The Best Food Pairings for Mother’s Day

This year for Mother’s Day, fire up the grill. Celebrating mom in your outdoor living space is fun and festive, and whether it’s pork loin, poultry, steak or skewered shrimp, there are plenty of possibilities for grilling perfection for this holiday.

Start with a quality grill that will ensure your meat doesn’t lose any flavor. Then, to take your menu from backyard bash to something more special, it’s important to consider the food that you pair with the food coming off the grill. Put down that bag of potato chips and take a tip from a chef.

“In general, foods that are light and bright go really well with grilled food,” says Chef Chris Stewart of The Glass Onion in Charleston, S.C., a restaurant known for its updated comfort food classics. “Grilled food is usually healthier, too, and the trend right now is light and fresh food, so think about that when planning your menu,” he adds.

At The Glass Onion, Chef Stewart often puts a grilled pork chop on the menu, and when he does, he loves to top it with pickled peaches. “That bright acidity with sweetness is a great counterpoint to the grilled meat,” he explains.

For those eating healthy, “light” makes sense, but what does “bright” mean? Essentially, chefs often use that term when describing something with a sour pop, from lemon juice to red wine vinegar to yogurt. That sourness can help balance out the more intense charred flavors of grilling and thus provide an overall more satisfying meal.

For a special Mother’s Day appetizer to your grilling feast, find inspiration from Chef Stewart and his restaurant, and serve another pickle classic from the menu—watermelon rind pickles and pimento cheese, two Southern classics in one bite. No need to bring out the canning equipment here, as refrigerator pickles are a great way to get the flavor without the fuss.

Watermelon Rind Refrigerator Pickles
From Chef Chris Stewart of The Glass Onion, Charleston, SC
Note: Chef Stewart prefers the Bradford Watermelon, an heirloom fruit rapidly gaining popularity in the South, but if you can’t find that variety, look for any sweet, medium-rind watermelon for these pickles. 

  • 1 gallon rinds, roughly diced
  • 4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Place diced rinds in a large container that can fit in the refrigerator, then set aside. Combine last four ingredients in a stainless steel or other non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and pour over rinds. Refrigerate overnight, and then they are ready to eat. Will keep indefinitely.

Watermelon Rind Pickles and Pimento Cheese

  • 2 pickles for each guest
  • 1 tub of quality store-bought pimento cheese, such as Callie’s Pimento Cheese, or your favorite homemade recipe

Arrange pickles on a plate, and place a dollop of cheese atop each one. Can be made up to two hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Stephanie Burt is a grilling expert for Home Depot and the host of The Southern Fork, a weekly podcast featuring kitchen chats with some of the most interesting voices in the culinary South.