Birmingham chef John Hall owes his culinary success to the women in his family This holiday, he celebrates with a special homemade brunch.
About His Mother
John Hall's Birmingham pizzeria, Post Office Pies, is a favorite name to drop when describing the city's cultural renaissance. Mentioned in national travel magazines and "best-of" lists for its wood-fired pies, house-made meatballs, and seasonal salads. But Hall will tell you the real credit goes to his mother and grandmother.
As he was growing up, his mother, Marion, a single mom with a full-time job and a shoestring budget, made sure there was always a homecooked weeknight meal on the table for Hall and his two brothers. But he always looked forward to the weekends when he would help flip pancakes on Saturdays and set out soul food spreads on Sundays. "Our family meals were geared around comfort in good times and bad," he says. "That was the thing that made me interested in cooking: Food brought people together and made them happy."
About His Grandmother
As a kid, he was enthralled with the vegetables and herbs his grandmother, Louellen Wilkins, tended in her small garden and how they manifested on the family's table. Peppers, tomatoes, okra, collard greens, rosemary—anything she could grow herself, she did. "This was way before all the farm-to-table hoopla," says Hall. "She cooked with the seasons, and she pickled and canned damn near everything. She really embodied that special Southern spirit." Cooking together, Wilkins taught her grandson the fundamentals: how to work clean in the kitchen; how to learn from his mistakes; and how to enjoy the process even when it gets frustrating.
John Hall's Mother's Day Brunch Menu
1. Braised Lamb Shanks and Potato Hash
2. Pan-Seared Shrimp with Chive Grits and Salsa Verde
3. Cured Salmon with Dill-Horseradish Cream
4. Kale Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Onions
5. Ricotta Pancakes with Brown Butter-Maple Syrup and Blueberry Compote
Braised Lamb Shank
Recipe: Braised Lamb
"I love braises for brunch. They're so easy. You can make one ahead of time and warm it up right beforehand." - Chef John Hall
Lamb shanks, simply seasoned with salt and pepper, are browned in hot oil to form a nice crust. The meat is then cooked in a sauce of crushed tomatoes, red wine, carrots, garlic and onion until it's falling off the bone. Serve with our savory Potato Hash with Crème Fraîche for a complete meal.
Pan-Seared Shrimp with Chive Grits and Salsa Verde
"My mom made shrimp and grits way before it became such an overwhlmingly popular dish. Here, it's made her way but I added a bright, herbaceous salsa verde, which I learned from my days at Gramercy Tavern." - Chef John Hall
Cured Salmon with Dill-Horseradish Cream
"People don't think salmon is a Southern thing, but my mom made salmon croquettes every Sunday before church." - Chef John Hall
Hands-on time for this recipe is only 15 minutes, but the salmon will need to chill for 36 hours. As a recipe that has less than 10 ingredients, it is a great make-ahead option when entertaining for breakfast or brunch. Fresh bursts of citrus with lemon, lime, and orange zests give it a refreshing kick perfect for kick starting a dinner party. This no-cook dish is also perfect for saving time and headaches when entertaining because of its very little use of the oven. Serve the thinly sliced salmon with Dill-Horseradish Cream and toasted sourdough bread slices and wow guests with this easy, yet delectable, party appetizer.
Kale Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Onions
"My grandmother always had a bottle of buttermilk in the fridge, and I love how it adds acidity and creaminess to this dressing." - Birmingham chef John Hall
Beets, curly kale, hardcooked eggs, and tangy pickled onions make this salad a winner. Serve it as a side for brunch as Hall suggests, or add protein to make it a full meal.
Ricotta Pancakes with Brown Butter-Maple Syrup and Blueberry Compote
"Pancakes were a Saturday staple for us growing up. I elevated these a bit by using ricotta for a fluffier, richer pancake. I also infused the syrup with nutty brown butter." - Chef John Hall
These light and fluffy pancakes are great on their own, but even better when they're topped with our Brown Butter-Maple Syrup (recipe at bottom of pancakes recipe) and Blueberry Compote.