The secret to a tailgate that’s as fun as the game itself? A portable grill! Pack it in the trunk along with a few make-ahead game day traditions, gather your friends, and score big points before it’s even time for kick-off. Here’s our winning menu.
Football season has us craving the classics, but with a spin. We love a hearty 7-Layer Dip and fresh Corn Salad (scroll down for recipes), but serving them in individual Weck jars makes for a pretty presentation and easy eating. Similarly, serve everyone’s favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese, baked into bite-sized snacks that are perfect for taking on the go. (Recipe below!)
For the main course, fire up the grill for this beer-marinated tri-tip, as well as your favorite burgers, sausages and hot dogs. Offer buns and condiments on the side, like bread and butter pickles, along with simple grilled corn.
For dessert, pass out these chocolate chip-pecan bars, which are easy to make for a crowd. Kick back with a beer, and cheer on your favorite team!
- 2 weeks ahead: Make the pickles.
- 1 to 2 days ahead: Make the seasoned butters for the corn and refrigerate. Bake the dessert bars. The night before, marinate the tri-tip. Make the mac-and-cheese bites, cool, and store in an airtight container overnight.
- Day of: Form the burger patties and refrigerate. Make the corn salad.
- Just before serving: Grill and finish the corn. Grill the sausages, burgers and tri-tip.
Get comfortable, and spread out! You can store trays and coolers in the trunk of your car, but when it comes time to serve, it’s helpful to have an extra surface, like this roll-up picnic table. A big, cozy blanket comes in handy once the sun goes down.
Wooden cutting boards are great for prep, but also for serving meats and sides. Parchment or craft paper is an easy, attractive way to serve dishes, too — use it to line a tray or basket, or simply cover a table. Plus, cleanup is a breeze.
Get creative with containers. Repurpose those cookie tins for the mac-and-cheese bites! Caddies are great for toting condiments, beers, or any other bottled or jarred items.
Below we’ve described how to make a single large bowl of 7-layer dip, but for the pretty presentation shown above, simply layer the ingredients in 4 to 6 Weck jars instead of using a bowl.
1 can (15 oz./470 g) refried beans
1 can (15 oz./470 g) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) guacamole
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sour cream
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) salsa, such as Tacolicious Chipotle
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) grated Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) grated Monterey jack cheese
2 Tbs. chopped black olives
2 Tbs. chopped green onions
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
Tortilla chips for serving
Spread the refried beans in a deep glass bowl, then layer the black beans, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and both cheeses on top, spreading each into an even layer. In a separate bowl, stir together the olives, green onions and cilantro. Sprinkle the olive mixture evenly on top of the dip and serve with tortilla chips. Serves 4 to 6.
Kernels from 3 ears of corn
8 oz. (250 g) mozzarella, diced, or bocconcini, halved
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) thinly sliced red onion
1 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g) finely chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. honey
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and fill a large bowl with ice and water. Add the corn kernels to the boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to the bowl of ice water until cool. Drain.
In a large bowl, stir together the corn kernels, mozzarella, tomatoes, red onion and basil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Add the vinaigrette to the corn mixture to toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Serves 4 to 6.
Baked Mac-n-Cheese Bites
1 lb. (500 g) elbow macaroni
4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) milk, warmed
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) (3 oz./90 g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) all-purpose flour
4 cups (1 lb./500 g) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
2 cups (8 oz./240 g) grated Gruyère cheese
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbs. olive oil
Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).
Bring a large pot two-thirds full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente (tender but firm to the bite). Drain well and set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk until the flour has been incorporated, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add the warm milk, whisking until the milk is completely incorporated and the mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and add the Cheddar and Gruyère cheeses, the nutmeg, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Fold in the cooked macaroni.
Lightly spray the wells of 2 muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop 1/2 cup of the macaroni mixture into each of the wells.
In a bowl, stir together the panko, Parmesan cheese, thyme and olive oil. Sprinkle the mixture over the macaroni mixture. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 24 bites.