Monday, 9 February 2015

Beet & Potato Salad

I was inspired to make this by the recipe at the bottom of this post at The Old Foodie.  The Old Foodie (it is the food that is old; not she, I hasten to point out) says that this is the earliest recipe for potato salad that she has found so far, although it undoubtedly existed for some time before then, then being April 2nd, 1842.

That date sent my thoughts immediately to the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's. It did not start until 1845, although localized crop failures were already quite common, and the Irish were living on a knife edge, and knew it, to some degree. But in 1842 that was still in the future, and for those who did not have to rely on it utterly, the potato still had the charm of novelty; a hard thing for us to imagine, especially those of us who grew up on meat with two veg, one of which was guaranteed to be potatoes, and the other of which was not guaranteed not to be potatoes.

In a more cheerful vein, the author of this recipe recommends it as a Continental style salad, to be served with salmon or other fish, "or indeed any thing else". Which should give you plenty of scope. The author called for plain sliced beetroot, but cooking one or two beets for a salad seems like an unnecessary pain, especially when I have jars of pickled beets in the pantry. They added a nice zip and I think they are an improvement anyway.

The salad dressing, made with hard-boiled egg yolk, made me think of Sydney Smith's Salad Dressing, although this is simpler, and I said to hell with historic accuracy and broke out the electric mixer. And finally, of course, if I have 2 leftover hard boiled egg whites, I am going to chop them and put them on the salad. No duh. I thought the result was quite pretty (and tasty) and a little festively deployed parsley or olive slices would make it even prettier.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 hour prep time, in 2 distinct sections of 1/2 hour each


Cook In Advance:
450 grams (1 pound) waxy or other firm potatoes
2 large eggs
1/2 small onion
OR 1 shallot

Put the eggs in a small pot with water to cover; bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot; let sit 10 minutes. Drain, cool, and peel.

Meanwhile, wash, trim, and dice the potatoes. Put them in a pot with  water to cover and boil them  until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Peel and slice the onion or shallot, and lay the slices in a dish with plenty of salt between each layer. Let rest for 30 minutes, then rinse and drain well, and chop finely.

Make the Dressing:
the yolk of 2 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mash the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl, and set the whites aside to use as a garnish on the salad. Add the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer until thoroughly blended and emulsified; about 5 minutes.

Finish the Salad:
about 1/3 cup pickled beet pieces
parsley or olives to garnish, if liked

Mix the cooled, dry potatoes with the chopped and well drained onion or shallot. Toss with the dressing. Arrange this mixture on a serving plate, and garnish with bits of the pickled beet and the chopped egg white. Parsley would be nice, but not at this time of year. Perhaps a sliced olive or two could be used if you would like it. It does the salad no harm to made an hour or so in advance.

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