Mark Clark: If you are going to talk football, talk tailgating too

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Just last week, I wrote about recruiting high school football players to move to the college level. I mentioned some local players and how their talents are perceived by scouts. The recruiting season is a part of the cycle of football, as I explained last week. Also a part of football is tailgating.

Tailgating is that wonderful time before games – high school, college or professional games – when we share a laugh or two and a lot of good food. You just cannot talk about football at any level without taking a moment or two to discuss tailgate food.

My daughter Mara is becoming a pretty good cook. Well, she can be when she really wants to cook, which seems like most of the time. Anyway, I was telling her I had an idea for a good appetizer a few weeks back, and she made my idea even better than I imagined it could be.

We discussed the possibility of cutting up a slab of bacon into chunks, battering them and then dropping them into a deep fryer for a few minutes. The idea seemed so wonderful in the talking stages. But, using a whole slab of uncut bacon was going to be an expensive endeavor for a test run at this new recipe. So, I picked up a couple of pieces of hog jowl at a local grocery store instead of the whole slab.

Hog jowl is just smaller pieces of uncut bacon. I had the butcher cut it up into strips of whatever length the jowls would allow and they were about a half-inch in thickness. Man, I knew these were going to be good if I fried them up correctly.

After I got home, I mixed up some eggs and milk to coat the strips of hog jowl before dredging them through self-rising flour. I had the oil nice and hot – about 400 degrees – in a six-inch deep pot on my gas grill. I dropped in a few of the strips and listened to them sizzle. I watched as they turned golden brown in about five minutes.

The time was purely a guess as I had never done this before. I lifted them out of the hot oil and on to a few paper napkins to drain.

Next was the taste test – and, my, the strips sure were good. They were just not good enough for my daughter likes. She told me to keep cooking the rest of the strips and that she would be back in a few minutes. She walked off with the remainder of the first batch of hog jowl strips.

When she returned about two cooked batches later, she said, “Here, try this.” I did and it was perfect. It was just what the fried up strips of hog jowl needed – white pepper gravy for a dipping sauce. Just like the fellow on television says, I was “eatin’ fine.” Justin Wilson would have said, “Oooo-Eeee, now dat dere is some good ole hog.” I could not agree more.

Since that Sunday evening when I fried that hog jowl, my oldest daughter, Marla, has been telling me that she wants me to cook that again. I think she liked it. The rest of us who tried it out did, too.

And also since that day, I have come to reason that the fried up hog jowl would make a wonderful side dish for breakfast. Give me a couple of fried eggs, a biscuit and fried hog jowl and I will be set to go. I think you would like it, too – either as a side for breakfast or as an appetizer to go along with a good steak. I have already deep fried a Prime Rib Roast. I did that at Thanksgiving. It was Mara’s idea to try that after seeing it on You Tube. Salt and pepper the roast and drop it in the hot oil at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. It will be about medium when you pull it out. Let it cool, slice and enjoy.

I can think of a few other tests we have done with food lately – smoked mac-and-cheese and smoked corn on the cob. I think we will try a smoked potato salad one day soon.

Here is one more quick and easy dish to make for a tailgate – mushrooms. Put a big spoonful of butter in a pot with a package of fresh sliced mushrooms. Add about a cup of Dale’s Sauce and then add onion powder and garlic powder to taste. Put on medium high on the stove top and allow the mushrooms to boil down. Cut back on the heat to simmer and let them stay on the eye until you are ready to use them. They are good on hamburgers and as a side dish for steaks. Bake a potato and spoon some of them over butter and sour cream. They go with just about anything you want.

Well, I have to go now. We are having roast beef sliders with cheese tonight. I do not want to miss out. Who knows, I might decide to dip them in some kind of batter and fry them up like I did the hog jowl. It might be good. I won’t know until I try them this way. And while I am getting out the gas burner and pot of oil, I might just fry up some corndog shrimp too.

Mark Clark is a local sports writer for 

The Citizen of East Alabama.