Posts Tagged ‘potatoes’

Potato salad for a crowd

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

This one is the ultimate crowd-pleaser no matter whether you are serving it for dinner, during a grill party or from a plastic container at a picnic. I love potatoes in almost any form and several takes on potato salad are on my regular to-do list. The one here is my family’s favorite and I learned to make a lot of it as domestic disturbances often start over the leftovers.

It’s hard to go wrong with this salad, but still there are few rules to be followed to get the best from even this simple combination of ingredients. Rule number one – always choose the smallest potatoes and make sure they are of a uniform size. It’ll cut the cooking time and will let them cook evenly. Rule number two – always cook them with the skin on. This helps preserve the vitamins which are right beneath the skin, and prevents the potatoes from soaking up too much water during cooking and getting mushy. Rule number three – be generous when salting the boiling water – there’s very little to be done to save an under-salted boiled potato. The water should taste like the sea to get it right. And rule number four – use real mayonnaise! With a salad of only a few ingredients, every one of them matters for the final result. So forget for a moment about the upcoming bikini season and go for the real thing – egg yolks, fat and all.

I sometimes add crispy Granny Smith apples for an extra crunch and play with fresh herbs like flat Italian parsley, dill or cilantro (coriander) to add some color.

There is no picture of the salad, because it was devoured too quickly during last Sunday’s end-of-the-academic-year grill party my husband threw for his fellow architecture grad students. It never met with the chicken and hamburgers it was supposed to accompany – I should have kept it in the kitchen until the last moment.

Potato salad

  • 4 pounds (2 kg) Russet red potatoes, small to medium, but uniform in size
  • 1 big red onion, peeled, cut crosswise and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup real mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • juice from ½ lemon
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch flat Italian parsley or dill (optional)

Bring half a large pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt for it to taste like sea water, add the potatoes, skins on, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until a fork goes easily in when pierced. Drain and let cool enough to be able to hold when peeling. The salad will be tastier if made when the potatoes are still warm.

In a small bowl place the onion, sprinkle it with salt and cover with cold water. Let stand 10 minutes, squish and drain – it will take some of the sharpness from the onion. In another bowl mix the mayo, mustard and lemon juice.

Peel the potatoes and cut into big chunks, or thick rounds if using small ones. Taste for salt and add some if needed, but remember that the dressing will be pretty salty from the mustard. Grind the black pepper, add the mayo, onion and optional parsley, and carefully mix the salad to avoid crushing the potatoes too much. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

The eggs I love – Spanish tortilla with potatoes, ricotta and sausage

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Until my early twenties I was a dedicated egg-phobe. Then I was suddenly converted, and though I still won’t touch an underdone egg, I love ingredient-loaded omelets. When I discovered Spanish tortilla (not to be confused with the flour and corn tortillas of Central America), I fell in love from the first bite. This is the universal crowd-pleaser and my brunch or weekend dinner staple.

Thicker than the Italian frittata and usually containing my other favorites – potatoes – this Spanish omelet has as striking a flavor as its looks. It’s easier to make too, as you don’t have to fight to flip it over, but simply bake it in the oven. It can stoically take on whatever you throw at it, and no fridge push-around need be wasted again. The classic one with potatoes is great, but I’ve done it with zucchini, parsnip, feta cheese, Parmesan, bacon, various types of dried and fresh herbs, and combinations of the above. It’s a successes every time, and the only person who refuses to eat it is my daughter – the new egg-phobe in the family.

I finally have a cast-iron paella pan, perfect for tortillas too, which I put to heavy use. The recipe is enough for four as a weekday supper, or for eight as part of a weekend brunch with friends. If there are leftovers, they are very good the next day and make a great lunchbox item. I often wrap them in whole-wheat tortillas with Tabasco’s Chipotle sauce and fresh cilantro (coriander). I love to answer the what’s-for-lunch question – tortilla in tortilla.

For a vegetarian version skip the sausage.

Spanish tortilla with potatoes, sausage, ricotta and fresh herbs

serves 4

  • 6 – 8 large eggs – free range or organic
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta (or thick sour cream)
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed or sliced into thin rounds
  • ½ pound good quality sausage (I use Polish sausage with thyme and garlic and no preservatives added) – cubed the same size as the potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup mixed chopped dill, mint and parsley (or cilantro)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper, Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F (200°C) – with racks positioned in the middle. In a heavy-bottomed oven-proofed frying pan (cast iron is best), melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the potatoes until slightly brown and tender – about 10 minutes. In the meantime beat eggs in a bowl to break the egg yolks. Add the ricotta and beat well – though some cheese lumps are OK. Season with salt and black pepper to taste, add the herbs and green onions and mix.

When the potatoes are ready, take them out of the pan with slotted spoon and stir into the egg-cheese mixture. Add sausage to the pan and fry for 5 minutes, until sightly brown. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Pour over the egg-cheese-and-potatoes mixture, stir well, and let cook on medium low for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and transfer the pan to the oven to bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top of the tortilla is set and slightly brown.

Serve warm with the pan (makes a great impression) with rustic bread and simple green salad. My son loves it with a few drops of Tabasco Chipotle sauce. I have it with extra Bulgarian cheese, feta style.

Goes great with a light, bubbly Portuguese Vinho Verde or Italian Prosseco for a more elegant experience.

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