FOODIE: Mother’s Day Mania

This is the week leading up to Mother’s day and it is time to clean and prepare for Mom’s arrival. I’ve spent a bit of time buying cards and flowers and cleaning the bathroom. I even helped a friend paint his apartment in preparation for his mother’s arrival. I understand the stresses that can be involved in hosting your mother in your ‘young adult apartment’ in New York. Beyond the physical prepping, the other part of the preparation process is embracing reality and moving through it without judgment. I can’t wait for my mother to arrive and it will be amazing to see her. But sadly, it took me about 10 years to figure out that my mother and I don’t have the same taste in most things. I say this very openly and (recently) without frustration.

I live in New York year round, and this year will make eight years in this beautiful, challenging, earthy city. But that also means that my interest in seeing and doing the obscure cultural ephemera of New York has no relevance whatsoever to my mother. And that’s ok! It took me years to realize that my mother really did want to go do all of the mainstream cultural things, like seeing Broadway musicals and going to the Palm because when she gets home, she can tell her friends all about it.

That brings me to another difference: our tastes in food vary greatly, to say the least. To give you a point of reference, my mother grew up in the hills of West Virginia in the 1950’s. Therefore, my mother has no illusions of the romanticism of struggle or poverty, so tiny dingy restaurants on the Lower East Side are out. No one she knows cares about Wylie Dufresnes and his canisters of liquid nitrogen. And it will be better to cook lunches than drag her on the train to cute little Brooklyn brasseries. She doesn’t care!

So this year, I’m going to go with the flow and embrace how easy planning this weekend really was. I’ve got tickets to two, count’em, two Broadway shows, a reservation at the Palm, and to assuage her post-depression-era guilt, I’m also going to cook for lunch.

Below, is my fool-proof soul food fridge-stuffer menu. It is my favorite baby back ribs recipe from Alton Brown aka Dr. Food Science (who I am addicted to as a foodie and undercover nerd). He has the best no-frills recipes and techniques. Plus, I’ll make my own personal recipes for collard greens and potato salad. I know this is sure to make her feel special on her Mother’s Day weekend!


Baby Back Ribs:

Recipe from Alton Brown @ Food Network

2 whole slabs pork baby back ribs

Dry Rub:

8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed

3 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon jalapeno seasoning

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Braising Liquid:

1 cup white wine

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon honey

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Place each slab of baby back ribs on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side down. Sprinkle each side generously with the dry rub. Pat the dry rub into the meat. Refrigerate the ribs for a minimum of 1 hour. In a microwavable container, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Microwave on high for 1 minute.

Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Open one end of the foil on each slab and pour half of the braising liquid into each foil packet. Tilt the baking sheet in order to equally distribute the braising liquid. Braise the ribs in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer the braising liquid into a medium saucepot. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half or until of a thick syrup consistency. Brush the glaze onto the ribs. Place under the broiler just until the glaze caramelizes lightly. Slice each slab into 2 rib bone portions. Place the remaining hot glaze into a bowl and toss the rib portions in the glaze. (btw – this is the best bbq sauce I’ve ever tasted)

*This recipe makes several batches of dry rub. If more rub is needed, it can be extended by any amount, as long as the ratio of 8:3:1:1 remains the same.

I also usually freeze one slab of these ribs for later.

Collard Greens with Ham Hocks:

3 lbs Collard Greens

¼ c baking soda

2 yellow onions

1 lb smoked ham hocks (or smoked turkey necks, wings etc.)

2 Tbsp Lowry’s seasoned salt

2 quarts water

1 Tbsp pepper to taste

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Add the meat and onions to a stock pot and cover with 2 quarts of water. Let this simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

While the stock is simmering, cut collard greens into 1” thick ribbons. Wash collards thoroughly in a sink-full of water. Add ¼ cup of baking soda to the water. Let the greens soak for 15 minutes. They say that this helps tenderize the greens but I really like the idea that any stray bugs etc will jump ship and get the greens cleaner 😉 Occasionally agitate the water so that all of the grit falls to the bottom of the sink. Drain greens.

Add the seasoned salt and pepper to the stock. Add the greens to the pot and boil for 45 minutes to an hour. Add the cider vinegar to the greens. Taste to check for salt then serve!

Potato Salad:

6 large baking potatoes.

1/4 white or yellow onion diced very finely

4 large eggs

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup prepared yellow mustard

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

4 oz sweet relish

2 tbsp sugar

½ tsp celery seed


Peel and cube the potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Rinse to make sure no grit is left. Add potatoes and eggs to stock pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Let simmer about 5 minutes. Remove the potatoes and eggs from the heat and strain. Let cool. You can run the eggs and potatoes under cold water to speed up the cooling process.

Peel the eggs and crush them with a fork to get egg crumbles. Set aside.

Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt, relish, celery seed, and sugar to make a dressing.

Toss the potatoes, onion and egg crumbles in a large bowl until well mixed. Add enough dressing to generously coat the potato mixture.

Refrigerate for at least an hour. It is really best over night. Sprinkle with paprika before serving.

If you like Nichelle’s dish, check out her previous recipes here.

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