When I sat down to come up with tailgate food ideas for a Thursday night game against Baylor, there was one common theme that guided my choices. A Thursday night game means that lots of people will be rushing to the stadium after school and work, with little time to spend on elaborate menus or time-consuming recipes. You want a winning tailgate, but you don’t have a lot of time to devote to it. In other words, you have to cheat a little. Stop me if you know where I’m going with this.

Similarly, Baylor built a winning football team quickly, taking shortcuts on vetting the character of recruits and compromising the founding principles of their university in the name of winning. Yep, I went there. Couldn’t help it.

Luckily, taking shortcuts on your tailgate won’t result in assaults and cover-ups — only a more pleasant evening. So here’s what I suggest. I ran across a pretty nifty idea for toasted sandwiches that’s unique and requires almost zero clean-up.

chicken-cordon-bleu-pull-apart-sandwich1A grilled meat and cheese pull-apart sandwich loaf lets you put everything together before you leave the house. You can find the recipe that inspired the idea here, but the basic idea is that you take a good-sized Italian loaf and slice it to within about half an inch of the bottom. Then you simply fill the gaps between slices 1&2, 3&4, etc. with meat, cheese, and whatever you want. Wrap it in foil, and keep it in the fridge if you make it early, then pop it in the cooler before you leave for the stadium. Once you’re on the lot, fire up the grill and put the loaf in there, turning it over periodically. In no time you can have a nice warm set of toasted sandwiches to pull apart. If you want to, play around with different combinations of bread, cheese, and meat. A nice swirl rye loaf with turkey, pastrami and swiss would be pretty great. Something this good that’s easier to make than grilled cheese? It’s practically criminal, and it’s a winner. You know — like Baylor.

With sandwiches like these, you can pretty much do whatever you want with beer pairings. There are some great seasonals hitting shelves right now, but I have a hard time getting into winter beers until after Thanksgiving. For me it’s a bit of a transitional time between the bright, citrus-heavy IPAs and sours of summer and the inky black stouts and porters of winter. What usually occupies that space for me are things like Black IPAs and Scotch Ales.

The Black IPA is one of my favorite styles of beer, but it’s not very common or easy to find. My absolute favorite (maybe of any style) is an offering by Firestone Walker Brewing Company called Wookey Jack. WookeyEasy, Star Wars fans… I think the misspelling is a question of copyright. This stuff is all that’s best of dark and bright. It has a smokey roasted malt and rye backbone that balances perfectly with its noteworthy hops bite. I should also point out that it has a bear fighting a cat right on the label, so it’s perfectly suited for Baylor vs. K-State. The only drawback is that they don’t distribute in Kansas. If you live in the KC area it’s worth a trip across the state line. I know, I know… what the heck with this recommendation? Don’t worry, though. There is another Skywalker (oh man, we’re really nerding out here). If you can’t get your hands on my first choice, try to find Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Nighttime. It’s remarkably similar to Wookey Jack. Normally it’s only available in the spring but sometimes you can find some on a shelf. If THAT can’t be found, go for some Founders Brewing Company Dark Penance. All are good examples of the style.

As always, I hope you find some inspiration here for your next tailgate. Let us know if you do, and we’ll see you on the lot!

 

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