This past weekend, when called upon to make something for the family’s Easter dinner, the Practical Cook had a little panic attack. Perhaps it is best described as a potato spasm. In charge of the spuds, my sacred duty was to show up with something that both tasted good and was no-fuss. Ever traveled with potato salad?
Part of the aforementioned potato spasm was simply deciding what to do, and with what type of potato. So many options. Mashed potatoes were out, too fussy to travel with. Twice-baked potatoes rock and travel well, but it was very hot this weekend. Ham’s natural companion is potato salad, but what kind?
Confession time, the Practical Cook loves most potato salads (**minus the ones with too much celery seed), but hates to make potato salad, particularly in quantity. Perhaps it’s a flashback to my short stint in a commercial setting, peeling 50 pounds of potatoes to fill a catering order.
But my potato woes are not the point here. The point is that potatoes are flexible to the point of being too flexible. One must maintain focus or get trapped in a sea of potato ideas.
Here are 3 ways to use potatoes.
1. Mashed Potatoes
As discussed last week in the Comfort Me with Sushi post, a good go-to mashed potato recipe is invaluable. This one is delicious and simple. I made them yesterday in less than 30 minutes, flavored with a bit of green garlic that I let bloom in the warm potato pot, sitting in the butter, before adding the potatoes back. Added a splash of buttermilk and chopped parsley. Light, bright, clean flavors, nice work Yukon Golds.
2. Secret Ingredient
If you have leftover mashed potatoes, which often happens in small quantities, freeze them. The next time you need a binder for something like salmon cakes or meatballs, there you go. You can make a cake or croquette from most anything with a protein, some mashed potatoes, an egg, and seasonings of your choice. Form it and fry it. If you have more leftover mashed potatoes, you can add an egg and seasonings (if needed), roll in bread crumbs and fry into potato cakes.
3. Springtime Potato Salad
Though I have no problem with mayo-based potato salad, I don’t like to bring salmonella to any potluck. I opted for a lighter version, based on Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything. This makes enough for a crowd. Peel, dice, and boil ~pounds of potatoes (Yukon Golds and fingerlings will be less starchy). While that’s happening, mix 1/3 cup olive oil, several Tablespoons of white wine or rice wine vinegar, and a healthy dose of mustard (I went with Dijon). Add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper. Wisk away! When potatoes are done (~12 to 15 minutes), drain, rinse with cold water briefly, and then toss with vinaigrette. Add scallions (CSA), green garlic (CSA), parsley, whatever you’ve got on hand. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Do you love, hate, or fear potato salad? Do tell, the Practical Cook’s virtual door is always open: practical cook at gmail dot com
Coming up tomorrow, the first viewer question of the week, What is Greek Yogurt, and why do I care? As always, please feel free to submit questions here, via email, or via Twitter. No promises that I’ll answer my cell phone in the middle of the night West Coasters.