With the Rutgers opener tonight and the regular season of the NFL kicking off this Thursday I wanted to share with you my go-to recipes that I like to serve when tailgating. These can all be made ahead of time.

The bourbon dogs and ribs are easy to reheat or finish on the grill. My Nana's potato salad only gets better as it sits in the fridge making it the perfect side dish to bring along to the tailgate. I hope you enjoy these recipes and the time spent with friends and family watching your favorite team. Cheers!

Mama Connie's Bourbon Hot Dogs:

1 cup bourbon
12-ounce bottle Heinz Chili Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
3 packs of Best Hot Dogs, cut into 1/3 bite-size pieces

Warm first 3 ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add hot dogs. Mix together so they are evenly coated in sauce. Put in preheated oven at 325 degrees uncovered for 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally. Serve with toothpicks. These are great for tailgating, make a big batch ahead of time and just reheat them on the grill.

Nana's Homemade Potato Salad:

3 pounds of Red Bliss potatoes, peeled and cubed (some of you may want to keep the peel on, that’s o.k.. It works fine on or off.)
2 1⁄2 ribs of celery finely chopped (as small as you can)
1⁄2 large red onion, finely chopped (as small as you can)
3 hard-boiled eggs (discard two of the yolks and finely chop the egg whites and set aside cooked yolk)
1 1⁄4 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 tablespoons mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
1⁄4 cup of white vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1⁄4 cup of freshly chopped parsley for garnish

Boil potatoes until they are fork tender. Drain and if peeling potatoes, now is the time to peel them. Cube potatoes and add to a large bowl. While they are still warm add the vinegar. Mix well, let cool, keep covered in refrigerator for 1 hour minimum.

Once potatoes are cool, in a separate mixing bowl, mix the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar and egg yolk finely chopped.

In bowl with potatoes add the oil, celery, onion, egg whites and sugar. Mix in mayonnaise mixture in with potatoes. Add salt and pepper and stir well so that all the potatoes are covered with mayonnaise mixture. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

You can make this 2-3 days ahead of the game, either way it needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 1⁄2 hours, preferably overnight, to let all those ingredients blend in nicely.

Big Joe's Award Winning Ribs:

Just a note, these ribs are going to take about 8 hours to cook, so be prepared! You can start them a few days ahead of the game and they will only take a few minutes to finish on the grill.

Two racks of ribs (pork, membrane removed and trimmed – the large pork ribs, not the baby back ribs, those are too small!)

1 can of beer (I think you can spare one from the cooler)

2 cups of rub (I use Butch’s but just in case you can’t get Butch’s in time, here’s a rub recipe that I’ve used before that works well)

Big Joe’s Emergency Rub:

1cup paprika
1 ½ cups brown sugar
½ cup garlic powder
¼ cup Kosher salt
½ cup onion powder
½ cup chili powder
¼ cup black pepper freshly ground
¼ cup cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 tablespoons of dried thyme
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
¼ cup ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest

Butch’s Doctored Barbeque Sauce, Big Joe Style:

1 bottle 18 oz of Butch’s Mild Barbeque Sauce (if you can’t get Butch’s try an upscale Barbeque sauce)
1 bottle 18 oz of Butch’s Pyro Barbeque Sauce (if you can’t get Butch’s try an upscale Barbeque sauce)
2 tablespoons of habanero infused honey
¼ cup of orange juice
½ cup of bourbon liquor (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

How to Prep and Cook the Ribs:

After you have prepared the ribs, generously apply the rub to both sides of the ribs. I suggest you use plastic gloves as to not get the paprika stains on your fingers. Really get the rub into the meat.

Once covered with rub, wrap the now covered ribs in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and put back into the refrigerator for 6 or more hours, preferably overnight.

After the ribs have been taken out of the refrigerator and are now ready to be cooked, preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Place ribs on a standing rack, I use a turkey rack and lay the ribs up against the sides of the grate. Make sure that the ribs are not touching the bottom of the pan.

Add the can of beer to the bottom of the pan holding the ribs, making sure that the beer is not touching the ribs. Once the oven has reached 225 degrees place the ribs in the oven and cook for 7 hours. Once finished, remove and immediately wrap ribs in tin foil.

In a large sauce pan, over medium heat add just a ¼ of one bottle of barbeque sauce to pan, add garlic and orange juice, let reduce for about 5 minutes, add the honey and stir well with a wooden spoon. Add the bourbon and remainder of barbeque sauce. Let simmer for 1 hour stirring occasionally. Make this ahead of time and transfer sauce to a seal container.

At the tailgate, preheat your grill so that it is at maximum heat. Heat the ribs on each side for a few minutes before applying the sauce. Once the ribs are hot, apply your barbeque sauce generously to the ribs. Grill for an additional 6-8 minutes, depending on the heat of the grill. Apply more sauce as you cook. You want the ribs with a glazed coat. Keep turning the ribs to avoid burning the sauce.

Remove from the grill. Cut the ribs using the ribs as guidelines and savor. Remember it took you a long time to cook them so take the time to enjoy them!

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