Sunday, June 6, 2010

potato salad

Every dish needs that little surprise: a interesting texture, an unexpected flavour, or a vibrant colour. Otherwise, food can become boring. Potato salad is an item that has been made badly so many times. I remember eating it at church potlucks as a young person; the older ladies smothered the potatoes in mayonnaise and there might have been some pepper sprinkled on top. That is a boring version of potato salad.

This, on the other hand, is the kind of potato salad that is worth writing about. In Ruth Reichl's book Tender at the Bone (which I read recently for the Kitchen Reader group), she writes about her Aunt Birdie's potato salad: the only recipe Aunt Birdie could make. And Reichl's father would kiss Aunt Birdie's cheek, saying reverently, "You make the world's best potato salad."

What makes this potato salad special is that the onions are just barely cooked in a little vinegar. The result is a slight bite that is still crunchy and very tangy. It's a nice offset to the creamy potatoes. Exactly this kind of little surprise texture and taste is what potato salad needs to stay interesting.

Aunt Birdie's Potato Salad
adapted from Tender at the Bone
serves 2

450 g baby potatoes, unpeeled
salt and pepper
1 t sugar
1/2 onion, diced very finely
1 T vinegar
2 t water
2 T vegetable oil

Boil the potatoes until just tender. Cool and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Put the rest of the ingredients, except the oil, in a small saucepan. Heat briefly until the liquid is close to boiling and the onions are just a little soft.
Toss the onion mixture with the potatoes and oil.


eleni said...

I will certainly agree with you regarding the necessary crunch of the onion... vinegar-onion-potato, a very good match...

Daily Spud said...

That potato salad sounds just about perfect to me!

Sarah said...

eleni, thanks for visiting. I don't want to offend The Spud, but I find potato a bit boring on its own. This livened it up for me!

Spud, it's not personal, you understand! I think you have a great way of turning potatoes (a slightly uninteresting tuber) into special food. :-)

Clare said...

this looks interesting! i would like to try it out this summer. what sort of vinegar do you use?

Sarah said...

Hello Clare; any mild vinegar would work. In North America use white vinegar, in the UK you could use white wine vinegar, and in Asia use rice vinegar, perhaps. Or just choose your favourite!

Minh said...

I made this and it was mega yum. A bonus is that it was gluten, dairy and meat free!

Grammy said...

LOVED Ruth Reichl's book, "Tender at the Bone." So entertaining when she describes her disguises while checking out food at fancy restaurants in NYC as a food critic for the New York Times. Good recipes, too.

Yhe Cristy said...

Found you via Pinterest. This has become a weekly meal in our house. thanks for the recipe.

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