I probably should be writing about potato soup instead of potato salad, given how cold it is today, but I don't think Potato Week is complete without this recipe (also, all the potato soups I've made are pretty run-of-the-mill variations on baked potato soup). However, my potato salad is the best there is, and here's why: it's not actually my potato salad but that of Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa.
Say what you will about Ina's unabashed love of all things East Hampton, but the lady can cook. If you've ever watched her Food Network show, you may have noticed she's also really good at befriending gay Broadway producers, finding new uses for Pernod, and making eyes at her elfin husband, Jeffrey. But an economical cook she is not. She makes scrambled eggs with cream. She tops spaghetti with caviar. She fills pot pies with lobster tail. She makes cheese steaks with New York strip. And her house! Good grief, it's one of those cedar-shingled, Dutch-style, 8,000 square foot "cottages" that's practically dangling in the ocean. Oh, Ina, won't you let me spend the night? I can picture it now: the aroma of fresh-baked coffee cake and "good quality bacon" will find its way to one of the guest rooms, where I'll be slowly waking up from the best sleep of my life, on crisp, white, $400 sheets. I'll come downstairs, help myself to a Campari Orange Spritzer, and make cheerful chitchat with the two or three gay friends who've stopped by en route to Manhattan. In the afternoon, we'll set out in your gleaming silver Benz and hit the farm stand, the bakery, the butcher shop, and the fishmonger. Then we will come home, "assemble" our lunch -- I know how you favor assembling over cooking -- and carry it out to the beach in a wicker picnic basket. When the day is done, cute little Jeffrey will give me a lift to the LIRR, we'll talk about his Henry Kissinger days, and I'll be depressed the whole train ride home and probably for the next month. Oh, Ina, I want your life!
But I can't have Ina Garten's life, so I will have to live vicariously through her recipes - at least the few I can afford, such as this one for potato salad. This is not the hardboiled-egg-and-mayo-drenched version that ends up at every potluck and barbecue. That stuff is for the proles. This kind is high-class, with a punchy vinaigrette and a smattering of fresh herbs. There's a lot of ingredients, but you can definitely cut some of them out and still make a damn good potato salad. Here's Ina's recipe, with my tried-and-true suggestions for cheapening things up in parentheses.
Recipe: Aspirational Potato Salad
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Makes 4 to 6 side dish servings.
1 lb small white boiling potatoes
1 lb new potatoes (you can make this with just one kind of potato; Ina happens to like the color)
2 T good dry white wine (I say you can use bad wine, or none at all)
2 T chicken stock (I've left this out before because I didn't have any. NP. You can also leave it out if you want to make this a vegan dish.)
3 T Champagne vinegar (who has Champagne vinegar? Use whatever vinegar want, but definitely use it.)
1/2 t dijon mustard (crucial -- I might even bump it up to a whole t)
2 t Kosher salt (or table salt if that's all you've got)
3/4 t freshly ground black pepper (non-negotiable)
10 T good olive oil (if, by "good," you mean the huge $5.49 bottle at TJ's? Then, yes, good.)
1/4 C minced scallions, white and green parts (hey, at least she's using the whole plant. I prefer to leave these in, but I've made the salad without. If you have some of the other herbs, they won't be missed too much.)
2 T minced fresh dill (Ina LOVES her dill. It definitely goes well with potatoes, but again, if you have some of the other herbs you can leave it out.)
2 T minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (ditto scallions and dill. You can also use the declasse curly parsley, if that's what you got.)
2 T julienned basil leaves (ditto scallions, dill, and parsley)
Put the potatoes in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover them by a few inches. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander with a towel over it and allow them to steam for another 10 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes into quarters (alternatively, you can cut them before boiling and then boil for a shorter time, as I prefer to do). Toss them with the wine and chicken stock (if using; if not, just set aside, or mix in the dressing if you have already made it).
To make the dressing (which you can do while the potatoes cook), whisk together the vinegar, half a teaspoon of salt, and the pepper, and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette, the rest of the salt, and the herbs to the potatoes, and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature (cold is also just fine).
Above photo from Ina's column for House Beautiful