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Smoking Musket Tailgate Menu: Russell Athletic Bowl, featuring Cuban fusion

As the Mountaineers head to Orlando for the bowl game against Miami, we have one last time to tailgate for a game in 2016. 

NCAA Football: Georgia Southern at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Sadly, the college football season is coming to a close. The bowl season is a whole bunch of fun and gives fans one last time to fire up the grills and lay out the spread for a tailgate. WVU is playing in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando against Miami. To craft our menu for this game, we are going to dip into the waters of the Caribbean Sea and cook up some Cuban and Puerto Rican specialties.

Cuban Mojo Pork Shoulder

We have covered a lot of variations of barbecue but we have finally arrived at the one that speaks closest to my heart: pork barbecue. This is a very, very traditional way of cooking pork barbecue and is a mainstay at Cuban holidays.

The mojo marinade speaks to the origins of barbecue. The Taino people, island natives, were the first known people to slow-roast whole hogs on open flames on their beaches. They used readily-available juices and spices to flavor their meat. The Cuban mojo marinade uses fresh orange juice, a whole garlic bulb and fresh oregano.

The marinade is fairly straightforward; squeeze a cup of orange juice into a bowl, dice the garlic and throw it in there, then chop the oregano and add it. Also add some lime juice black pepper, salt and cayenne pepper to the bowl to give the marinade more depth. You can add any other spices you’d normally like in a pork rub, including brown sugar, though I’d go easy on the sugar.

Put the pork shoulder in a large freezer bag with the leftover oranges you squeeze (and limes, if you used them). Pour the marinade into the bag and squeeze as much air out as you can, then zip it up tight and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, start preparing the cooking apparatus of your choosing for a long, slow cook. I used an electric smoker and preheated it to 250, then put the pork shoulder in and cooked it all until the internal temp was 190.

Pro tip: If you’re making this onsite, shred it after about 30 minutes of setting. If you’re making for the next day, wrap it in foil and then reheat it and shred it at the tailgate.

Recipe

Tostones (Fried Plantains) with Avocado Cream Sauce

This Puerto Rican delight will add a little flair and a different flavor to your tailgate. These aren’t completed to make, but they do take a little bit of on-site prep work, but these are worth it.

You MUST use plantains, not bananas. They are different. I’m still not sure how, but they are. Slice the plantains, fry them, then mash them and set them in water and fry them again. What West Virginian doesn’t love something that is twice-fried?

The dipping sauce is banging, too. Really, you’d make it like you would guacamole, then whip it with sour cream. I’m not one to paint with broad strokes, but girls love guacamole, so this will please all the ladies at the tailgate.

Recipe

Mango Salsa

Homemade salsa is a must at any really good tailgate. It’s ridiculously easy to make, but let’s take a turn from the traditional Mexican salsa and infuse some Caribbean flavors. How to do that? Well, add mango and fresh vegetables and herbs. Serve this with tortilla chips or pita chips.

Pro tip: Also throw in some of the lime pulp to make the spice of the scotch bonnet pop.

Recipe

Mojitos

I know some people will call me crazy for suggesting this, but the weather will be about 80 degrees during the day. That’s perfect weather for mint and rum, in my opinion.

Pro tip: Make a large pitcher of these with the mint and limes in it so people can pour as they please.

Recipe

Make the last tailgate great. Spend time with your tailgate family and tell stories of the old bowl games and that 2003 game against Miami. Until next season, never lose a tailgate!