Monday, 24 May 2010
I'll be right up front and tell you now . . . my mother makes the best potato salad on the planet. Full of flavour and texture, and not over loaded with cloying mayonnaise.
I have to admit my regular potato salad does come a close second, if I don't say so myself, but even so . . . it never quite tastes as good to me as hers does . . . or maybe it is the memory of the taste of her's that makes it an unachievable goal . . . somehow reality never does quite live up to the memories of things does it??
Mom always started her potato salad the day before she was going to serve it. She would boil a big pot of potatoes, in the skins of course, to help retain all that lovely potato flavour and vitamins. I can still see her patiently standing at the counter peeling them once they were cooked and then cooled. Once peeled, she would cube them into precise little cubes . . . along with peeled cucumber in the same size, chopped celery and hard boiled egg . . . with perhaps a tiny bit of grated onion, depending on the mood she was in. A bit of salt and pepper and some Kraft Salad Dressing and it was done. Simple, and yet oh so good for supper on a warm Sunday afternoon . . .
We often had it in the summer, with a dollop of cold tinned salmon fixed on the side of the plate, some sliced ripe juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers . . . and her famous coleslaw, that we could never get enough of . . . sigh . . . summer on a plate.
I find that over here the potato salad is always always drenched to the hilt in mayonnaise or creme fraiche, and has decidedly almost no flavour at all. The potatoes hard and dull . . . and severely lacking in seasoning. Where is the tang? Where is that earthiness that potatoes should taste like? I make my own regular potato salad much in the same way as my mother did, and it is far better than anything I have tasted here. Sorry England, but your potato salad does not quite cut the mustard!
I don't always want a mayonnaise based potato salad though . . . sometimes I long for a vinaigrette dressed potato salad, done in the fabric of the French Tradition of my father's side of the family . . .
The potatoes fork tender and pre-dressed with a bit of stock and wine while they are still warm . . . so that they absorb that lovely salty tang. A final simple vinaigrette dressing of herbs . . . spring onions, dill, parsley and basil . . . a bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper . . . and an emulsion of white wine vinegar and good olive oil is all it needs.
The flavour of the potato shines through . . . and that is what you want really . . . in a potato salad. The earthy sweetness of new potatoes enhanced with the tangy herbed flavour of a delicate vinaigrette. A big plate of this along side some lightly steamed and dressed spring asparagus, some sliced ham and perhaps some salted radishes . . . a crusty loaf and butter to mop up all the tangy crumbly potato leavings on the plate at the end . . .
This is bliss . . . pure, and utter bliss.
There is a time for my mother's potato salad . . . but today was not it . . .
*Herbed Potato Salad*
Serves 4 to 6
I love this salad, with it's tangy vinaigrette dressing and punchy herb flavour. I could just sit and eat a huge bowlful of it and nothing else!
2 pounds of new potatoes (I used Jersey Royals
this time, but any new potato will do)
2 TBS dry white wine
2 TBS good chicken stock
3 TBS white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sea salt
2/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
10 TBS extra virgin olive oil, salad quality
4 spring onions, minced
2 TBS minced fresh dill
2 TBS minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 TBS shredded fresh basil leaves
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and then drop in the potatoes. Bring back to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until just fork tender. Drain well in a colander and then let sit for about 10 minutes or so until you can handle them. If they are very large, slip the skins off if you wish, or you can leave them on. It's up to you. (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't) Cut the potatoes into quarters if they are large, or halve if they are smaller. Place them in a medium bowl and toss together with the wine and chicken stock while they are still warm. The warmth of the potatoes helps them to soak up this preliminary dressing. (If you don't do alcohol, use all chicken stock.)
Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of the pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until totally emulsified. Pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes. Add the spring onions and herbe and season to taste with the remaining salt and pepper. Toss gently together. Serve warm or at room temperature. Delicious!