit overnight. If there is excess moisture, you can drain to desired thickness. You should almost break a chip when dipping.Cook's note: For best results, use a hand-chopper such as the "Quick Chopper" as sold on TV. Stephen Hilton, North Salt Lake
CROWD-PLEASING GREEN BEANS
Debbie Moose's guests demand this for every sporting event. "It travels well, and fills the void for those who believe that you should serve something resembling healthy food while watching a sporting event. Multiply the proportions to feed any size crowd of famished fans."
1/2 of a large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Italian herb-flavored wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place sliced onions in a colander over the sink. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper until combined. Stir in the garlic. Set aside.
When the water comes to a boil, add green beans. Cover and cook 5-10 minutes, or just until the beans are bright green. Do not overcook. Pour the beans and hot water over the onions in the colander. Rinse under cold running water to cool down. Drain well for a few minutes.
Place the beans and onions in a large bowl or large zipper-top plastic bag. Pour in the dressing and mix with the vegetables. Chill for at least four hours or overnight, stirring or shaking occasionally. Serve cold or at room temperature.Option: You can use herb-flavored vinegar. Combine 2 cups white wine vinegar with 1 cup fresh herbs, such as oregano and thyme, a couple of cloves of garlic and a bay leaf. Pour into a clean glass jar and let sit away from direct light for two weeks. Strain the vinegar into another clean glass jar and store it in the cupboard up for 1 year. Serves 6-8. "Fan Fare," by Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, $14.95)
MARVELOUS MOLE CHILI
5 dried ancho chiles
4 dried pasilla chiles
5 dried guajillo or New Mexico chiles
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup chopped onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 9-ounce can tomato sauce
2 quarts chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
Place the ancho, pasilla and guajillo chiles in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and let soak for 30 minutes. Use a saucepan to weight them down if they float to the surface.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Lightly brown the beef. Do not overcook. Remove the beef from the pan, draining any liquid, and set aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the same pan and cook the onions and garlic until soft, but not browned. Remove the pan from the heat.
When the chiles have soaked 30 minutes, drain them, remove the stems and seeds (hold under running water to do this) and pat dry. Puree to a smooth paste in a food processor.
Replace pan over heat. Add tomato sauce and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Stir in the beef, chile paste, bay leaf and cinnamon. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.Add oregano, cumin and cayenne pepper. Let simmer, uncovered, for another hour. Add a little water or chicken broth if the chili becomes dry or overly thick. Add salt and serve hot. Pass cornbread to crumble into individual bowls of chili, if desired. "Fan Fare," by Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, $14.95)
MO'S MOTHER'S COLESLAW
1 small head green cabbage
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
Shred cabbage using a food processor or by hand. Place in a large bowl and toss with the green pepper, salt and black pepper.In a small bowl, whisk together the cider vinegar, sugar and olive oil. Stir the dressing into the cabbage mixture. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 6-8. "Fan Fare," by Debbie Moose (Harvard Common Press, $14.95)