I’ve noticed that there are always a few foods that show up, without fail, at the American summer picnic-hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans-and potato salad. Or maybe it’s an Ohio thing.
Whatever. It’s my humble opinion that a girl needs to know how to make a good potato salad if she wants to throw a legitimate summer party.
I don’t know why but I thought potato salad was a modern invention. Foodtimeline.org proved me wrong. They traced hand written recipes that outline the history of the potato salad (how can I get that job?!) The earliest such mention, discovered by chef Arnold Shircliffe, was written by John Gerrard, who was a Tudor-era herbalist. Today we think of an herbalist as someone who doles out medicinal herbs and remedies. But in the Tudor era, the term was used to describe men who observed and wrote about plants, vegetables and their various uses. In this particular note, written in 1597, Gerrard discusses the best way to prepare potatoes. “They are sometimes boiled and sopped in wine, by others boiled with prunes, and likewise others dress them (after roasting them in the ashes) in oil, vinegar and salt, every man according to his own taste. However they be dressed, they comfort, nourish and strengthen the body.”
So maybe we bring potato salads to summer picnics to give us strength for more swimming and baseball and the like.
The recipe I chose to make is a very simple one and comes from one of the first recipe books devoted exclusively to salads. It’s simply called Fifty Salads, published in 1885, by Thomas Jefferson Murrey-and despite an extensive internet search, I could not figure out if he is actually descended from Thomas Jefferson. So if anyone has a resource that proves it, let me know. These are the things that bug me!
I loved this recipe-so did my family and so did the guests of my first summer get together. It’s so easy you can put it together in no time flat. It is an oil-based salad and if you’re a fan of the mayonnaise and mustard type, I urge you to try it anyway, because I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
• 3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced
• ½ medium onion, diced
• Bunch fresh parsley
• ½ tsp salt
• Couple of turns of the pepper grinder
• 8 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Boil the potatoes in a medium saucepan on high heat *until just tender*. You must be sure you don’t overcook them-you don’t want the slices falling apart. Remove from the heat and drain.
Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. Whisk together well.
Place the onions and parsley in the bottom of a large bowl. Pour the potatoes on top of that. Spoon the dressing over the potatoes, a tablespoonful at a time. NOTE: you may not need all the dressing you prepare. For my batch, I stopped at six tablespoonfuls and just saved the rest in the refrigerator for a salad later. You don’t want it to be too oily. Toss it and go with your gut.
That’s it! It works warm or cold, however you prefer.