The culinary archetypes of fall in America include infusing just about everything with pumpkin spice, baking apples into pies and tarts, and spending Sunday afternoons in parking lots before the big game, chowing down on burgers and dogs and beers. And while the first two culinary tropes will be readily repeated during this pandemic, tailgating is inevitably going to look a little different from years past.
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Sure, you may not be congregating with large groups of friends, but you can craft your own bespoke tailgating event, complete with all the necessities: plumes of smoke emerging from makeshift grills, chilled cans of beer, and a minimal number of socially-distanced friends, all in the comfort of your backyard. At least that’s what “Top Chef Masters” contestant and James Beard Award-winning chef John Currence hopes you’ll do with his new book, “Tailgreat: How to Crush It at Tailgating.”
Tailgreat: How to Crush It at Tailgating, $21.03 on Amazon
John himself is a tailgate enthusiast, having catered events at The Grove at Ole Miss for years, so it should come as no surprise that he’s penned a book replete with 120 tailgate-friendly recipes, with plenty of options for sandwiches, cocktails, snacks, and dessert. John was inspired by cuisines from around the world, so along with American staples like sweet mustard pulled pork, roast beef po’boy bites, and snickerdoodle whoopie pies, your tailgate can also be flush with Korean-style BBQ wings and grilled corn guacamole.
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Ahead you’ll find John’s recipe for muffulettas, a classic sandwich found in his hometown of New Orleans. One big difference in John’s riff is that he prefers this sandwich hot—rather than at room temperature, the way it’s often served—baked in the oven on seeded Italian bread. Just as important is the olive salad, complete with two kinds of olives, plenty of pickled vegetables (think red onions, carrots, celery, and peppers), and a handful of spices, like celery seeds and dried oregano.
Once you’ve got all the ingredients ready to go, swipe the bread with the tapenade, mozzarella cheese, mortadella, salami, provolone, and prosciutto, then tuck the sandwich in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to serve, separate the sandwich halves at the provolone and salami layers and bake in the oven until the cheese starts to brown and bubble. Assemble back together and slice into quarters—all the better for tailgating consumption.
Reprinted from TAILGREAT: How to Crush it at Tailgating. Copyright © 2020 by John Currence. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
In the pantheon of tasty delights New Orleans is known for, the muffuletta gets little recognition, considering how amazing it is. The love child of Italian immigrant grocery store staples and New Orleans excess, the muffuletta is a tailgater’s dream come true.
My favorite one comes from one of the quintessential joints, R&O’s, in Bucktown. They serve their muffuletta hot and toasty, unlike the traditional version, which mimics an old-school Italian sandwich and is served at room temperature. When heated, the extra-virgin becomes fragrant, the cheese melts, and the meats crisp around the edges. The bread turns soft, the aroma of the vinegar comes alive, and best of all, the garlic in all the meat and giardiniera wakes up and explodes. For the life of me, I can’t understand why you would eat one at room temperature, unless there was a power outage.
- 2 cups chopped pitted green olives
- 1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
- ¾ cup diced red onion
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ¾ cup chopped cauliflower florets
- ½ cup chopped baby carrot
- ½ cup chopped pepperoncini pepper
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- ¾ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 ¼ cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 (1-pound) loaves seeded Italian bread
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
- 1 pound mortadella, thinly sliced
- 1 pound salami, thinly sliced
- 1 pound provolone cheese, thinly sliced
- 1 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced
- Make the olive salad: Combine both olives, the onion, celery, cauliflower, carrot, pepperoncini, garlic, celery seeds, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, vinegar, and olive oil in a nonreactive bowl and stir to blend thoroughly. Allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring well every 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a large glass jar. If the olives and vegetables are not covered, add more red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, in equal parts. Refrigerate at least 8 hours. It starts to get really good on about day three.
- Make the sandwiches: Halve the loaves of bread horizontally, and drizzle each cut side of the tops and bottoms with 1 tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil. Spread with equal amounts of the olive salad (between ¼ and ½ cup). On each of the bottoms, layer 4 ounces each of mozzarella, mortadella, salami, provolone, and prosciutto. (It is important to layer in this order). Close up the sandwiches, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight. (There is nothing perishable, so technically they can sit out on the counter without any problem. These can also be consumed the minute you close them up.)
- When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the sandwiches from the refrigerator, and when the oven has reached temperature, unwrap the sandwiches. Open them back up, separating the provolone and salami layers, and lay the halves on baking sheets. Bake until the cheese melts and begins to bubble around the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, reassemble, and slice into quarters. Serve immediately.
Photographs copyright © 2020 by Peter Frank Edwards