Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Long Live Potato Salad!

Potato salad is one of the joys of summer. While you can eat it in the winter, I always think of it as a summer dish. When we would take day trips to the mountains when I was a kid, my mother would pack fried chicken and potato salad. I’ve never been a fan of cold fried chicken, but I did love potato salad. During my years in 4-H, we would make potato salad in 5 gallon buckets, stirring with a clean arm, since no spoon would reach the bottom of the bucket. I’ve toyed with any number of potato salad variations, searching for the embodient of potato salad perfection.

The French make their potato salad with a vinaigrette and sometimes smoked sausage. This is a great picnic main course. Highly portable, delicious at room temperature, meat and potatoes all rolled into one. Generally, however, I prefer mayonnaise based potato salads. Heavy on the mayonnaise, with a hint of mustard, maybe some chopped egg or even celery seed. But never pickle relish. I don’t do pickle relish.

Today I tried a new potato salad recipe and may have found my new favorite. French potato salad is good, American potato salad is great, and I’m going out on a limb to say that Spanish potato salad may be the best. I bought creamer potatoes and garlic yesterday specifically for this dish, since I’d seen a recipe and wanted to try it as soon as possible. Beware—this is very garlic intensive! If you don’t love garlic, you could reduce the amount used, but that would be a crime. I say get your breath mints ready for later and give this a try! You may be able to get 3 servings out of this, but I only got 2 since I couldn’t stop eating it.

Spanish Potato Salad
Adapted from a recipe by MySocialChef

1 pound small white creamer potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teapson hot smoked Spanish paprika (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Quarter or halve the potatoes, depending on the size. Toss with the olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, and the pepper. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake the potatoes for about 40 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times, until the potatoes are fully cooked and browned. Allow to cool.

In a bowl, combine the remaining salt, garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, and paprika (if using). Add the cooled potatoes and stir to combine.

Hot smoked Spanish paprika is a wonder to behold, but can be difficult to find. It’s available online, in speciality food stores, and I’ve made a replica in a pinch using chipotle powder and regular grocery store paprika. While this potato salad will still be good without it, the paprika does add a smokiness that cuts through the mayonnaise.

I was willing to share this with my lunch guest until after I tasted it. He was then told that he would only get one bite. His opinion of that one bite? “That is outstanding.” How often do you hear the word “outstanding” used to describe potato salad? In this case, it’s apt. This potato salad is outstanding and will be a staple for the rest of the summer, and possibly through the winter too. I don’t normally like running the oven for almost an hour during the height of summer, but I’ll make an exception for this.

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