Saturday, July 05, 2008

...and the flag was still there.

There is one thing that drives me mental is having to attend a party scheduled for an unorthodox hour. If one is invited to a party that starts off at 3:00pm...do you have lunch before you go? What if you have lunch and then platters of edibles come streaming forth at 3:30pm?

Whatever.

Yesterday's Independence Day festivities, bizarre time notwithstanding, were pretty good. Our friends M. & S. (Poppy, you remember them?) had a pool party and S. had secured some "picnic hams" (i.e. pork shoulder) and was giving it the slow-smoking treatment -- 17 hours by the time it was all said and done -- and I had been deputized to make the sauce and Cæsar Salad and potato salad. The latter is a wonderful item in spite of its real name being the Teutonic mouthful kartoffelsalat mit speck. But this potato salad has the advantage of not having any dairy or egg-based anything in it, so it can stay at room temperature with impunity.

It's ludicrously easy to make, practically a recipe-free proposition, but here ya go:

3 lb./1.3kg red potatoes, cut into ¾"/2cm cubes, skin on (the skin is crucial, so only get potatoes small enough that, thus cubed, will still have some skin attached in every piece...if your potatoes are skinless, by the time this is all done you will have wildly unsavory mashed potatoes)

1 medium white or yellow onion, diced as fine as your patience allows (I get the regular sort of onion, in lieu of the sweet onions, but you do whatever. And red onions will give the salad a weird pinkish tint.)

¾ c. (225ml?) distilled white vinegar. (You can swap out a bit of this for some malt of cider vinegar, but only a bit...this is all about an acidic kick)

½lb (450gm) of smoked bacon, trimmed of fat and cubed as finely as your patience will allow

1T sugar
1T Mustard (no flavored mustards and none of the bright yellow stuff)
Salt and pepper to taste (this will need more than you think)

OK. Boil your potatoes until tender (should take 10 minutes from the moment the water boils) and drain, reserving ½ cup of the starchy "potato water." Sprinkle with one third of the vinegar immediately and toss. Cover to keep warm.

While the water comes up to a boil, put the bacon trimmings -- spare them the chopping and dicing, i.e. leave them pretty intact for easy extraction later -- into a skillet over medium heat until they are rendered out. Remove.

Add the lean bacon and cook in the drippings until crisp. Remove and rest on paper towels to drain. You should have 6T/X ml. of drippings in the skillet. If you're a bit hard up, drippings-wise, add peanut oil (or whatever neutral vegetable oil you prefer, I like peanut oil) and then sauté the onions over medium heat until translucent.

Add the vinegar and potato water and cook to reduce by half. Off heat, add salt and pepper (I like a lot of pepper) and mustard, stirring to dissolve all. Toss warm potatoes with the hot dressing.

This may be served warm or at room temperature (best with rich-ish BBQ meats) or stone cold (best with sandwiches, et al)

Oh, and becaused I had promised the lovely and gracious Shula, here is the Cæsar Salad.

1 egg yolk*
3 T fresh lemon juice (strained of seeds and pulp)
1 T garlic, smashed to a paste
½ t. Worcestershire sauce
¼ t. chile pepper flakes
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 anchovy fillets, mashed (or 5 cm. of anchovy paste from a tube)
1¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil (try the palest stuff you can get, it can get overpowering -- not to mention expensive -- in this application)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, leaves separated, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grana Padano...or whatever hard cheese you like. Dry Jack is nice, but good luck finding it.) 2 cups bread cubes, toasted and rubbed with garlic to make croutons.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and mustard. Slowly whisk in the oils to emulsify. This step is key. Just because you have emulsifiers (mustard, yolk) in a salad dressing doesn't mean you will get an emulsion. The oil has to be "dispersed" in something in order to get this to happen and just throwing things together and whisking will NOT accomplish this. So do it in this order.

To the emulsified oil add the lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire, pepper flakes, and anchovies. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with dressing (NOT to blanket every leaf!) and toss well. Sprinkle with Parmesan, black pepper and croutons.

Anyway, things went well until the sun set and, to save on fireworks, we were treated to a spectacular display of lightning. NTS, who hates fireworks, and who was also dog-tired ("Let's go. Let's go home.") had had enough and, at least we got to see the fireworks from the expressway. (In fact, there were cars parked along the shoulder, windshield wipers wiping furiously, watching them.)

So that was that.

-J.

*WARNING - WARNING - WARNING - WARNING - WARNING - WARNING - WARNING - WARNING!
RAW EGG alert!!! Be careful in eating raw and undercooked eggs, as this carries a (very slight) risk of Salmonella or other food poisoning. If you get organic, hyper-fresh eggs that have been properly stored, and you wash the shell thoroughly before cracking, that (slight) risk will be minimized. You have been warned.

Posted by Joke at 7:39 AM

3 Comments

  • Blogger Frogdancer posted at 6:55 PM, July 05, 2008  
    I've only ever made one potato salad in my life that I was happy with. I had the same problem with lasagne until I gritted my teeth and just kept churning one out a week until I'd cracked the code. Potato salad is next on my list. This recipe will be getting a workout (especially as I've got red chat potatoes in the cupboard already. Waste not, want not!)
  • Blogger shula posted at 10:36 PM, July 05, 2008  
    Lovely, thank you.
  • Blogger Joke posted at 7:39 AM, July 06, 2008  
    Froggy,

    Y'know, there's always vodka to make if you have a pressure cooker.

    Just sayin',

    -J.
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