Happy cookout season, ya’ll (a.k.a grilling out. a.k.a. barbeques. *I still can’t call them the latter, nor can I call a grill a barbecue because I’m from Eastern North Carolina. BBQ is explicitly and uniquely defined as pork, slow roasted whole, chopped, and tossed in a vinegar base!) I don’t know about you, but I am so very thankful for the warm(ish) evenings of back-deck-sitting, cold-beer/wine-drinking, clear-sky-gazing, and seasonal-food-eating. Cookouts, relaxing outside, and spending some QT with friends go down in my book as some of my all-time favorite things.
So, I have a question: what is your go-to dish for cookouts?
I’m curious because just recently, we were invited to a friend’s house for a get-together and when it came time to figure out what food to take, there were so many ideas and possibilities running through my head it was kind of overwhelming. Besides my mom’s pimento cheese, I don’t know that I have a signature dish.
I started thinking about the cookout spreads growing up, and the one thing on every single red and white checked table was a big bowl of potato salad. My mom makes good potato salad, too by the way. We’re talking the kind that’s a lovechild of potato salad and egg salad, coated with the perfect amount of mayo and mustard with a bit of sweet relish thrown in for good measure.
Though hers is a crowd-favorite, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to make up something on my own. So I consulted my pantry to see what I had on hand. I have a confession to make here: where all the things listed above are my ‘all-time favorite things’, peeling potatoes is one of my ‘all-time least favorite things’. For some reason, the very act makes me grumpy. Luckily, I had teeny tiny whole potatoes that didn’t require peeling. What else?
Fig butter. I love it. I get it from Trader Joes, though there are some far fancier, more expensive varieties at specialty food stores, or even in the gourmet cheese section of your local grocery store. How in the world does fig butter fit into potato salad you ask?! Beautifully.
The gist: I made vinaigrette with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a splash of lemon juice with a heaping tablespoon of fig butter. I tossed about 1 lb. of roasted baby new potatoes, shredded carrots, and chopped pecans in with the dressing and topped it all with green onions and a generous pinch of salt. Let me tell you, friends: this side dish was on-point.
The Sweet: fig butter
The Salty/the Soft: salted, roasted potatoes
The Crunchy: roasted pecans
The Zing: lemon/balsamic vinegar
The Fresh: green onions and shredded carrots
So there you have it, friends. Happy cookouting! And cheers to you!
- 1 lb of little, waxy potatoes (cut in half or in quarters if you’re using red or white waxy potatoes)
- 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Generous pinch of salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and thinly shredded
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 3 green onions, chopped
- For the Vinaigrette
- ⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp. high quality balsamic vinegar
- 1 heaping Tbsp. fig butter (add more to taste)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Toss potatoes with olive oil and salt. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, add the minced garlic, and give the potatoes a stir. Return to the oven and back for 20-25 minutes more or until the potatoes are soft and browned. Once cooked, remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, fig butter, and salt and pepper by adding all ingredients into a bowl and whisking for about a minute until all the ingredients are emulsified.*
- Toss dressing with the potatoes in a bowl. Add carrots, pecans, and green onions, stirring with a wooden spoon to incorporate ingredients. Serve warm or cold.
- *Optional: Between steps 2 and 3: Over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. of the vinaigrette to a pan. Throw in shredded carrots, stirring to coat, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often so the sugars do not burn. You want your carrots to be ever-so-slightly cooked but still have a little crunch left in them. Remove from heat.