Saturday, February 25, 2012

Potato Salad with Capers and Olives

Here's a lesson in "mellowing" versus "marriage." We were recently invited to a dinner party and I was asked to bring a side. Given that the main course was going to be a bouillabaisse,  I looked for something Mediterranean as well as something that would complement the fish stew. I finally settled on the recipe below because the ingredients screamed traditional and European/Mediterranean. With the recipe description using words like "assertive" and "bold," I knew it would stand up against the bouillabaisse. The recipe said to "let the flavors mellow for 30 minutes prior to serving." So I timed it so that I finished the salad just prior to departure. It "mellowed" for the 20 minute ride to the host's house and then another hour as we had our appetizers.

Driving away from the dinner party, I wasn't real happy with the results. I undercooked the potatoes slightly but that's an easy fix for next time. The main complaint I had was that the flavors just didn't incorporate. "I won't be adding this one to the blog," I thought. I brought home the leftovers, put them in a storage container, and put them in the fridge.

Twenty four hours later, this was a completely different salad. Suddenly, it worked. The ingredients coated the potatoes and they took on new flavors. So the lesson learned is that with potato salad you need enough time to let the potatoes absorb the flavors, to let the diverse ingredients intertwine and become one.

The recipe originally comes from the San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook which has become one one of my "go to" cookbooks. The recipe was a little vague at times so I've added some details to the ingredients and instructions. I doubled this one since I was going to need more than the six servings this recipe provides.

Potato Salad with Capers and Olives

  • 2 lbs. unpeeled white potatoes (I used yellow potatoes since I couldn't find white)
  • 1/2 cup boiling potato water
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice or white wine vinegar (I used a lemon from the box)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (maybe some truffle oil, too?)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 4 oz. jar capers, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz. Kalamata or Gaeta pitted olives, roughly chopped
  • 4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Prep all of the ingredients except the potatoes first.
  • Boil the potatoes in plenty of water. Watch carefully and test them often. A toothpick should easily pierce the potato. 8-12 minutes to put you in the ballpark.
  • When the potatoes are done, remove them and transfer them to cold water. Keep the water boiling.
  • When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes, chop them into large chunks, and transfer them to a large serving bowl.
  • Add the 1/2 cup of boiling potato water to the potatoes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and gently toss with large spoons.
  • Cover the bowl and let it mellow at room temperature for an hour or more.
  • Stir it up some more and then refrigerate overnight.
  • Bring it out of the fridge and let the temperature come back up stirring often prior to serving.