Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Potato Salad

Last night I was planning to grill bone-in chicken breasts for dinner and was thinking about what sort of sides to have. Generally potato salad seems to be reserved for picnics, get-togethers, holidays, but I see no reason why it can't be whipped up for a regular weeknight meal. It doesn't take that long and it goes with just about anything grilled.

I've never been a big fan of "mixed" salads. I don't think I've ever had a macaroni salad that I liked, I shudder at the thought of any salad that contains both mayonnaise and cheese. However, a potato salad done right can be a thing of wonder. There are literally hundreds of potato salad recipes out there. How to pick? My preference is to think about flavor and texture combinations and start mixing.

One key I have found is to add some flavoring to the warm potatoes before adding other ingredients. Depending on the flavor profile you are going for you could add sweet pickle juice, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or a combination of sweet and tangy. Let the potatoes cool and soak in the flavor for at least 30 minutes (refrigerated, of course).

While the potatoes are cooling prep the rest of the ingredients. I like sweet pickles, celery, parsley, red onion, and hard boiled eggs. But some recipes include black olives, capers, green onion, bread and butter pickles, peas, bacon...the options are endless.

Then the dressing. Again, here I like to go pretty simple with mayonnaise and good old yellow mustard. But you could use any combination of mayonnaise, any type of mustard, sour cream, yogurt, even horseradish which adds a subtle heat. I prefer to mix the dressing, tasting as I go, before I add it to the potatoes. Also, some people like lots of dressing, I prefer to go light and let the main ingredients shine through (plus, I don't like it mushy).

So there it is, the perfect potato salad. It truly is whatever you would like. Some people, like me, prefer the most straightforward and simple tastes, but there are definitely other options. When choosing what to put in the salad it is also a good idea to think about what your main course -- do you want it to compliment the flavors or provide a foil (such as a tangy potato salad to balance out a sweet barbecue sauce).

This post doesn't even begin to cover the other potato salads out there (French, German, sweet potatoes, etc.), but since we are headed into summer grilling season there will be plenty of time for those!

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