An Unexpected Southern Cobb Salad

Alabama white sauce. I was first introduced to this sauce at my fiancé Michael’s home (or as I affectionately call him, B.) His mother, Ginny, has deep Alabama roots. Her sweet, Southern accent can brighten even the dullest of conversations. Ginny reflects THE quintessential Southern woman: sweet, charming and hospitable.

One of the first dinners at the Wilsons’ home consisted of a lovely spread of barbecued chicken, baked potatoes and a slew of sides. Bright Fiesta plates were strewn about the table. Sunny pitchers of iced tea and lemonade were at both sides of the table, acting as two twin pillars for our fodder.  The chicken was a beautiful coral color, streaked only by the black marks of the grill. Potatoes steaming like locomotives began the procession for the rest of the sides. In the midst of the colorful parade of fare, I almost missed it. Peeking out from behind the iced tea pitcher was a little, clear plastic container. White, thick sauce peered through the clear container along with a myriad of cracked black pepper flecks. My curiosity began to stir.

After saying the blessing, we all dug into the food and conversation. Moments later, B swiped the container of mystery and shook it vigorously. With reckless abandon, he decanted the fair, thick sauce over everything on his plate. The perky blue Fiesta plate had pools of snowy paste flowing ever which way. He passed the sauce along to me. Not wanting to look like a newbie, I poured a little ravine of sauce, innocently dividing my chicken and potatoes, a gorge that could be easily hidden in case the enigmatic substance wasn’t pleasant to my palate. I eased a piece of chicken into the sauce, dipping its “toes” in first. The sauce was bright, acidic and sweet. Black pepper added an earthy quality to this seemingly simple condiment. It was wonderful. The consistency reminded me of dressing and the taste did as well. I casually asked if anyone had ever tried this as a salad dressing. Conversation halted. Forks dropped. And I believe there was a cricket somewhere in the corner scratching away. It was as if I had asked if I could please take my pants off at the dinner table. Stunned faces looked back at me, and B sweetly stated that it was a barbecue sauce. Utensils began to fly once more and dinner was over. I could not help but think about this sauce being a dressing.

So here it is, slathered onto green leaves, hoping not to offend any Alabamians. And if your argument is that it goes on meat and meat alone, I did add bacon to the salad.

Recipe: Serves 6

2 heads of romaine lettuce, washed and roughly chopped

2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 cucumber, sliced into rounds

2 cups of fried okra (recipe below)

10 slices of bacon, cooked and torn into pieces

5 eggs, boiled, peeled and each cut into 4 equal pieces

Fresh herbs, garnish

Alabama white sauce (recipe below)

Either divide all ingredients into 6 separate dishes and serve dressing on the side or combine in one large bowl and dress with the Alabama white sauce. Enjoy!

Alabama White Sauce:

1 ½ cups of mayonnaise

¼ cup of white vinegar

1-2 tablespoons of cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon of milk, to thin out sauce

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar and shake vigorously. Adjust pepper to taste and let sit in the fridge. The longer the sauce sits in the fridge, the better it tastes! If you want to get adventurous, you can add sugar and/or cayenne pepper!

 Fried Okra:

2 cups of okra, washed

2 cups of buttermilk

1 cup of cornmeal

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

1 pinch of cayenne

Vegetable oil (for frying)

Salt and pepper to taste

Place at least 2 inches of vegetable oil in a large skillet and allow the oil to reach 350o.

Pick through the okra, any okra smaller than the size of your pinky, leave whole. Cut any larger than the size of your pinky in half and at an angle. In a bowl, combine the buttermilk and okra. Let sit for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the cornmeal mixture. Combine cornmeal, flour, cayenne, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Stir ingredients together with a fork. Make sure that you put a good amount of seasoning in at this point, don’t be stingy. Drain the okra from the buttermilk and gently roll the okra in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off any excess breading. Carefully place the okra in the hot oil. Let the okra brown on both sides and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with more salt. Use immediately.