The inspiration behind this unlikely duo hails from North Alabama of all places. Are you familiar with Alabama White Barbecue Sauce? I wasn’t until a couple of months ago when my social media feeds starting buzzing about it. Because I’m a sauce girl, my curiosity was piqued. So I did a little digging and learned that this unique sauce was created back in 1925 by Big Bob Gibson of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. He used it primarily to “baptize” smoked chickens. Since then, Big Bob’s signature white barbecue sauce, along with its many imitators, has become a regional culinary anchor. And these days, North Alabamians enjoy it on everything from chicken to pork to potato chips.
As it turns out, white barbecue sauce is very similar to white rémoulade—the Creole version, not the French. From what I’ve pieced together, the main ingredients in Big Bob’s sauce are mayonnaise, vinegar and black pepper. Other recipes I’ve come across build on that tradition with things like horseradish, spicy brown mustard and lemon juice. Likewise, most white rémoulades start with mayo, spicy brown mustard (Creole mustard), vinegar and horseradish. So I figured if white barbecue sauce with smoked chicken is all the rage in North Alabama, then white rémoulade with grilled chicken wings would certainly be a hit in South Louisiana—especially during football season (Who Dat!). To be sure, though, I first had to understand what chicken dunked in white barbecue sauce was all about. So I fired up the grill, threw on a bunch of wings, whipped up a knockoff recipe I found online and starting eating and taking notes. Let me just say, this white sauce thing is genius. Grilled chicken coated in a creamy, vinegary sauce is the bomb. And I’ll bet the original smoked chicken pairing takes it to a whole new level.
About two weeks later, I developed a white rémoulade recipe, threw another batch of wings on the grill and began comparing. I know you’re probably going to think this little competition was rigged but, seriously, the white rémoulade sauce was even better than the white barbecue sauce. For starters, the rémoulade was thicker. That’s a plus in my book because it clings to the wings. The rémoulade sauce also delivered a more balanced flavor than the white barbecue sauce which was vinegar-forward. I also loved the textural contrasts of the rémoulade which came by way of green onions and celery. Definitely a keeper! And while I may never make Alabama White Barbecue Sauce again, I’m glad I discovered this North Alabama barbecue culture secret and I greatly appreciate the inspiration.
Grilled Chicken Wings with White Rémoulade Sauce
3 pounds chicken wings
1/4 cup canola oil
White Rémoulade Sauce, for serving (recipe follows)
Prepare grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat. Pat wings dry with paper towels, brush with canola oil and generously sprinkle with Creole seasoning and salt. Place chicken on unlit side of grill, cover and grill until crispy and cooked through, 30-40 minutes, turning every 5 minutes through cooking time. Serve with White Rémoulade Sauce. Makes 6-8 servings.
White Rémoulade Sauce Recipe
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons Zatarain’s Creole Mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Sauce will keep for a week in a tightly sealed container. Makes about 2 cups.