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This will be good even if it rains

RAUL RUBIERA/MIAMI HERALD/MCT




Heaven forbid it should pour down on your Monday picnic, but if you trust the Weather Channel forecast, there's a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms, so be prepared to grab a dish and run.


Even if you have to buy your burgers, you can make this potato salad, which will hold in the fridge till the rain stops or somebody gets home with the drive-through. The "secret," if you can honestly call it that, is homemade ranch dressing. Yeah, yeah, why bother when Hidden Valley Ranch is so good, but -- hey -- we're always looking, all of us, for something we cook that no one else does. You know you love it when someone says, "You made it yourself?!!"


The daughter's not a big fan of the kitchen, but she promised herself almost from the day she became a child bride more than 15 years ago that she would NEVER use instant mashed potatoes, so she always makes them from scratch. Commit this dressing recipe to memory, and you can be as smug as you like. You can also thank Emeril for it, though we tinkered around a bit with the salad. It's in his "Potluck. . ." cookbook, which is one we use a lot.


As far as the salad is concerned, use those little red boiling potatoes we talked about a few days ago, the ones that make Crash Hot Potatoes. Little red new potatoes. Cook 'em just till tender, maybe 15, 20 minutes, cool and cut into bite-size pieces. Use a half dozen hard-cooked eggs to about 15 potatoes and then put in whatever else you like. Emeril adds smoky bacon fried crisp, some celery and red onion. I like scallions, but unless you really love them, use regular onion because the dressing also calls for scallions. You could shred some smoky ham in place of the bacon or, better yet, chop up some boiled crawfish or shrimp and add them to the mix. Just resist the temptation to put in pickle relish of any kind.


Remember to toss gently; you don't want the potatoes mashed.


And without meaning to be a nag, stay alert to how long your food sits out. On a hot humid day, it really shouldn't be "off ice" for long than two hours. Nice as it would be to also have Tuesday off from work, you don't want it to be because you food-poisoned yourself.


Have fun.


HOMEMADE RANCH DRESSING


2 teaspoons minced garlic


1-1/4 teaspoons salt


3/4 cup mayonnaise (make it yourself or buy a good brand)


1/2 cup buttermilk


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon each of finely chopped celery leaves, green onions and parley


2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice


1 teaspoon Creole seasoning


3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Mash together the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Add the mayonnaise and buttermilk and whisk to blend. Add the celery leaves, green onions, parsley, lemon juice, Creole seasoning, black pepper and remaining salt. Stir to blend. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.


From "Emeril's Potluck: Comfort Food With a Kicked-Up Attitude"


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