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Longhorn fans turn their tailgates up to 11

Addie Broyles

Football season is upon us, and in today’s food section, we dive into the tailgating culture at the University of Texas.

It’s no surprise that, like everything Longhorn related, UT tailgaters take their pre-game parties pretty seriously. During the first home game of the season, I wandered the grounds around Darrell K Royal Stadium and found tailgates that boast generators, satellite TVs, five-figure smokers, an array of tailgate games that are not washers and (shhhh) covert sponsorship deals for booze that the university’s rules outright forbid.

I chatted with tailgate founders who have websites, off-season events and even governing boards to make sure that their parties run smoothly. It was a fascinating dive into a subculture that I thought I knew from my own tailgating days in college, but never did I find Mizzou tailgate cooks frying fresh French fries on site − in lard, no less − or a dry-aged prime brisket from an artisan butcher shop.

That particular tailgate also featured this Hatch macaroni and cheese from Kristen Smolik, who inherited her parents’ tailgate a few years ago and has ramped it up a few notches with the help of her friends and family.

Hatch Mac and Cheese

5-6 Hatch chiles

1 lb. dried macaroni

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt, to taste

1/2 tsp. pepper, to taste

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

2 cups half and half

2 cups whole milk

4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar, divided

2 cups shredded extra sharp Cheddar

2 cups shredded muenster

Roast chiles in oven or grill until skin is blackened, rotating every 3-4 minutes. Immediately place in paper bag, seal and let sit 15 minutes. When chiles are cool enough to handle, peel skin off. Cut tops/stems off chiles and discard. Discard seeds, or leave some in if you like extra spice. Chop up chiles and set aside.

Cook macaroni according to directions on package. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While macaroni is cooking, melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour and cook 2-3 minutes, whisking continuously. Add salt, pepper and garlic powder. Stir to combine. Slowly whisk in half and half and milk. Cook, continuing to whisk, until sauce is thickened. Add in 2 cups sharp cheddar, 2 cups extra sharp cheddar and 2 cups muenster and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.

Mix sauce, green chiles and macaroni in large bowl and pour into greased 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole dish. Top with remaining 2 cups of sharp cheddar. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. For crispier top, remove foil for last 5-10 minutes of cooking to allow cheese to brown slightly. Serves 10.

— Kristen Smolik