|How game-day masters do it|
When the University of South Carolina plays LSU on Oct. 13, tailgate masters Robert “R.C.” Cannon and Don “Big Don” Pearce will fire up fried chicken near the LSU Aircraft Memorial. Meanwhile, pit master John Richardson will grill his award-winning hot wings at the 30-year-old tailgate he puts on with friends on the Parade Grounds.
Chicken, of course, is a nod to the Gamecocks’ mascot. Consuming the enemy before kickoff is an established good luck tradition.
“We do fried or grilled gator when Florida plays, and we do a whole hog in a Cajun microwave when it’s Arkansas,” says LSU tailgater Chad Cole, whose CBT crew gathers for a 300-person fête near Lockett Hall and the College of Design.
LSU fans plan and prepare what are arguably the most elaborate tailgate menus in the country. Prosaic picnic fare is overshadowed by Cajun and Creole classics, wild game and low-and-slow barbecue. No dish is too difficult to pull off in a parking lot, and no one balks when guests arrive en masse.
Cannon and Pearce put on their event to honor East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies, and they set up Friday night. By 4 a.m. Saturday, Cannon is cooking eggs, bacon, pancakes and beignets and greeting his tailgate neighbors. By 9 a.m., he’s working on the main course in a massive cast-iron cooker. Typically jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, gumbo, shrimp Creole or fried fish.
In the CBT crew, the group divides cooking responsibilities for each game. Many live outside Baton Rouge, and they emerge with regional surprises. Thibodaux-based group members gig frogs before their rotation and prepare fried frog legs onsite. Hunters bring smoked duck jalapeño poppers and venison chili. Others pick up boudin and cracklins from the legendary Best Stop in Scott, La.
Richardson pre-games with the Hillar Moore, Sr. Family and Friends tailgate and spends the night in his 1983 Volkswagon Westfalia the night before the game so he can light a succession of wood-fired pits just after sunrise. He uses a large grill and rotisserie, a Backwoods Smoker and a handful of broken-down backyard grills he says have a “hidden magic.”
For dishes, Richardson draws on recent travels to South Africa, where he sampled local braai (barbecue). This inspires some of his rubs, but he also uses traditional Cajun seasoning and makes a range of different barbecue sauces, from sweet to savory. Group members bring ice chests full of pork, beef and chicken—often from the LSU Dairy Store. Throughout the day, the tailgate crew diagnoses which rubs and sauces worked and what they’ll try next week.
“It’s all about the sense of community and the getting together,” Richardson says.
South African braai marinade and mop sauce (with a Louisiana twist)
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
2 medium white onions, chopped
2 yellow, 2 red and 1 green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
½ cup apple cider vinegar
3-6 whole Louisiana Creole tomatoes
¼ to ½ cup chutney (homemade or local)
2-3 Ruston peaches
1-2 mangoes, if desired
½ cup Louisiana cane sugar
¼ cup oil (your preference)
1/8 to ¼ cup pepper sauce (cayenne)
1/8 cup Louisiana spicy brown mustard
Nutmeg to taste
1. In large cast iron pot, cook down garlic, onions and peppers in your desired oil until clear.
2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer min 30 or to desired consistency.
3. Make thinner for marinade, thicker for mop sauce.
4. Great on lamb, venison, goat and pork/beef tenderloin.
5. Marinade meat 3 hrs to overnight
6. Sear and grill at lower temp in a rush, or sear and smoke “slow and Low” 222 degrees.
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