The Potato & The Cow

Quotefancy-1700540-3840x2160

Is there nothing miraculous chocolate can not do?

I contemplated, Gentle Reader, opening this post with an apology.

The potential source of my remorse is the subject of this week’s column.

It’s my favorite food: potato salad.

Just a few weeks ago I wrote about lemon potato salad.  That recipe is an adaptation of the potato salad served in a Greensboro deli.  It’s perfect for spring.

But this one’s quite different.Sometimes an idea will come to me, and I’ll think it’s the smartest, most original notion ever thunk.  Then, I’ll google it, and realize that I am at least the seven millionth brain to have come up with this brilliant thought.

Curse you, Google!

This week’s a potato salad that I recently came up with.  I fully expected this new recipe to be new to me alone.  I figured that once again, my brainstorm would be instead, a disappointing drizzle.

But a quick google returned no results.  It looks to me at least, that this is actually a new idea.  The potato salad that I can’t believe is really a new idea, Gentle Reader, is…

Pimento cheese potato salad.store boughtYou can boil up some spuds, and stir in some store-bought pimento cheese, and it’ll be fine.  But to really make it special, make it all from scratch.  If there are few elements in a recipe, use the best ones you can find.

So, let’s make some stuff from scratch.

Pimento Potato Salad

Pimento cheese:

pimento cheese recipe

*This recipe will make about twice the amount you need, but to make it in a smaller quantity just doesn’t work quite right.

4 cups sharp (black wax wrapped) hoop cheese *If you can’t get your hands on hoop cheese, get the oldest sharpest cheddar available in your area.  You want it to take your breath away, and when you eat it, have a little crystallization at the finish.

1 4-ounce jar of pimentos

½ cup mayonnaise; either homemade or your favorite store-bought

Salt and pepper

Shred cheese on the large holes.  Drain pimentos, reserving liquid. 

Put shredded cheese and pimentos into a bowl.  Add mayo and fold together, adding pimento juice as needed to get to a smooth, spreadable consistency.

Season, taste, and season again if necessary.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to overnight to develop flavors.

*Potato Portionboiled spuds6-8 medium-large sized Yukon gold potatoes (2 ½-3 pounds)

¼ cup vinegar

¼ cup kosher salt

Fill a very large, heavy pot with water.  Add vinegar and salt.  Put in potatoes and turn on medium-high.  Cook until fork slides in easily.  Drain, and cool completely.

When cooled, peel and cut into salad-sized chunks.

*Salad Preparation

pc potato salad

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons snipped Chinese chives (also called garlic chives—use regular chives if you can’t find them)

2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Put potatoes into a bowl with chives.  Put in olive oil and season with a big pinch of salt and pepper.  Add parsley, holding back just a little for garnish.  Gently mix together.  Taste and re-season is needed.

Add about ½ cup of pimento cheese and stir.  Add more as needed until ingredients are liberally coated with pimento cheese.  Sprinkle with parsley.

Let sit covered at room temperature 30 minutes before service.  Serves 6-ish.pim ch potato saladThis goes really well with Southern summer food, like fried chicken or catfish.  It also works with bratwurst or grilled Italian sausage.  It’s pretty and tasty to serve this on a bed of lightly dressed greens or topped with a big handful of microgreens.  And to be really unique, instead of Yukon gold, use sweet potatoes instead, or combo of both.  Just peel and cut up sweets before boiling.

I hope you like this new idea about potato salad.  And I trust you now know why I didn’t apologize for two potato salad recipes this close together.

Because potato salad means never having to say you’re sorry.

But him?  I’m wicked sorry about him…

Thanks for your time.

 

When Life Gives You Lemons…

So, it very well may be the end of an era.

Every Easter, since the beginning of time, dinner has been ham, turkey, pasta and potato salads, baked macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and snowflake rolls (my mom and The Kid love those rolls, but I’ve always thought they had the consistency of stale doughnuts).

Usually, I make the ham and sometimes bring along my blueberry-speckled lemon cheesecake.  A few weeks ago, we were wandering through Costco, lurching from one sample to the next.  In the back at the bakery, they were sampling their key lime pie.  And it’s really good, y’all.  Not too sweet or sour.  Light, but luscious.

Anybody want a slice?  I got plenty.  Really.  Have some.  Please, I beg you, have a slice.  Or two.  Or fourteen.

For $12 you get a pie big enough to serve the entire population of Paduka, Kentucky; I couldn’t make it at home that cheap.  It’s perfect for Easter dinner.

I was also thinking about bringing the potato salad this year.

Lemon and dill are extremely spring-appropriate.  And the potato salad I was thinking of is a lemon potato salad.  It’s a twist on a recipe that is served at a favorite Greensboro deli, Jam’s.  I adore it, and years ago begged one of the owners for the recipe.

Here is that delicious potato salad, and their Reuben, which is also pretty darn kick-ass.

Their version has an unfortunate surfeit of celery.  And as any right-thinking human knows, celery in potato salad is an abomination.  It’s not quite as heinous as mustard or Miracle Whip, but it is pretty darn close.  They also put a large amount of white pepper in it.

They use the wrong brand of mayonnaise, too.  But because I don’t have it in me to engage in the Great Mayo Crusade of 2018, I’m not naming names.

And you can’t make me.

Lemon Dill Potato Salad

spud vinegar

3 pounds waxy potatoes

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3-4 tablespoons salt

Preparation:

Place salt and vinegar in a large pot of water, along with unpeeled, whole potatoes.  Cook on medium until potatoes are fork tender.  Remove from heat, drain, and allow to cool completely.  Once cool, peel and cut into salad-sized chunks. 

Dressing:

lemon dressing

Juice of one lemon

2 eggs, hardboiled

½ yellow onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Salt & pepper

To make dressing, place first four ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth.  Whisk in mayo and dill.  Season, taste, and re-season, if necessary.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Gently fold dressing into the potatoes, starting with about half.  Gradually add more until the consistency is to your liking.  Taste and re-season if necessary; don’t forget lemons, fats, and potatoes all need plenty of salt.

Cover and allow to rest in a cool dim place, but not in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes before service so the flavors can meld and develop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAServes 8-10.

So, here I am, ready to win Easter with my famous glazed ham, key lime pie, and killer potato salad.

Then, Mom called.

The menu of our normal buffet luncheon was completely changed.  No ham, no turkey, and no salads—including potato.  She had decided on a make-ahead dinner; beef Stroganoff (hers is actually incredibly delicious, almost makes up for the no potato salad), and Aunt Candy was bringing her famous ziti.

Okay…And no pie was needed either, she was making carrot cake and a chocolate icebox dessert.But I am constitutionally unable to go empty-handed.  I just can’t do it.  So, in keeping with the bunny theme, I shall be making the trip with the prepped ingredients for a double batch of my carrot soufflé.

Happy Easter, and I’ll look for you on the bunny trail.Thanks for your time.

Eating the Blues Away

At my advanced age, I honestly didn’t think it was possible.tater salad collageI’m talking about one of my very favorite topics of conversation, and my very favorite food group; potato salad.

On the way home after a doctor’s appointment with Petey today, we stopped at Fresh Market.  I had gotten an email about a New York Strip sale for $5 a pound (Don’t grab your car keys, shockingly I was confused.  It wasn’t at Fresh Market, and it wasn’t New York Strip—being my spouse is one never-ending adventure.)

But as I always do on any visits to Fresh Market, I check out my two favorite departments; the bakery and the prepared foods.As is the delightful norm, the bakery was full of freshly baked delicious-looking, potentially jean-busting breads and desserts.

Dominating each store like the main square in a medieval town is the large, four-sided prepared food department.  It contains everything from sushi to ribs.  And then there are the salads.  There are different chicken salads, maybe five pasta salads, a really creamy macaroni and cheese, and salads of the spud variety.

Normally, Fresh Market has two or three, with flavors like loaded baked potato, sour cream, and egg or sometimes, herb.  At one time or another I’ve taken them all home.  And I’ve enjoyed them.Buuuut…

Today in the case was a potato salad which not only had I not seen or tasted, this was a version of which I’ve never heard or even thought about.  And, let me be clear, I spend a lot of time thinking about potato salad.

And I mean a lot of time.  Like an almost not quite right in the head amount of time.  So, up until the other day I thought that when it came to potato salad, there was nothing new under the sun.

Fresh Market turned my potato salad world on its head with…Blue cheese.

It was really all about the dressing.  This was a relatively common mayo/sour cream version.  But then those deli mad scientists went and added crumbles of a mild blue.

Red and Blue Potato Saladred and blue potato salad

3 pounds small red potatoes, left unpeeled and cut into bite-size chunks

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

½ red onion, diced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt & pepper

Dressing:red and blue dressing1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup light sour cream

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pinch of onion powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

Salt & pepper

Cook potatoes in very heavily salted water until fork-tender.  Drain and let cool completely.

90 minutes before service, make dressing: Whisk together first six ingredients.  Gently fold in cheese.  Season with care because blue cheese is salty.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour. 

Place cooled spuds, celery, onion, salt and pepper into large bowl.  Drizzle first tablespoon vegetable oil over veg and toss to coat.  After dressing has been refrigerated for an hour, stir into potatoes until it’s a bit wetter than you want for finished salad (the taters will absorb some dressing).  Cover, and let sit unrefrigerated for 30 minutes.

Right before service, drizzle salad with the final tablespoon of oil and fold in lightly so that the salad has a slightly glossy look.Serves 6-8.

At Fresh Market, I bought a ½ pound of the salad for the sole purpose of reverse engineering and getting the recipe to pass along to you, Gentle Reader.

Not really.  I mean yeah, I thought about you and getting the recipe, but mainly I wanted some to take home and devour in private.

That would be a sheepish grin…

Thanks for your time.

 

They call me Tater Salad

Both of us were very happy at dinner tonight.For Petey, there were big, fat, baked pork chops. When I took them from the freezer, I made a rub using coffee salt, freshly cracked peppercorns, ground caraway seeds, thyme, and fresh rosemary.  I rubbed it all over the chops and put them in the fridge to thaw.

When it came time to cook them I tossed them into a bag of flour.  Them I ran them through a pan of buttermilk and pressed pecan pieces and whole grain cracker crumbs all over them.I set the oven to 375 degrees.  I put a little vegetable oil into a shallow baking dish and nestled the pork chops inside.  I inserted a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the thickest chop.

Common wisdom used to be to cook the pork chops until there was no moisture left in the meat.

But there are a few problems with that tactic.  Pork is very much leaner than it used to be, so the meat comes out dry.  And cooking them to a temperature of 160 or so makes the meat come out very dry.  So the end result is pork that is very dry.Did I mention it would be dry?

Even the USDA, historically a very conservative and safety conscious bunch, now recommends that pork only needs to be cooked to 145 degrees.  I cook our pork chops to 140, which gives us a very light pink center.  Even if pink is not a color you want in your chop, 145 will be cooked through, but still juicy, and a radical sea change from the chalk-like 160 or higher.

So that was Petey’s treat.  What was mine?Tater salad.

I don’t remember exactly I lost my heart and mind to potato salad, but I do know that unbelievably when I was little I didn’t like it.  If you’ve read more than one or two of these essays, you know that my two favorite foods on the planet are potato salad and birthday cake.  And even I know that woman cannot live on birthday cake alone—although I’d be happy to volunteer for a study to find out exactly how much birthday cake one can live on.  So if you know somebody in research…Anyway.

My treat tonight was the potato salad portion of the program.  And I was trying out a new recipe.

That’s the great thing, but also most problematic part of potato salad.  When I googled recipes, I got 6.33 million results.  Putting “classic” in front only lowers that number to 1.78 million.  There is no one right recipe.  It varies according to culture, geographical region, ingredient availability, and even mood.

What.The.Literal.Hell?

What this means is that there are numerous amazing, delicious versions of the dish.  And there are just as many recipes for dreck.  Mustard, celery, relish?  Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

But, you might think that broccoli or olive oil are abominations.  Everyone has a place at the potato salad table.  So pull up a seat, and grab a fork.

Thanks for your time.

Parma potato salad

parma potato salad3 pounds red skin or yellow potatoes

½ red onion, diced

½ cup pancetta, cut into strips, cooked until crispy, and set aside

3 tablespoons pancetta fat, divided (if you don’t have enough, add olive oil)

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup mayonnaise

Salt & pepper

In a large heavy pot with heavily salted water, boil unpeeled potatoes until a knife easily pierces it.  Drain, and let cool.  When fully cool, peel and cut into bite-size chunks.

Place into a large bowl along with onion, and drizzle 2 tablespoons of fat over veg, along with salt and pepper to taste.  Gently stir to coat.  Cover, and let sit at room temperature for thirty minutes.

Make dressing.  In a small bowl whisk together the last tablespoon of fat, Parmesan, lemon juice, zest, thyme, and mayo.  Season, taste, and reseason if necessary.  Cover and refrigerate thirty minutes.

Thirty minutes before service mix dressing into potatoes starting with about ¾ of it, adding more if needed. 

Sprinkle pancetta on top of each serving.  Serves 4-6.

I’ve never said this before, but I can’t even.

   

To each his herb

Last week I talked about spices, and warm flavors.This week it’s herbs, and cooler flavors.

Fresh herbs are always best, but sometimes you don’t have the luxury.  There’s some dried thyme, as well as oregano and dill in my spice cabinet in case of emergencies.   But because those dried herbs can quickly lose their mojo, keep dried herbs no more than six months (label the bottle with date you brought it home).  rolled-herbs

To keep the fresh herbs longer, you’ve got two choices.  Either lay out about 6 pieces of paper towel on the counter.  Spritz the paper with cold water.  Then set a bunch down, and roll.  After that bunch is covered, lay down another bunch.  Roll, then lay another bunch, and so on.  When all the herbs are wrapped up, spritz the paper bundle, and place in a large zip top bag.  Refrigerate.

You second choice is easier but you don’t get quite as long a shelf life.  Trim the ends off the herbs.  Fill a tall glass with water, and place in the trimmed herbs like flowers in a vase.  Change water daily.

“Rosemary for remembrance”.  I’ve grown rosemary since Uncle Will, my honorary grandfather, died when The Kid was two.  I bought one very hardy, low maintenance Mediterranean variety which is now a large shrub outside my front doors.  It’s both fragrant and ornamental—many places use it for landscaping. rosemary-basilBasil is a soft leafy herb with that distinctive, fennel/licorice flavor.  It’s a staple in Italian foods.

I like to heat two cups of extra virgin olive oil and add a big handful of each herb.  Before adding the herbs I roll them between my hands to bring out the oils.  I then let the herbs steep until it cools.  I strain it and store it, covered, in the fridge.  This oil is great for dipping bread into.  It’s also good brushed on meat before grilling.  And if you’re not big on red sauce on pizza, brush a little of this aromatic oil on it, then arrange your toppings.

I make a paste of fresh thyme, lemon zest, Parmesano Reggiano, smashed fresh garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  I either crust a pork tenderloin with it or smear some under chicken or turkey skin. lemon-thyme-pasteQuite a few years ago my mom developed an allergy to eggs, and from then on, left them out of the potato salad.

I discovered I liked it better without eggs, so I made it that way, as well.  Only I added fresh dill and flat-leaf parsley.

I made it one night when we were visiting family friend Chef Chrissy.  When I served it, Chrissy mentioned that it was a little ‘passive’.  I think that was a nice way of saying boring.  Then Chrissy’s dad, Bear tried it.  He informed me that it was the best tater salad he’d ever eaten.  So from then on it was called…

Passive-aggressive potato saladpassive-potato-salad

8 medium-size red or Yukon gold potatoes, boiled to fork tender, cooled, peeled and cubed

½ yellow onion, diced

3 tablespoons each parsley and dill, chopped finely

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1-1½ cups Hellmann’s mayo

Salt and pepper to taste

Place cooked, cubed potatoes in large bowl.  Add onions and herbs, drizzle in 2 tablespoons oil and toss.

Starting with 1 cup, stir in mayo.  If you need more, add more.  Season, taste, and re-season if necessary. Cover and let sit at room temp for 1 hour.

Right before service, stir in last 2 tablespoons oil.Serves 4-6.

When using fresh herbs in cooking, the later you add them, the fresher the flavor will be.  And always hold a little back, to sprinkle on the finished dish.  If only you could perk up your own life the same way…Thanks for your time.