By Barb Ford
It is tailgate time in Tennessee. For many of us, that means that Friday nights are a frantic rush through the drive through and Saturday mornings leave little time to plan an extensive or impressive tailgate menu. Tailgating for some crowds is much like gourmet camping. There is the challenge to feed a crowd, make it interesting and somehow keep clean up and carrying to a minimum. I remember when we used to tailgate regularly having friends who would set up a whole outdoor kitchen with grills and everything. My priorities are slightly different. I would like to keep the menu easy enough that tailgating means carrying one bag of plates and serving stuff and two coolers-one for hot foods already prepared and one for cold foods and drinks. This means no hooking up of grills, no carrying a crock pot and certainly keeping clean up to a bare minimum.
My solution is to take advantage of Southern traditions and give them a twist. Instead of devilled eggs that everyone loves, I make a spicy egg salad and make little roll ups with taco sized flour tortillas. Wrap them in foil and chill them to tuck in the cooler. Pimento cheese is easy-make it ahead, pack it in a mason jar and serve it with a sleeve of crackers! For salad, I suggest a big mason jar filled with a chopped or layered salad you can serve from the jar. It is fancy looking and uses a minimum of cooler space.
The main part of the meal might seem more challenging, but a little ingenuity will go a long way. For instance, if I had my druthers I would smoke a pork shoulder for hours and serve amazing pork sandwiches at my tailgate. Sadly, there is no time in my schedule to do the work and watch the smoker. Nor is there space in my one bag two cooler system for buns, pork and all the fixings. Fortunately, a dear friend named Mary Eva gave me the best solution for a hot barbecue "sandwich" that keeps the mess to a minimum, looks fancy and tastes fantastic. The "cheats" here are pre-cooked shredded pork barbecue and pre-made pie crusts. The results, however, are so good and popular that I say double the recipe to feed hungry friends! If your folks aren't into a particular ingredient, you can adjust the recipe, change out a few things and make this idea a specialty of your own. Once these come out of the oven, pack them in foil and place them in a towel lined cooler while they are hot. Close that cooler and they will stay warm all the way to the game.
If it's a really cold day, consider making individual cobblers in mini mason jars, bake them alongside the sandwiches and add them to your hot cooler straight from the oven. Add whipped cream to your cold cooler. Now you have a complete tailgate meal including some soul warming treats in two coolers. Use your bag to carry plates, serving utensils and plastic silverware. Now, get ready, pack those coolers and enjoy the game!
Barbecue Puffed Pork Empanadas
2 cups Byron's Fully Cooked Pork BBQ, warmed according to package directions
2 tablespoons red onion, finely minced
1/4 cup dill pickles, minced
1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
2 packages prepared pie dough (recommended: Pillsbury refrigerated pie dough)
1 egg, lightly beaten
BBQ sauce for dipping
Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat a baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine BBQ, onion, minced pickles, and cheese. Roll out pie dough and cut into circles using a 3 inch biscuit cutte, or cut the dough into squares. Brush egg wash around edges of each circle or square. Place a scant Tablespoon of BBQ mixture in center of each circle. Carefully fold over the circle to form a semicircle. Crimp the edges with a fork; place on prepared baking pan. Brush tops of empanadas with egg wash and bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce for dipping. Serves 8.