I’m not a huge Ron White fan or anything (you couldn’t escape him in 2004 and his “you can’t fix stupid” bit), but I am forever envious of the fact that he came up with the nickname “tater salad” first. If there was one food-related nickname that I have earned based on sheer metric tonnage consumed, potato “tater” salad would be right at the top of the list.
I get that that’s a dated and obscure reference, but I can’t contain my jealousy. Were you all outside this weekend? I mean, at least in my neck of the woods, the sun shone brightly, the birds chirped at appropriate times, and the very earth seemed to embrace the concept of spring. I mean, it was getting to be perfect pale ale weather “¦ speaking of which, PSA time. Hey vegans and vegetarians, you know how some beers and wines use animal products in the production process? Well, there are several online lists with veg* friendly booze, and here’s a link to get you started.
Where was I before that PSA? Oh right, it was perfect pale ale weather and nothing marries a pale ale half as perfectly as cold, crisp, delicious potato salad.
No surprises there, of course. I love me a good starch. I love me a good carb. I love me a good starch-carb-combo. Now, there’s a big hullabaloo about mayonnaise or vinegar salads being the best. Clearly we all have our opinions and clearly each of our opinions is the absolute correct one. I fall squarely into the vinegar camp. Just plumb don’t care for mayonnaise. We can fight about this if you want, in fact, I would love a good debate on the merits of potatoes bathed in mayo, but right now I want to talk about my vinegar potato salad.
Two years ago, I helped run a weekend retreat up in the mountains ““ we were responsible for entertaining and feeding 25-40 people. It was a great time except that I got altitude sickness and I couldn’t shake it. While others went hiking around, seeing awesome shit, I sat around trying to figure out why nothing to do with my body made any sense any more. With all my free time, I read The Moonstone and got to spend a lot of time preparing for the evening cooking marathons.
We made this potato salad the evening we fired up the big grill outside the barracks. The sun was getting low in the sky and two or three young men in rolled sleeves leaned around the open flames, checking the meat and veggies, and nursing bottles of cheap beer. My friend and I worked in the kitchen, heaving heavy knives and chopping vegetables and fresh herbs. We mixed everything together in gigantic soup tureens and left the salad to sit and the flavors to meld. As the salad unwound and relaxed into its full flavor, I grabbed a beer and went outside to warm myself like a lizard on a sun-warmed rock.
It wasn’t until the sun had fully sunk that the food was ready, and warmed by the alcohol and the rock, I was more than ready to eat some cold, tart potato salad. Let me tell you, nothing hit the spot quite like it, and every time I eat that salad, I recapture that night a little bit.
So here’s the approximate recipe for a dish that’s best made approximately.
A lot of red potatoes (like, 10 or something, you know, the potatoes aren’t huge, just big enough to palm)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar (start here and tart up as you see fit)
3 teaspoons olive oil
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped up as fine as you like
1 bunch of scallions (or red onion if you prefer a stronger crunch)
Fresh chopped dill to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Chop the potatoes up into big chunks and boil like any old potatoes. When they’re all nice and soft, take them off the heat, drain them, and pour them into a bowl. Just throw everything together and mix it up or shake it up however you like. Cool it down in a fridge and I dare you not to eat half of it before it gets completely chilled.
Serves just one, if you’re me.