Debbie Matthews: I got a new spud

Jun. 04, 2013 @ 09:47 AM

Petey and The Kid love spicy food. They relish vittles that make me break out in a sweat just by viewing them. If a dish even has a bit too much black pepper, it’s too burny for me and my timid palate. 
But, I love onions. Raw or cooked, I never met an onion I didn’t like.  But puzzlingly, my spouse and child run like bunnies from most members of the allium family. You’d think with their love of scorching foodstuffs, onions would be a walk in the park. 
It’s a real head scratcher. 
They both like potato salad.  Not as much as me, though.  I could live the rest of my life on potato salad and heavily frosted birthday cake (of course, I’d probably be dead of a heart attack within six months).  Many Sunday nights, when Petey’s at work, and The Kid is either away at school or out with friends, I make and eat a small batch of potato salad. All by myself.
When I do make it for the family, I go very easy on the onions for Petey, and when our child is dining with us, I leave a portion of the taters naked, which The Kid will then doctor with mayo, olive oil, and lemon only.
Last summer we all went over to Chapel Hill for lunch at Merritt’s; a place famous for their BLT’s. They were very tasty, with lots of options for the sandwiches.   My spouse and offspring got chips as a side, but they had potato salad on the menu, so of course that’s what I ordered.
When we got our plates, I noticed there were peas in the salad. And, what looked like orange bell peppers. It was a first for me. 
I took a bite, and got a shock. It wasn’t bell peppers, but carrots. There were peas and carrots in my potato salad! Ubiquitous peas and carrots, supporting player of many a school lunch tray.
And I liked it. I really did. 
The past few weeks, loads of websites have had articles about Memorial Day menu ideas. One of them was 22 new ideas for potato salad. I read every word of that column as if it contained the location of Jimmy Hoffa, the cure for crow’s feet, and the cheat code for lifelong happiness.
One of the recipes was a horseradish-dill version. Even though it can be pungent, when used sensibly, I enjoy the tangy bite of horseradish. I almost always add some to beef dishes, for an added flavor dimension.
I happened to have some frozen peas and carrots on hand, and I always have a jar of horseradish in the fridge. I decided to make a new potato salad that was a mash-up of the online recipe, and the novel side dish from the sandwich shop.
     I wasn’t sure any of us would like it, but I had some blue box mac as a backup side, so I gave it a whirl. Instead of onions, I would use diced shallots as a hopefully inoffensive substitute.
     Much to my delight, everybody liked it, a lot.  We now have a potato salad that is a complete crowd pleaser.

 

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Garden Horsey Potato Salad
1 ½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 large), boiled ‘til fork tender, and cooled completely
¾ cup frozen peas and carrots, quickly blanched (2-3 minutes) in boiling salted water and shocked in ice water to stop cooking and set color, then drained very well
1 large shallot, diced
Kosher salt & freshly cracked pepper
Dressing:
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
¼ cup fat-free buttermilk
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (or more if you like it that way)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
A few hours before assembling, whisk together dressing ingredients holding back a bit of the salt, taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed, and refrigerate.
Assembly: Peel potatoes and cut into salad sized cubes.  Add shallots, season, and mix together.  Toss with enough dressing to bring to your desired salad consistency (you may like it wetter or drier than me).
Gently fold in peas and carrots.  Taste for seasoning, and let sit covered, at room temperature, for about twenty minutes before service.
*A word of advice about shallots: Don’t dice them until just before you mix the salad.  When they sit for too long after cutting, shallots will become quite acrid.
Makes 6 servings.

 

     I am pretty darn shameless when it comes to potato salad. But I’m also pretty persnickety about it as well. I don’t like the stuff that comes in a plastic carton at the supermarket. I can’t abide celery, sweet relish, or mustard in it either. Miracle Whip has its place, but in tater salad is a vile anathema. I’ll eat German potato salad, but it’s not the real thing. It’s just a warm, spicy European spud dish.
     Durham is a wonderful food town.  There are quite a few chili and barbecue competitions.  But, it’s high time for a potato salad tournament.
     And I volunteer to be the first judge.
Thanks for your time.

Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is momsequitur@gmail.com.