Pretty In Pink: Russian Potato Salad
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works; tentatively named Meals from the Homemade Pantry (Clarkson Potter), due out in 2015.
I’ve got a serious flaw, and if I don’t do something about it, I’m going to give myself an ulcer, or high blood pressure, or one of those stress-y issues.
I’m a big party thrower. I just love it. I’m always looking for excuses to feed groups of people. But I’m not actually so good at it. Channeling Martha is not a talent of mine. I’m never prepared.
But sometime in the future, I vow that I will figure out how to throw a party without hyperventilating for some part of the last hour before everyone arrives. Luckily I think potato salad is key, as it needs to chill and can be done well ahead.
Potato salad. Maybe one of the most fantastic summer foods when made right. The distance between well-made, homemade potato salad and mayonnaise-y supermarket deli potato goop is like from here to Hawaii, and the goop gives the whole dish a bad name. In its summery essence, potato salad is the canvas for all of the things you secretly like to stir in together – pickles, eggs, fresh herbs, capers – it really says yes to all things. It is almost Memorial Day weekend and all, so I had to tell you about this one. There is a lot that I love about this particular incarnation of the picnic staple, but maybe the best thing about it is that it’s pink.
You are going to have to trust me on that one, because of course, as I was sprinting around the kitchen, I neglected to photograph the finished product. Typical party monster me. But here- let’s go back to that half way made salad to give you a sense, and with the spoon in your mind you can stir this around, add a little mayo, a little dill, some chopped pickles…do you see it?
I started the process of this salad in the morning, peeling potatoes, roasting beets, and then by the middle of the afternoon I had handed the entire recipe over to my mother, who on principle does not touch beets. Sometimes it is good to push one a bit beyond their comfort level, and she made very nice work of it. The beets might seem like a bit of extra work for a potato salad, which they are, but everyone will ooh and ah ask for the recipe. I promise.
Russian Potato Salad
Adapted from Katherine Kagel, Cooking With Cafe Pasquals
Serves 8, and can easily be doubled (which I did) if you have many hungry mouths to feed
1 pound beets (can be a combination of red and gold, or just red)
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled
4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
4 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
3 dill pickles, finely diced (got any left from last summer?)
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup minced fresh dill
1 cup mayonnaise
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and separate them from their greens, leaving about 2 inches of the stem attached. Do not disturb the roots or peel the skin. Wrap each beet in tinfoil, place in a roasting pan, and roast for 1 1/4 hours, or until fork tender. Cool, slide each beet out of its skin, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes.
While the beets are cooking, place the potatoes in a large pot with 2 teaspoons of the salt and enough water to cover them. Boil until fork tender (about 20 minutes). Drain, cool, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Mix the cut potatoes in a large bowl with the olive oil, remaining salt, and pepper.
Grate 3 of the hard-boiled eggs on a box grater, and add to the potatoes. Slice the remaining egg and set aside for garnish. Add the beets, pickles, chives, and 1/4 cup of the dill to the bowl. Add the mayonnaise and combine. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the egg slices and the remaining dill. Chill thoroughly before serving.
Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com. All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.