How does this happen? How do I do this to myself? As of this morning, I think I’ve got 20 friends within wandering distance of my house descending upon it tomorrow afternoon, which always sounds like such a super-duper idea in theory on holiday summer weekends—you know how this goes: “Oh, hey, are you guys around? We are, too! Why don’t you come over…" until it’s the day before, the guest list has swelled from an intimate grill session for four to a cook-out for dozens, my house is a mess, and I’ve got a ‘fridge full o’ nuthin’ with which to feed them all. Yipes! Help!
Lucky for me, I have the secret Bat Cave number for Ted and Matt Lee, the sweet, talented, awesome South Carolina–born brother team who know a thing or two about putting out phenomenal, fresh food in a great, casual party setting without breaking a sweat (or, well, you know, making it look like you didn’t break too much of one, anyway).
Homesick and wishing that they could get good southern staples in the months they spent in NYC away from their Charleston home, the wonderful, amiable Lee brothers started a mail-order business called Boiled Peanuts, where homegrown fixes like hominy, pickles and preserves, stone-ground grits, Royal Crown cola, and even boiled peanuts could be procured for displaced and yearning southerners, or even Yankees like me (and you?!) who dig that stuff. And then there was the Beard-award winning book Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, and the column-writing for Martha Stewart Living magazine, and the New York Times dining section stories, and all other venerable spots where the brothers Lee bestow their south of the Mason-Dixon culinary wisdom (and then some).
So what did they tell me to do after I dashed off an email to Ted in a sweaty, pre-party panic? The following simple and smart words of wisdom:
1. Chill Out. “Cold salads rock with grilled foods, and can be made ahead. Bean salads and chopped salads are great for cookouts (leafy salads tend to wilt in the heat), and they actually benefit, flavor-wise, from marinating for a day before showtime. They tend to be very easy to eat—they stick to the fork while you're tottering around. And they sure are simple to prepare, which is particularly good when potlucking—even your most cooking-phobic friends can be assigned to toss together a cold salad with great results.”
2. Have Spoon, Will Stir. “Make the beverage station self-serve for all ages by concocting several pitchers of infused syrup (mint is an obvious one) or a juice blend (orange with cranberry, ditto) that performs double duty as a soda flavoring and a cocktail mixer.”
3. All Hands on Spatula. “An extra grill-gal or guy! We always invite someone to an outdoor party who we know really loves to grill, and can take over the tongs in a pinch.”
Great advice, right? Now I don’t feel so totally freaked out. I’ve got a list in hand and I'm about to head out to Ye Olde Costco, but before I do, let me share with you all the great Green Goddess Potato Salad recipe from the Lee’s new book, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern. There’s a lot to love in these pages, and I guarantee by the end of tomorrow, they will be splattered and splashed and made very good use of, by gum. I might even try my hand at their cool, exotically spiced Rice Pudding Pops—how fun would that be? And super easy to do ahead of time, too, which is pretty much what this fresh-flavors book is about. Eat well, have fun, and by all means—invite people over. After all, the best meals are always, always shared.
Have a great, great weekend everybody!
Green Goddess Potato Salad a la Lee Brothers
Serves 4, 25 minutes prep; 15 minutes resting
(obviously, double or triple if you’ve got a bigger crew coming)
- 2 TBSP plus 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 1/2 lbs small red potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1/2 cup high-quality store-bought mayonnaise, such a Hellman’s or Duke’s
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (white and green parts)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 TBSP finely chopped fresh tarragon
- 2 anchovy fillets, minced or 1/2 tsp anchovy paste (optional)
- 1 TBSP white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
- 1 TBSP fresh lime juice
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1. Fill a 4-quart stockpot half full with water, add 2 tablespoons of the salt and the potatoes, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until just fork-tender but cooked through, 6 to 7 minutes.
2. While the potatoes cook, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, scallions, parsley, tarragon, anchovies (if desired), vinegar, lime juice, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper together in a large bowl.
3. Drain the potatoes well and add them to the bowl; toss with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes at room temperature (as the salad loses its heat, it will absorb the dressing). Serve at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days before serving.
Are you cooking this holiday weekend? What are you making?
Amy Zavatto has been writing about wine, spirits, and food for ten years. Her work appears in Imbibe, Gotham, and Every Day with Rachael Ray, among others. She is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bartending and the co-author of The Renaissance Guide to Wine & Food Pairing.