Dill Potato Salad

If you saw my last post, you might’ve gotten the idea that we eat a lot of barbecue at my house. If so, you would be right. My husband has a whole room at the butcher shop for smoking meat, and I’m sure not going to pass up the chance to let someone help with dinner. My mama raised me to be smarter than that.

There are a lot of things that go well with barbecue—grilled corn, baked beans, sweet potatoes, fried okra. I’m told collard greens are good, too, but I just can’t. I mean, really. The smell alone is a turn off. And when you get past that part, they look positively menacing.

And then there’s potato salad. There are dozens of ways to make it, so you can’t beat it for versatility. My grandma used to make it with hard boiled eggs, sweet pickles and lots of raw onions. Grandma was an old school country cook, and I loved most of her cooking. The potato salad was a rare exception. It was mainly because of the pickles.

Grandma made her own bread and butter pickles. Most country women in these parts do. When it comes to canning, there’s not much that’s easier to can than pickles, so you can make a lot of product for very little work. And Grandpa loved them. He used to eat them on peanut butter sandwiches. No, I’m not making that up. I adored my grandpa, but the idea of a peanut butter and sweet pickle sandwich is a little too far off the beaten path for me. Still, I can remember him eating those sandwiches with a glass of milk at that old Formica table they kept in the dining room like it was yesterday, and Grandma’s been gone twenty years.

I prefer dill pickles. They don't taste any better with peanut butter (just a hunch, mind you, but I'm pretty sure I'm right), but they're just as easy to can. They're even easier to buy. And when you put them in potato salad, something amazing happens. They turn a fairly bland vegetable into a side dish that sings. I usually add cheese and bacon bits (the real kind--not those weird prefab ones) to give it a baked potato flavor. Try this with some baked beans (I have a great recipe I'll share soon), and you're ready for your summer barbecue. Enjoy!

Dill Potato Salad

Dill Potato Salad

2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/4 c. dill relish

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons parsley

1 cup light mayo

1/4 c. white vinegar

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

8 oz. real bacon bits

Boil potatoes until tender. Immediately drain and rinse in ice water bath to stop cooking, then drain again. Add relish, mustard, vinegar, mayo, cheese and bacon bits, then stir until blended. Garnish with parsley. Refrigerate until cool and serve.

White BBQ Sauce

I was born in Pascagoula. If you’re a Jimmy Buffett fan, you’ve heard of it. I've mentioned before that I was raised everywhere else. I first moved to Alabama when I went to college at the University of South Alabama, which is in Mobile. Mobile is almost as far south as you can go in Alabama without swimming in the ocean (the farthest south is a little town called Bayou La Batre—if you’re a Forrest Gump fan, you’ve heard of that, too). So I never spent a lot of time in North Alabama. You’d think it would all be about the same.

Not quite. North Alabama has Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. My daughter went to the University of Alabama. The one thing I can tell you about Tuscaloosa is that you don’t really go there—you experience it. Tuscaloosa is a football town, and the University of Alabama is at the dead center of it.

They’re proud of their football. I think there’s a blood test with the admissions application. If the results don’t come back “rabid Alabama fan,” they ship you off to Auburn. Or Siberia. To an Alabama fan, they’re roughly the same thing. I’m not even exaggerating. It’s been four years since she graduated, and my daughter would still rather cut off her own leg than miss the Iron Bowl.

Then there’s Birmingham. Birmingham is awesome. My son-in-law has lived there for eight years, which is roughly how long he and my daughter have been together, so I’ve spent a lot of time there. It has it all—green, rolling hills; any kind of shopping you could ask for; trendy nightlife; culture; concerts; and amazing restaurants. In the South, amazing restaurants means someone is going to open a barbecue place.

And that was my introduction to white barbecue sauce. I didn’t even know it was a thing. I mean, the sky is blue, grass is green, and barbecue sauce is brown. That’s just how it is.

Not in North Alabama. From what I’ve been able to tell, this truly is a recipe that is limited to that region. I can’t imagine why. It’s amazing. Put this on some smoked chicken, and you’ll never want the brown stuff again. I served this at one of our parties and one of the ladies took a piece of bread and swiped every last drop from her plate. Then she dumped some more on her plate and soaked that up, too.

I love this with chicken. The vinegar and lemon juice make for a tangy sauce that compliments chicken's milder flavor. 

White BBQ Sauce

North Alabama White BBQ Sauce

2 c. light mayonnaise

2 T. fresh ground black pepper

2 T. salt

6 T. lemon juice

6 T. apple cider vinegar

4 T. sugar

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Cajun seasoning to taste

Mix all ingredients together until smooth, then chill until ready to serve.

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts

I've only recently discovered brussels sprouts are actually good. Really good. As in, "where have you been all my life?" good.

Well, maybe not all my life. I've never been a fan of green, leafy things, and brussels sprouts were close enough to cabbage that I classified them as inedible early in life. That's practically sacrilege when you live in the home of collard and mustard greens (one of my closest friends raises greens on a farm in Mississippi, and I can't tell you how many times she's tried to send some home with me. Yuk. Have you ever noticed how slimy collard greens are?).

But I wasn't raised in the South (at least, not completely), so I get a pass. I spent most of my single digit years in Washington state. And not in the mountains, either.

Eastern Washington is mostly desert and tumbleweeds, and where we lived, there weren't exactly fields of vegetables. In fact, my only experience with fresh produce came when a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go with her and her family to pick some apples at an orchard. Sure. Why not?

My friend was a first generation Vietnamese girl whose parents escaped during the war. They were part of a tight knit community that shared, and apparently, this trip was part of that practice. We drove several hours to an orchard where they were allowed to pick and keep as many apples as they could in a day. I suppose they preserved them in some fashion and then shared them with other families in their circle. I had no idea. I just wanted to hang out with my friend.

Fast forward to the end of the day, and imagine my surprise when they tell me I'm going to keep all the apples I picked. Seriously? I thought I was just helping out.

Nope. All mine. I arrived back home with all my apples in tow--all 218 of them. My mom thought I had lost my mind. We piled them on a newspaper on the living room floor, and mom just stared down at them like she didn't know what to do next. We had every kind of apple dish you can imagine for the next week, then she cut the rest up and put them in little bags in the freezer. When we moved two years later, most of the bags were still there.

So I learned to appreciate fruits, but not leafy greens, and I never developed a taste for them. Right after my dad died in 2016, though, my business partner invited me to join him and his wife for dinner at a restaurant in Seaside, Florida. I had spent dad's final year as his caregiver, and my partner was worried about me. He thought the outing would do me good. I would never in a million years have ordered brussels sprouts. My partner ordered them as an appetizer and assured me they were outstanding. I'm polite enough not to argue.

Well, mostly--my partner and I are both lawyers, so I guess that's not entirely true.

Holy Moses. Those little balls of leaves were one of the most amazing vegetable dishes I'd ever had. So, of course, I looked up the recipe the moment I left the restaurant.

I've been serving roasted brussels sprouts ever since--quarter them, coat them with olive oil, salt them, then bake them for forty five minutes or so. My husband told me he had only ever had them boiled before (eww). So. Much. Better.

But, geez, an hour can be a long wait. Steaks are done in 15 minutes. There had to be a faster way.

And here it is. In fifteen minutes, these are tender, tasty, good for you, and gluten free. They even smell good. What more could you ask for?

Brussel Sprouts

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts

2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt, to taste

In large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the sprouts and saute for about 10 minutes, or until brown and fork tender, stirring to make sure they are evenly browned. Add the garlic and saute for another minute, then remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Salt to taste and serve while still hot.