If you’ve been hanging around with us on Twitter for a while, you probably know that with the rise of DVA Tailgating and Zach Rau getting a smoker for Christmas meant that the calling card of our tailgate was barbecue, namely pulled pork.
But the menu got unwieldy and ultimately called for too much stress for our head chef to really enjoy the day, so after COVID we started to diversify the menu in an attempt to simplify it. And as a result, we’ve cooked a lot of different and exciting stuff this year. It wouldn’t be fair to rank them because I didn’t cook them, also I’m way less critical of Zach’s cooking than he is (unless he forgets to season jambalaya completely) so instead I’m just going to list our why each menu item works.
There’s more than this than burgers and hot dogs.
Jambalaya: Okay I said I wasn’t going to rank these, but this is a 10. Relatively easy to cook, feeds A TON of people if you have the equipment (a big ass blackpot and a burner), uniquely Louisiana, and is unassailably good even when cooked at a large scale. Always a hit, never a miss (unless you forget to season).
White beans: I don’t partake in beans but seems easy enough to cook and serve en masse.
Smoked drumsticks: This is our branch into “traditional” tailgate food, but with the spin of being cooked in the smoker. Slightly different experience than the grill and does not serve many, but it is a wonderful side to serve closer to kickoff.
Barbacoa/Carnitas: To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we went with a Mexican-themed tailgate and spoiler, this. hit. All of it. It served many many people, as evidenced by the fact that I had two-gallon Ziploc to-go bags of each.
Esquites: As good as the meats were, this stole the show. I would have never had guessed that a corn salad would have hit during a 2:30 September tailgate but it was incredible as a side, to the point where I went back for second for this over the main course, as good as it was.
Arroz Rojo: It was good as a side, as Mexican rice often is. Hard to miss on this.
Various chips and Salsa: Shoutout to Ceallaigh for making bomb ass salsa, an important appetizer to have before the meal is ready.
Pastalaya: I’m predisposed to vastly prefer jambalaya over pastalaya, but it’s my understanding that people enjoy this for some reason. A reasonable alternate.
Jambalaya: But I’m glad that we had this here.
Smothered Chicken & White Rice: I’ll be honest, I have no recollection of this being served. This is a tailgate after all.
Jambalaya: We took our dog and pony show out to Auburn for a joint tailgate with the Shitbirds and had to bring out the fastball for the first pitch.
Shrimp Etouffee: Here’s where we started to experiment. This was maybe a touch too the blonde of a roux, but regardless it was good. But the thing about etouffee is that it’s very forgiving (moreso than a gumbo) if you don’t get the roux 100% dialed in and bits I remember eating were satisfying. Scales well so long on it’s own.
Shrimp and Grits: The 11 AM kickoff forced our hand, but luckily Zach can produce the best damn plate of grits you’ve had at the drop of the hat. Adding shrimp to it simply turned an amazing side dish into an amazing main course. Probably something you can only get away with during an early kick because the shrimp may now scale well.
Grillades: Zach marketed this as “wine braised beef with mushrooms over grits” but they were grillades. And they were good, damn good. May scale better than the shrimp and grits but probably best limited to a breakfast crowd.
Chicken & Sausage Gumbo: This may put me in the stocks, but I just don’t care for gumbo. I know I’m supposed to like it because I’m from South Louisiana, but I just don’t. So I didn’t partake, but it seemed to be a hit for everyone else as evidenced by the fact that it was gone.
Pork Sauce Piquant: This is something that I do dig on. And it was good. But this post has been overwhelmingly positive, so it’s time to issue an advisory.
Crawfish Etouffee: Maybe don’t cook three dishes that are heavily reliant on rice, and if you do make sure you have copious amounts of it because we ran out with a damn quickness. That’s on us, we got too overzealous.
Turkey: We celebrated Tailgatesgiving for Bama because 1) it’s the last big game and 2) not many people will be at UAB. Turkey at a November tailgate isn’t a revolutionary concept, but we were able to provide both smoked and fried options. Not sure what’s better or what I even prefer, but I do know that I both had a leg of each and they were both delicious.
Smoked Ribs: For the biggest game of the year we broke out the barbecue again to a welcome return. Ribs are a bit easier to smoke than pork butts, and we had the smokers out anyway...
Smoked drumsticks: Like before, we came back and served this closer to kickoff to provide sustenance for the game.
Smoked Mac and Cheese: Something else I personally don’t dig on, but other people absolutely do. Always a big hit and something that seems quick to go. If you’ve had it, I’m sure you have nothing bad to say about it because nobody ever does.
Corn Grits: Goated.
Dirty Rice: Because rice is the most important food group.