After a long wet, rainy May, we had the warmest, sunniest, most-perfect Memorial Day that I can remember. The weather was hot but not stifling, and there was nary a dark cloud to dampen our day. For the most part, the dratted black flies were gone (and good riddance!), and the mosquitoes didn’t come out until dusk. This meant my husband, Clif, and I could spend the whole glorious afternoon on our patio, and we were joined by our daughter Shannon and her husband, Mike, for the first barbecue of the season.
At our house, barbecues follow a certain ritual. First comes the appetizer. We try not to go overboard on this, knowing that more food, lots more food, will follow. Yesterday we kept it simple with chips and salsa and a pitcher of margaritas to toast not only the beginning of summer but also those who have passed away and are very much missed.
Next comes grilled bread, which has become one of our specialties. So much so that guests actually request grilled bread when we invite them for a barbecue. Clif has become a master at stretching the dough, rolling it, flipping it, and making sure it doesn’t burn. A little olive oil for dipping, and you have yourself a pretty good treat. We take the easy way out—buying pizza dough from our local Hannaford—but ambitious cooks could certainly make their own. Perhaps one day I will. Regardless of whether the dough is made from scratch or purchased at a grocery, grilled bread wows most guests at pennies per serving. Now, how often does that happen?
After the bread has been dipped and eaten, we move on to the main meal. For this Memorial Day, we went traditional—grilled chicken, steamed corn, and the best-ever potato salad. (Yes, a recipe will follow.) There are three elements that make this potato salad especially good—bacon, sour cream, and, most important, the hot potatoes are marinated with a vinaigrette. The resulting potato salad is so flavorful that it really doesn’t need onions, although they certainly could be added. As raw onions do not agree with me, this is a real plus in my books.
It is our habit to linger over the main meal until the citronella torches must be lit, dampness settles over the backyard, and, finally, the mosquitoes come out. Then in we go for tea and dessert. Shannon made chocolate thumb-print cookies, which she filled with a cream-cheese mixture and topped with chopped strawberries. A delectable ending to a splendid Memorial Day.
Best-Ever Potato Salad
Adapted from a recipe given to me by my friend Dawna Leavitt
7 medium potatoes
1/3 cup of vinaigrette or Italian dressing
4 or 5 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup of sour cream, or to taste
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and cut potatoes in quarters. In a large stock pan, boil the potatoes until tender. As soon as the potatoes are done, chop them into bite-sized pieces, put them in a mixing bowl, and pour the vinaigrette or Italian dressing over the still-hot potatoes. Put the bowl in the refrigerator and let marinate a few hours, at least until the potatoes are cold.
When the potatoes are nice and chilled, add the chopped eggs, the crumbled bacon, the sour cream, the mayonnaise, and the salt and pepper. Mix well, put in a pretty serving dish, and ideally chill a bit more so that the flavors will mix. However, if you are pressed for time, the potato salad could be served immediately.
Full disclosure: I do not measure the sour cream or the mayonnaise. I add a bit of sour cream and then mayonnaise until I get a consistency that I like.
Also, 3/4 cup of chopped celery could be added, and for those who love onions, 1/3 cup or so of chopped onions. Parsley might be nice, too, but I never do. I just stick with the basics, and even onion lovers have requested this recipe.