Friday, August 21, 2009



I think I've said elsewhere that potato salad is one of those things I'll always try at a home-style restaurant because how cooks deal with potato salad tells me a lot about how they'll deal with more complicated dishes. Granted, there are as many ways to make potato salad as there are cooks (and I'll bet you've never seen this one), but that implies, along with democracy, that there are good ways and bad ways. Undercooked, overly vinegared potatoes swimming in a "sauce" of only mayonnaise, which by the time it reaches your table has turned into a soup because of juices released by other ingredients, is a desecration and does not bode well for whatever else may be on the menu.

Here's a potato salad you're not likely to find on any menus, at least here in the States. It's the latest can't-miss from Cooks Illustrated, and I'm happy to share my adaptation of it. I've made it twice, and the second time was even better than the first, because it sat in the fridge overnight before we ate it. The flavors--very simple, really--blended wonderfully into a rich, sweet/savory whole. The magic is that the "dressing" is made by coarsely mashing a few of the potatoes and mixing them into the flavored potato cooking water, which you've reserved. The affect is something like the pungent German potato salad we all know, but there is no bacon, it's served room at room temperature instead of warm, and it's more mellow.

My own adaptation: the magazine couldn't find the German pickle (sauergurken) used in Austrian kitchens, so they substituted French cornichons. Well, I couldn't even find them down here, but I can get capers (in the "foreign foods" section of the Food Lion, mind you), and they add the sharp, rather briney flavor I think the cornichons would. I guess you could also use crispy cold-pack dill pickles, too, but I do like the sharpness of the capers.

If you do as I did and refrigerate the salad to develop the flavors, bring it to room temperature before serving.

2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 large), peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small red onion, chopped find (about 3/4 cup)
6 cornichons, minced (about 2 tablespoons) or 2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Black pepper to taste

Bring potatoes, broth, water, salt, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar to boil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook until potatoes offer no resistance when pierced with a paring knife, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove cover, return heat to high (so cooking liquid will reduce) and cook 2 minutes.

Drain potatoes in colander set over a large bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Pour off and discard all cooking liquid but 1/2 cup (if you have less than 1/2 cup, add water to make 1/2 cup). Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, mustard, and oil into cooking liquid.

Add 1/2 cup cooked potatoes to bowl with liquid and mash with a potato masher until a thick sauce is formed (it will be slightly chunky). Add remaining potatoes, onion, capers, and chives, folding gently with rubber spatula to combine. Check salt and pepper, serve at room temperature.

Simple, huh? Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

YAY! Food Friday! I have this love for all types of potato salad so you can bet I'll try this one too. I do have a German recipe which is a family favorite and takes all day to make, bacon included. This one sounds a bit tangy which I love so will try it soon. Thanks.

Ralph said...

It's actually less tangy and more mellow than German potato salad, Z&M, but I bet you'll like it. And forget a bout all day. This is done in minutes.