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The Smoking Musket Tailgate Menu: New Year’s Eve in Memphis

Closing out the season and ringing in the new year!

Finally, the end of 2020 is here. Unfortunately, it brings with it the end of another West Virginia football season. New Year’s Eve should be spent celebrating the end of this dismal year and cheering on the Mountaineers (I rhymed)!

New Year’s Day traditions have evolved over the years but one thing always remained the same in my house: the afternoon feast. My mom combined her Dutch, Appalachian and British roots to make sure we filled up on luck and wisdom for the new year, and this almost always a mix of pork, black-eyed peas, cornbread and some sort of leafy vegetable (usually sauerkraut).

I figured we could keep the tradition of a New Year’s Feast as we fill up to watch WVU take on Army in the Liberty Bowl.

Memphis Dry Rub Ribs

We need a pork dish and we’re in Memphis? We must smoke some dry-rubbed pork ribs. Honestly, I’ve had better dry rub ribs in Mississippi, but these might be the most famous product of the Mississippi Delta and surrounding area (OK, probably Elvis is more famous).

Charlie Vergos is the chef who made these ribs the go-to in Memphis out the basement of his diner. Soon, he turned his whole operation into a barbecue joint. His Greek roots led him to use dry herbs and an acidic sauce to flavor the ribs.

The keys to good dry rub ribs are the temperature, the mop and the rub. Unlike their name, these ribs are not rubbed with seasoning before cooking, they’re mopped during the process and rubbed after. Also, they’re cooked at 350 degrees.

Though they differ from traditional barbecue methods, these ribs are juicy, smoky, sweet and spicy at the end.

Ham and Cornbread Canapes

Pulling back the curtain here, I’m actually making cornbread canapes for my New Year’s Eve party. I was searching for a way to serve cornbread without serving… a skillet of cornbread.

This hors d’oeuvre is packed with flavors that will make you think you’re dining in a holler. From the cornbread up to the country ham, each bite will make you feel a bit nostalgic for grandma’s cooking. If leeks aren’t your thing, you could substitute ramps or green onions.

Collard Greens Dip

Collard greens are the favorite of many Southerners. They take a lot of love to make them taste good and this dip is a lot of love. This really isn’t much different from spinach dip, you’re just substituting one leafy green for another.

If you don’t particularly love collards, you’ll appreciate this dip. You love collards, you’ll love this dip. After all, it’s just a bunch of melted cheese. The one drawback is that you do need to cook down the greens a bit before making the dip but that adds more flavor to the dip!

Pink Champagne Jell-O Shots

You have to toast champagne at midnight, right? Get a head start on the bubbly with these party shots for you and your guests.

There are two important alterations to the normal Jell-O shot process. First, this recipe uses a flavorless gelatin mix and fruit juice. You could use flavored Jell-O but this recipe heightens the champagne flavor. Second, you can’t over mix the champagne into the Jell-O mix because the bubbly will lose its bubbles.

Pour these into whatever shot cups you want and have some fun while watching the Old Gold and Blue!

This 2020 WVU football season seemed to fly by, not just because it was so short, but because it just seemed to get swallowed up by the rest of everything else going on. I truly hope you and your family stayed well during this pandemic. We must continue to take personal responsibility, so please, wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands. And, as always, don’t lose the tailgate!