For football fans, there’s no place like homegating

A spread fit for a king — or a Dolphins fan.
A spread fit for a king — or a Dolphins fan. TNS

You want the fun of watching a football game, but not the cost of a ticket.

You want the fun of sharing all those traditional football foods with your friends, but not the work of schlepping it all to a parking lot and balancing your plate on the hood of your car.

There is a word for people like you: homegating. And while the entertaining can certainly be lavish, with from-scratch cooking and over-the-top decorating, you can do it just as well with food that’s easy to find and assemble.

“It’s more comfortable, the parking is cheaper, and the bathrooms are usually cleaner,” says Debbie Moose, the Raleigh, N.C.-based food writer. “The viewing experience at home is so much better now.”

This is no surprise to the National Football League, which has trademarked the term “homegating” and created a smartphone app, a logo and a whole line of home-entertaining products around it.

“Our best platform is Pinterest,” says Vanessa Lee, the NFL’s brand manager for consumer products, including recipes. “We’ve seen everything from traditional spreads to quinoa salad.”

One surprise when the NFL started its homegating campaign in 2013: They thought football home parties were something that happened later in the season, after Thanksgiving, when it gets colder and the competition gets more intense. But they found that people are doing home football parties long before the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

Homegating and tailgating may have different settings, but the foods are the same. Cindy and Bill Buchanan of Charlotte, N.C., are experts in turning home football into an event. Their garage, tricked out in Carolina Panthers memorabilia, has become legendary as “Garage Mahal.”

Shaping a football-food party is a little different from other kinds of parties, says Moose: Focus on something that’s easy to make in advance, so you can watch the game too, put out smaller snacks for the first half and bring out the bigger food at halftime.

“For a regular party, it’s all out when everybody gets there. If I’m going to bring out the major stuff, like wings, bring those out at halftime, when people want something more substantial.”

Better-quality prepared foods cut the work, too. Moose likes the Wholly Guacamole brand of guacamole, for instance, which is in the produce section of most supermarkets.

“There are big improvements in guacamole, particularly. It used to just be green goo. Now there are better salsas.” Or you can get frozen wings and dress them up with a better sauce before throwing them in the oven.

One of Moose’s favorites: Put out a bowl of cooked, chilled shrimp, guacamole, salsa and a stack of small flour tortillas. People can assemble their own wraps when they’re ready.

No one is saying that homegating will replace tailgating. Sometimes, nothing beats being at a game. But there’s room in a season for both.

Pizza Cups

From “Fun Food Fast!” by the editors of Good Housekeeping (Hearst Books, 2015).

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 40 bite-size tortilla chip cups on a large baking sheet. In a bowl, combine 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend with 2 tablespoons prepared pesto. Spoon into the cups. Slice 10 grape tomatoes into 4 pieces each and place 1 on each cup. Bake 6 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Yield: 8 servings

Chocolate Chip Monkey Bread

From Cindy Buchanan of Charlotte.

Spray an 8- or 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray. Place 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa in a small bowl. Working with one can at a time, unroll two (8-roll) cans of crescent roll dough and press the seams together. Cut each rectangle into 8 rows by 3 rows (24 pieces, or 48 total). Place 5 to 8 semisweet chocolate chips in each rectangle and shape the dough around it to seal. Toss the balls in the chocolate and sugar, then pile in the cake pan. Sprinkle any remaining chocolate and sugar over the top, then melt 1/4 cup butter and pour over the dough balls. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate and serve warm. (You can wrap it in foil and reheat it if needed.)

Yield: About 8 servings

Pepper Jelly Wings

Suggested by Debbie Moose, author of “Fan Fare.”

Combine about 1 cup of hot pepper jelly and 2 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Texas Pete. Microwave about 30 seconds and whisk to combine. Dip frozen wings (such as rotisserie-flavored) into the sauce, then place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake according to package directions.

Yield: About 4 servings

Brat Sliders with Beer Kraut

Beer Kraut: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet and add a 14-ounce bag of three-color coleslaw mix. Cook briefly, then stir in 2 packed tablespoons light brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard and 1 cup brown ale. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until most of the beer evaporates.

Sliders: Remove the casings from a package of uncooked bratwurst (about 5 brats) and combine in a bowl with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons brown ale. Form into 12 small patties (about 1/4 cup each), then fry or grill until brown. Serve on small rolls, such as Hawaiian bread, topped with some of the kraut.

Yield: 6 servings