For Ricky Moore, seafood always has a place on the table. The 2022 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Southeast argues that fish fries, shrimp boils, and the like are a quintessential backdrop for community get-togethers. His approach extends to tailgating recipes. “People want variety,” he says, describing a tailgate where people can set up their fryers or grills and cook up a batch of breaded and butterflied fish filets just as easily as burgers and dogs.
Two of his go-to recipes at Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, North Carolina, include green pimento and crab dip and his crispy fish dogs (a pescatarian take on the traditional corn dog). The first—a creamy, decadent marriage of Southern classic pimento cheese with Eastern crab dip—is topped with brown-butter cornbread crumbs and served bubbling and warm. It brings diversity to dips like spinach-artichoke and sausage traditionally seen on game day. His fish dogs, on the other hand, are more substantive. The idea came from his son Greyson, who suggested breading and frying cod and serving it in toasted hot dog buns. Though entirely different, the recipes share one common denominator:
“Mayonnaise is the anchor to so many seafood preparations,” Moore explains. “It adds fat, richness, and decadence. It is THE Mother Sauce of seafood.” He reaches for Duke’s Mayonnaise, blending it with Boursin cheese in his green pimento and crab dip (making it extra creamy) and mixing it into chunky comeback sauce to serve alongside his crispy fish dog.
The comeback sauce is particularly personal to Moore. A blend of Duke’s with chopped veggies, pickles, worcestershire, and ketchup, it pays homage to the old school Duke’s Mayonnaise that fueled his childhood lunches.
“On summer breaks, I’d go and visit my cousins and we’d work on the family farm. Lunch was a small jar of Duke’s Mayonnaise with relish [Duke’s Sandwich Relish], sliced ham, and bread.” The sandwich relish changed Moore’s perspective on the condiment. He says, “For a while I didn’t even want plain mayonnaise, I wanted this one!” Even today, Moore still stops at the occasional Piggly Wiggly and IGA store to see if they have the Sandwich Relish.
Plain Duke’s did find its way into Moore’s heart eventually. When cooking, he often reaches for it to replace oil and eggs in certain recipes (everything from chocolate cake to crab cakes) or on toasted buns in the place of butter. And particularly in times of soaring food costs, mayonnaise goes further than the more expensive and perishable butter and eggs. “Mayonnaise is a bridge—it makes sure everyone’s playing by the rules.”
Moore’s game day recipes bring variety to the tailgate, but the use of Duke’s ensures that they play nice with the other mainstays, from creamy dips to meaty handhelds.
Fish Dog with Chunky Comeback Sauce