Okay, time to pull out the summer standbys and give everything a creative thwaking with the culinary carpet beater. Potato Salad with Wilted Romaine and Dijon Vinaigrette is a way of shaking things up–just enough to keep things interesting. I ought to know. I’ve been eating this all week.
Where I grew up in the Midwest, a public park without a sprinkling of picnic tables and small iron grills mounted atop concrete pillars would have been as inconceivable as hamburgers and hot dogs without a mayonnaise potato salad. Not even coleslaw was as ubiquitous. Potato salad was an iconic 1950’s picnic food–something you could remove from a basket or cooler and serve with little fanfare or last minute prep. I wouldn’t say that people loved it, but they expected it, even if it put their mouths to sleep.
Veal sausage and a warm potato salad with a sharp-elbowed vinaigrette, a regular pairing in the cafeteria of the Swiss university I attended for a year, awakened me to wilder possibilities. Wake up, you dolt! the vinegar seemed to cry. Suddenly I could taste the potatoes–and the sharp bits of shallot. Contrast! Texture! Flavor! I’ve been eating it with vinaigrette–warm or cool–ever since.
This particular iteration is the result of a serendipitous accident. After returning late from a recent pot luck dinner party, tired and ready for bed, we just threw all the potato salad and its bed of romaine leaves together in a container in the refrigerator. Overnight, the thin part of the leaves wilted, but the spines remained crunchy. And Dijon vinaigrette–surprise!–goes well with both potatoes and leafy greens.
I experimented with microwaving leftovers for a minute to serve things warm. I also splashed in a bit of red wine vinegar to sharpen the edge. Both variations worked. One night, our potatoes and wilted romaine shared a plate with grilled swordfish; another, with chicken thighs I’d cooked with harissa and preserved lemon. A hard-boiled egg added a nice variation for lunch. Finally, it was also great as picnic food–right out of the fridge–a late night treat with a beer and the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. (Out of respect, I stopped eating when You-Know-Who died.)
Of course, the acid test still awaits. What will it taste like with a hot dog? I don’t yet know. Maybe I’ll have to sit down with a bowl of it, carefully laid out on a checker cloth atop a picnic table while the red hots sizzle atop the grill nearby. Enjoy. Ken
Note: The New York Times published a video about Jody this week, one of series about successful women in business. Take a look if you’d like to learn a bit about her and catch a glimpse of her Cambridge restaurant, Rialto.
Potato Salad with Wilted Romaine and Dijon Vinaigrette
- 2 pounds small waxy potatoes, cut in half *
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup crème fraîche
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 4 teaspoons chopped tarragon
- 1 cup red onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
- 1 cup celery, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice, about 2 stalks
- 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
*If using purple potatoes, leave whole. They cook faster than the others and will hold their color better if you wait to cut them until after they cook.
- Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, add bay leaves and season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Strain the potatoes, discard bay leaves and drain for a few minutes to be they are dry. Cut any whole purple potatoes in half.
- While the potatoes are cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, shallot and Dijon mustard. While continuing to whisk, add the olive oil in a steady stream, forming an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the crème fraîche and herbs.
- While the potatoes are still a little warm, transfer to the bowl with vinaigrette, add the onions and celery and toss well.
- Add the lettuce and toss for a final time.
The flavors of this warm potato salad with mustard vinaigrette and tarragon take me back to my first memories of France, picnicking in Burgundy.
We made it 4 times over the past week. First for a dinner with friends, then for the blog and finally for Roxanne’s h.s. graduation party. I still love it.
I’ve never been a big fan of “salade fatiguée,” but Ken and Roxanne convinced me that the wilted romaine on the second day works. It gives a nice crunch. My preference is to save half the lettuce so you can add some fresh later.