Monday, September 15, 2008

Tailgating During Fall in Mississippi

It’s mid September in Mississippi. Is it fall yet?

Yesterday I was watching the Weather Channel and the announcer talked about “fall” weather in the Northeast. Fall in September? You’ve got to be kidding. Not down here.

We know the word “fall,” but we never experience the actual season until mid to late October, and then only in short spurts of crisp weather. Our brief hints of Fall are akin to evening weather in Southern California on a year-round basis.

In the Northeast and Midwest football fans are tailgating on Saturday afternoons with highs in the mid to upper 60s. In Mississippi we’re tailgating in the 90s. The temperature dictates the food.

Tailgating in the South is much different than tailgating in the Northeast. In the Northeast and Midwest the weather forecasts often include the word “crisp.” Down here we trade “crisp” for “muggy.” We do, however, get small hints of “crisp” beginning in October.

The first hint of cool in the Southern autumn is always deceptive. I fall (pun intended) for it every time. On that first cool morning I’ll walk outside, the air is cool— not crisp— cool. The pine straw is starting to turn brown, the Indian Summer images from the national magazines are floating around in the back of my head, and I say to myself, “Ahhhh, fall has arrived to Mississippi.” Inevitably, the next day will be 82 degrees and humid.

The covers of next month’s national food magazines will have images of fall-themed cornucopias highlighted with gold, brown, and orange leaves, freaky looking squash, cranberries, and 10 varieties pumpkin. All while we’re still picking summer vegetables in our gardens.

Down here the heat affects our menu choices. We’re still eating hot weather food. During Southern tailgates, we look for “cool” and easy foods to match the temperatures that we endure this time of the year.

My favorite tailgating recipe is for Silverqueen Corn and Shrimp Dip. I created the recipe for my book, Southern Seasons. It’s the perfect tailgating food. It’s served cold and tastes great in the Mississippi fall, it can be taken to the ball game in a small ice chest, it’s just spicy enough to make one reach for an additional beverage, and— most importantly— it tastes great.

Fall in the South means tailgating and football. We’d like it if it was a little cooler, but we’d rather take the heat than be forced to eat bland, Northern pumpkin and mutant squash.

Silver Queen Corn and Shrimp Dip

2 quarts water
1 Tbl crab boil
2 Tbl kosher salt
3/4 pound small shrimp, peeled

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/2 cup green onion, minced
1 Tbl fresh jalepeno, minced
1 Tbl hot sauce
1 Tbl fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 Roasted Silverqueen corn, cut from the cob* (3 ears), or canned corn, drained
1 tsp salt

Bring the water, crab boil and salt to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and reduce the heat slightly/ Simmer the shrimp for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the shrimp. Place the cooked shrimp in the refrigerator and cool completely. Roughly chop the cooled shrimp. Combine shrimp and the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving. Serve with your favorite chips for dipping.

6-8 servings

*To roast the corn: Preheat oven to 375. Wrap each ear individually in aluminum foil and place them on a baking sheet. Cook for 15 minutes, turn each piece of corn over and bake for 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, husks and silk and using a sharp knife, cut the kernels from the corn, being careful not to cut down too deeply into the cob. Allow corn to cool completely before preparing the dip.

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