[Smoked Paprika Potato Salad]
Although bread is without a doubt the carb I’d have the most trouble giving up, the potato is a close second. You can fry it mash it boil it roast it broil it stuff it, and be quite certain you’ll get my vote.
The preparations I most enjoy are sautéed potatoes, especially my mother’s (which, before you ask, don’t have any special ingredient other than her love and dexterity), and potato salads. I like a creamy potato salad as much as the next girl — I certainly ate more than my share at assorted barbecue parties in the US — but I have to say my preference goes to those that simply combine roasted wedges of potato with a well-balanced, olive-oil-based dressing that enhances the flavor of the potato, instead of just using it for texture and as a carrier of mayonnaise.
A good example of the kind I like can be found in the daily selection of that beloved lunch haunt of mine that has recently published a superb cookbook I can’t seem to shut up about. And as luck and Rose Carrarini would have it, the book includes a recipe for one of the potato salads in their rotation, a recipe called Potato Gribiche.
The classic sauce gribiche is a mayonnaise that is augmented by finely chopped hard-boiled eggs, cornichons (pickled gherkins), capers, and fresh herbs such as tarragon and parsley; it is a good accompaniment to fish, shellfish, and, most notably, tête de veau (veal head). I might note in passing that my efforts to locate some sort of explanation as to the origins of the name have only turned up the hypothesis that it comes from the old Normand word gribiche, defined as “a mean woman who scares children.” I love it.
Etymological notes aside, the dressing in Rose Bakery’s Potato Gribiche is in fact closer to a vinaigrette than to a mayonnaise, and this conveniently makes it lighter, more subtle, and easier on the forearms. New variations on that salad appear on their counter all the time and my favorite is the one that involves diced chorizo. But my kitchen was completely bereft of chorizo on the particular day I was inspired to try that recipe, so I reached for the closest substitute, smoked paprika, which I think can accurately be described as the phantom of chorizo.
And this is a fine potato salad, full of flavors and textural contrasts. It can be served either still a little warm or at room temperature, and is hence a very good picnic candidate for when the picnic days return. I advise you to eat it on the day you make it however, as what little I had left had turned impossibly mealy overnight.
Salade de Pomme de Terre au Paprika Fumé
500 grams (a little over a pound) new potatoes, peeled in alternating stripes
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
3 or 4 cornichons (pickled gherkins, about 35 grams/1 ounce), chopped
1 scant tablespoon capers
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon strong mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pimentón — I used the agridulce kind
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Serves 2 to 3 (the recipe can be doubled or tripled).
Blanch and roast the potatoes: Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F). Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Drain immediately, let cool for a minute, cut in two-bite wedges (wear kitchen gloves if your fingers are sensitive to heat), and transfer to a baking dish large enough to accommodate them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat, and roast until golden and crusty, about an hour.
In the meantime, prepare the dressing: combine in a salad bowl the egg, cornichons, capers, shallot, mustard, vinegar, pimentón, a bit of salt and pepper, and 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil.
When the potatoes are ready, add them to the salad bowl, toss gently to coat, and fold in the parsley. Let cool to slightly warm or at room temperature. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.
[Adapted from Rose Carrarini's Breakfast, Lunch, Tea, Potato Gribiche, page 81.]