I'll admit: I'm not a big football fan. I attended the University of Nebraska, which by association makes me a Husker fan, but I haven't followed the team in earnest since I was about 21. Nevertheless, there's nothing more fun than tailgating on a Husker football Saturday in Lincoln, and no one knows tailgating better than my friend Sarah Collins, co-host of the podcast Go Big Tailgate.
Sarah has been co-hosting a tailgate near Memorial Stadium for the last five years or so. Not only is she a football fan, but she definitely knows how to throw a party, especially a football party. I turned to her for some tips and advice that will help you prepare the perfect Super Bowl soiree.
"Anything football-themed is always a hit. Think cheese ball in the shape of a football, covered in bacon bits."
Food that doubles as decor is a genius idea, especially if you don't have a lot of sports-themed serving accessories. Instead, go all in on cake decorated like a football field, color-coordinated dips or pigskin-themed finger foods.
DIP IT, DIP IT GOOD
"You can never go wrong with dips. They are easy to make and you can use chips, crackers, veggies and so much more to eat them."
It's not a football party until I've had at least a few corn chips dipped in queso. I'm a huge fan of dips in any shape, size or form. Plus, with all the dipping vehicles you can choose like pita chips or pretzels, you're sure to find something that even your gluten-free or vegan friends can enjoy.
PRO TIP: NEVER SHOW UP EMPTY HANDED
"Games are just asking people to snack!"
It's safe to assume that your host will provide at least a few hors d'oeuvres, but with lots of hungry people hanging around for upwards of 4 hours, you'll need reinforcements. If you've got a dietary restriction, make sure to bring something you can enjoy and share. It's also a good idea to ask the host if there is anything you can bring that will complement what they are already making, like barbecue sauce for the pulled pork or extra brats.
"Most parties are BYOB and bringing some new, interesting beer is always fun as people are curious and it creates a conversation."
Don't plan on just bumming beers from your friends. With the craft brewery craze in full swing, shake things up with a growler instead of a six pack. Or grab a variety pack of local brews. Wanna get real fancy? Bring a Patriots- or Falcons-theme cocktail or drink. I'm thinking a Boston sour or Sweet Tea Bourbon?
TAILGATE TESTED, TASTEBUD APPROVED
No Superbowl Party is complete without at least a few crowd-pleasing recipes. Sarah is an amazing at-home cook, and hand-picked a few of her tried and tested tailgate appetizers just for us.
Jalapeño Popper Football Cheese Ball
- 16 oz cream cheese, softened
- 8 oz grated/shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/4-1/3 cup chopped green onion, divided
- 1/2 cup diced pickled jalapeños, extra as desired
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- pinch of salt
- 3 slices of bacon
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2-3 TBSP fresh parsley
- 2-3 fresh jalapeños (approx. 1/4 cup finely chopped)
- 1 slice mozzarella or white cheddar cheese
- In a medium bowl, combine softened cream cheese, cheddar, pickled jalapeño, garlic powder, salt and around 2-3 TBSP chopped green onion.
- Using a hand mixer or a fork and some elbow grease (my method of choice), mix well.
- Use a silicone spatula to scoop out the cheese mixture and shape into a ball with your hands.
- Place on a sheet of parchment paper or a cutting board and flatten the top of the ball, pinching and shaping it into a football. You'll want to press down on the middle and sort of pinch the sides while you press it into an edible football.
- If cheese ball is too soft, cover with plastic and pop it in the fridge for 15-60 min. Mine was still firm yet soft enough to coat with toppings after 15 minutes.
- While your cheese ball chills, chop the bacon into pieces and cook until crispy in a hot pan or skillet.
- Remove bacon from pan and wipe clean, leaving a teeny bit of the bacon grease behind. Add your panko and lightly toast it, stirring frequently for about a minute or two until golden.
- Remove the seeds, veins, and stem from your jalapeño and finely chop/mince.
- Sprinkle/cover your cheese ball with panko, remaining green onion, parsley, fresh jalapeño, and bacon and press firmly into the cheeseball to coat.
- For the laces, snag a slice of mozzarella cheese (or any cheese really!) and use a sharp knife to cut it into thin slices. Cut one long slice for the center of the football and smaller slices for the laces.
Cheesy Pull Apart Bread
- 1 large loaf of French, Italian or sourdough bread (I used a round loaf that weighed just under 2 pounds)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 to 4 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 8 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded
- 8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and diced into small pieces
- Fresh parsley or chopped green onions for garnish, optional
- Place oven rack just below the center position. Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Lay bread on a cutting board. Use a bread knife to make diagonal cuts down through the top of the bread, leaving the crust intact. Repeat across the entire surface of the bread, making the cuts approximately one inch apart. Turn the bread 90 degrees and make a set of perpendicular cuts. When you are finished, the surface of the bread should be cross-hatched into 1-inch squares.
- Stir garlic salt into melted butter. With a basting brush, basting syringe, or spoon, drizzle the melted butter down into the bread between all of the cracks until all butter has been used.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Use the side of a knife or the back of a spoon to mash minced garlic into somewhat of a paste. Mix garlic into cream cheese. Stir in cheddar, Swiss, and diced bacon and mix until well blended. Stuff clumps of cheese mixture down into all of the cracks of the bread.
- Lay a long piece of foil on the counter horizontally, and then lay a second long piece of foil on top of it vertically. Center the stuffed loaf of bread on the foil and wrap. Bake for 20 minutes, then open up the top of the foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is entirely melted. Watch carefully once foil is open to ensure that the top of the bread is not browning too much. Serve hot.