Tailgating Louisiana Style

Tailgating isn't a byproduct of football in the Deep South, it's a vital component.  In south Louisiana, we have elevated tailgating to an exquisite art form.


Meeting before the game is a great social activity for alumni and fans.  Parking lots around football stadiums fill up fast, sometimes days before the game, with RVS and tents dotting the landscape and the delectable smells of barbecue filling the air.


Many people spend their entire time in the tailgating lot.  Cooking and socializing before the game, watching the action on a big-screen TV, and then ultimately staying well into the night after the fun has concluded.  There's a saying that there are as many people outside Louisiana stadiums as there are inside during game days--and the total number of fans becomes the equivalent of small U.S. cities.  Several times each fall, LSU Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge becomes the fifth largest city in Louisiana--and that's not counting the tailgaters surrounding the stadium.


Because south Louisiana residents equate cooking and eating well to a religion, you can bet what's cooking on game day is something special.  The only thing Louisiana fans take as seriously as their football games is the food served at the pre-game tailgate parties.


"We like to grill everything from chicken wings and sausage, to duck embrochette and steaks," said Kelly Parks Strenge, the vice president of marketing and communications for Lafayette Convention and Visitor's Commission.  Strenge tailgates at the home games of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, known as the Ragin' Cajuns.


"My husband's a duck hunter so we usually do a duck and smoked sausage gumbo (his specialty) for at least one game," Strenge explained.  "I even love to pick up fried chicken and make pasta salad--I have a recipe for muffaletta pasta salad that's yummy."


Some tailgaters serve up such offerings as jambalaya, duck and oyster gumbo, stuffed quail, deer sauce picante, wild duck, Cajun sausage, crawfish etouffee, rabbit, alligator stew, and marinated pork tenderloin.


Even if you are new to the tailgating scene, you can score rave reviews from family and friends.


Try these game-day strategies.


Plan your menu.  This way you can enjoy your guests and the game.


Avoid a false start.  Eliminate undesired flavors by applying a moderate amount of lighter fluid and light immediately instead of allowing it to soak in.  Let the coals burn until they are white-hot--about 15 minutes.


Use disposable goods.  To protect the environment and avoid having to do a million dishes after the game.  post game clean up is definitely a party foul.


Serve a crowd pleaser.  Chicken wings are the #1 appetizer that is easy to grill in spicy BBQ sauce.


Blitz for burgers.  To achievea perfectly grilled burger, only flip once.  Look for a pooling of natural juices in the center of the burger--that's when you know it's time to flip.


Skewer the competition.  Grilled kabobs are a guaranteed crowd pleaser.  When grilling those that incorporate strips of meat, chicken or even individual shrimp, make sure the skewer goes through the food twice so each piece will stay in place rather than rotating.


Solid defensive coverage.  When applying a dry rub to chicken pieces, it's often hard to keep that rub affixed and it's even more difficult to keep the chicken's original, golden color.  Try painting chicken pieces with yellow mustard prior to applying the rub.  Not only will the rub stay in place, your final product will be visually appealing--without any trace of mustard flavor.


Play it safe.  When it comes to grilling, safety comes first.  A good rule of thumb in cookout clean up is to wait at least 12 hours before emptying residual ash, as it's more likely that glowing embers remain in the grill for quite some time.


If you want to join in the fun but not the cooking chores, there are numerous restaurants and caterers throughout south Louisiana that offer tailgating dishes to pick up and enjoy.


We told you we're serious about our tailgating!


Chere' Coen is a food and travel writer and author living in Lafayette.

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19 Jul 2018

By Chere Coen