Frank on food
Summer is here and I’m craving potato salad. Until recently, my usual take on potato salad has been rather lukewarm. Ever-present and popular at just about every picnic and outdoor barbecue I have ever attended, potato salad was for me a typically uninteresting side dish, pretty much taken for granted and nothing much to get excited about.
Basically, I have grown up on two main types of potato salad. At its simplest, American potato salad is a combination of cooked, cubed, mealy russet potatoes mixed with chopped celery, diced onions and bound with a mayonnaise-sour cream dressing. Chopped hard-boiled eggs, pickle relish, and prepared mustard are some typical additions. As with all recipes, creativity is only limited by your imagination, so numerous variations on this familiar theme abound. American potato salad, without a doubt, is enjoyed by countless people. But would I call it exciting?
German potato salad is the other type of potato salad, also popular and again with variations. Here the cooked potatoes are generally the red waxy type, thinly sliced and bound instead with a vinegar-bacon dressing. Unlike mayonnaise-based versions, German potato salad is typically served hot or at room temperature. I know a lot of folks who love this version. I like it, too, but most days? I can take it or leave it.
What is it, then, that has me so excited about potato salad?
Austrian potato salad is my latest discovery. Like its counterpart in Germany, this version is best served hot or at room temperature. Unlike its German counterpart, Austrian potato salad calls for potatoes boiled in their jackets and peeled while still warm. It also calls for chicken stock to both cook and bind this delicious creamy version. Here’s the exciting recipe. A real winner!
Austrian Potato Salad
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. water
1 t. salt
2 T. white wine cider, or distilled vinegar (divided)
1 T. sugar
1 T. Dijon mustard
¼ c. vegetable oil (not olive oil)
3/4 c. red onion, (for color) finely chopped
2 T. cornichons or dill pickle, finely chopped
2 T. chopped chives or green part of scallion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the cubed potatoes in a 12-inch skillet with the chicken stock, water, salt, sugar and 1 T. vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer slowly until the potatoes are barely fork tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove the cover, raise the heat and boil rapidly for 2 minutes to reduce the liquid. Place a colander in a large bowl and drain the potatoes, reserving ½ cup of the liquid.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ½ cup cooking liquid with the mustard, remaining vinegar, and oil. Add ½ c. of the cooked potatoes and mash with a potato masher or fork until the liquid is thickened.
Add the rest of the potatoes along with the chopped onion, cornichons and chives.
With a rubber spatula, gently fold all ingredients to combine. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander’s restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan City, Ind., and in Lake Geneva, Wis. He has also been executive chef at the Saddle & Cycle Club in Chicago. Frank lives in Forest Park, where he cooks for pleasure.