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.

 

Definitely Dixie (kind of)

I’m broken, and it’s all because of my mom, The Kid, and Fresh Market.

I used to be like all the other proper Southern children and eat any pimento cheese that was offered.  And like any good Southern child, ate it on spongy white bread.

But then two things happened that changed everything, and broke me.

First, my mom came to visit from Greensboro one day.  I honestly don’t remember her ever having arrived empty-handed.  Well, on this fateful day, knowing that I love both pimento cheese and Fresh Market and she brought me a tub of the goo they make in-house at that culinary Aladdin’s cave.

Secondly, when The Kid was in middle school we made a trip to the supermarket.  In the chip aisle, my spawn asked for a specific bag of pretzels.  The ones requested were Utz Special Dark sourdough; another kid had brought them for lunch, and they were a big hit among the lunchroom set.

They were also a hit at Chez Matthews, I took to keeping them around for The Kid’s lunch and to munch on.

One day I had some fresh pimento cheese from Fresh Market in the fridge.  I also had a bag of dark pretzels on the counter.  I wandered into the kitchen looking for something on which to snack.  I pulled out the cheese, and opened the pretzels.  I dunked and tasted.

My whole world shifted.

When The Kid was little and faced with a new food, I used to say try it, because you never know, it might be your new favorite.

The pretzels and the pimento cheese were both tasty on their own.  But the sum of these savory parts made for a whole that was so intensely delicious I needed to sit down.  I may have passed out from the sheer sensory overload.

A couple years ago, I was making oven-baked pork chops.  I needed some breader.  And I just happened to have the better part of a bag of Utz’s on hand.

After grinding in the food processor, I coated the chops and threw them in the oven.  The special dark specialness did it again.  We loved them.

The other day I was making pork chops had an epiphany: I would make a stuffed hybrid.

Stuffed pretzel pork chops

pimento pork

4-1 ½ inch thick boneless pork loin chops

1 cup your favorite pimento cheese

5 cups Utz Special Dark sourdough pretzels, divided

2 cups heavily seasoned flour

2 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cooking spray

Prepare stuffing:  Run 5 or 6 pretzels through food processor until finely crushed.  Measure out 2 tablespoons and mix it with pimento cheese.  Set aside.

With a thin flexible knife cut a pocket into chops.  Cut a small slit (2 inches or less), horizontally in the side.  Push knife into pork, being careful not to cut all the way through.  Wiggle the knife back and forth opening up the pocket.

Put cheese mixture into a zip top bag and cut off one small corner.  Place bag into pork chop, and squeeze in about ¼ of cheese into each.  Place into fridge for at least an hour to chill.

Grind up the rest of the pretzels into large, coarse crumbs.  Place into shallow dish.  Put flour into another bag, and pour buttermilk into another shallow dish.

Coat pork with 3-part dredge; shake in flour, dip in buttermilk, and heavily coat with pretzels.  Put back in fridge for another hour to cool and set the cheese.

Preheat oven to 350.  Put oil into a heavy baking dish.  Set in pork chops and give them a spritz of cooking spray on top.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Using a fork and spatula, gently flip them over and bake 15 minutes more. 

Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes.  Serves 4.

And how did my mom, The Kid, and Fresh Market break me?

They all contributed to spoiling me for any other pimento cheese.  Nobody else’s tastes good anymore.  And when it’s topping a very specific dark brown, knotted piece of dough, I am reclining among the angels in snacking heaven.

Way to go, guys.

Sadly, there’s no kit to fix me…

Thanks for your time.