DETROIT — As fans rev up for football games, so does their tailgating repertoire. In parking lots on game day, tailgaters elevate their food to big and bold levels.
Consider cedar planked salmon, rubbed with applewood seasoned rub and smoked over applewood chips. Or meatloaf smoked on the grill in a special pan. Or a pizza and nacho bar.
"You have to keep it interesting," says Robert Green of Waterford, Mich., who was tailgating before the recent Sunday Lions game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Green usually tailgates with his friends the Merrill family and says they generally have a theme, like a pizza and nacho bar.
"It’s basically a standard pizza, and you choose toppings. It’s just cooked outside on top of a grill," says Green, 26.
For the home opener, Green says they roasted a 150-pound pig. Throughout the season, they’ll do a chili cook-off and a seafood buffet with Alaskan king crab, shrimp scampi, lobster tails and jambalaya.
Nearby, Louis Gross, 49, of Clinton Township, Mich., was making his tailgate meatloaf.
He smokes it on a kettle-style grill in a special pan. That infused smoky flavor permeates the meatloaf because the pan has a perforated bottom.
"The holes allow the grease to drip through the bottom so the meatloaf isn’t sitting in its own grease," says Gross.
Jessie McElwain, 50, of Sterling Heights, Mich., who tailgates with Gross, says applewood smoked salmon is one of his specialties.
"It’s real simple. A skinless salmon rubbed with olive oil and my specialty apple spice rub," McElwain says. "Cook it about an hour (on cedar planks). Don’t flip it or anything."
While many tailgaters pull out all the stops, Ken Lasley’s shrimp boil was a sight to behold.
"Most of the guys like it, and it always draws attention," says Lasley, 33, of Birch Run, Mich.
Lasley and his brother Ed Lasley follow their great grandfather J McNier’s method for making the shrimp boil.
First, they fill a tall pot with water (about 8 cups) and pour in Hamm’s beer (about 30 cans). The mixture is set on a propane burner and brought to a full boil. Lasley stirs Coach’s Low Country Boil seasoning and then adds halved red-skin potatoes and corn on the cob halves. Ken Lasley cooks them for 10 minutes; chunks of smoked sausage and quartered onion are added and cooked for another 20 minutes.
At the end, about 6 pounds of 24-30 count raw shrimp are cooked for just a few minutes.
"We do all the prep work right there," Lasley says.
One piece of advice tailgaters agree on is to have a plan and prepare ahead.