The genius potato salad that turned a skeptic into potato salad

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Potato salad dates back to the early 19th century when German immigrants first arrived in America. Over the next two centuries, the dish made its mark as one of the mainstays of the kitchen and an important symbol of the family’s history and hierarchy.

But if I’m totally honest, I never fully understood the enduring appeal. In my experience with potato salad, at best, the dish is banal and poorly seasoned. And at worst, it’s sticky, heavy, chalky.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing inherently unpleasant about any of the ingredients: potatoes, of course, and mayonnaise, mustard, condiment, maybe some scallions or onions, paprika or hot sauce. All of these things are good, tasty and dynamic in their own right, full of flavor and sparkle!

But somehow, together, the components are not memorable. The sauce doesn’t give the potatoes a satisfying flavor, and the textures and seasonings that should be strong manage to dominate. and disappear into each other. No matter how much tweaked and tweaked it is based on family preferences and modern ingredients, potato salad still manages to look pedestrian and old-fashioned. That is, it needs a renovation to bring it from 1822 to 2022.

Enter: The groundbreaking new book, “Black Food,” curated and edited by Bryant Terry. The volume is a celebration and artifact of the modern African diaspora, with recipes, yes, but also meditations on music, culture, politics, and power. In the book’s introduction, Terry shares the purpose of the project and its attribution to its contributors: “I asked brilliant colleagues to offer dishes that incorporated their approach to cooking and drew on history and memory as they looked to the future.” And her 100+ recipes fit perfectly – including a forward-thinking potato salad by chef and stylist Monifa Dayo.

The genius of the salad is that it embraces the best of what potato salad already is and fills in the missing gaps to help it fulfill its true potential – presenting us with something that’s recognizable but totally untraditional. Great attention to technique and some very clever ingredient swaps bring this particular dish of fine for transcendent.

On the one hand, potatoes are treated with the care and delicacy they deserve – as they are, well, half the title of the recipe. Boiling cubes of Yukon Golds in a pot of water so salty it’s “cloudy,” as Dayo instructs, allows for an already deeply flavorful base to which we’ll add additional layers. In addition to the seasoning, Dayo’s recipe has a specific plan for cooking the potatoes, taking care to start them in cold water (to ensure a fully uniform rise in temperature and then eventual boiling) and then toss them in a baking sheet to finish, breaking them into irregular pieces to create craggy chunks.

Immediately basting the potatoes with the pickling liquid of pickled shallots and olive oil, then sprinkling them with more salt and pepper, introduces the energetic increase in acidity at the beginning of the seasoning. And the precision doesn’t stop there. Instead of mayonnaise, Dayo steers us toward the emulsion’s French cousin, aioli, with its fruity garlicky flavor, and smoothes it with sweet, grassy whole milk yogurt. Then the capers, pickled shallot solids, and coarsely chopped cilantro and parsley chunks bring out crispy, brine, and herb bitterness.

All that would have been enough, but no: poached eggs are packed on top and cut into quarters, their unctuous yolks mixing with the aioli-yogurt mixture. Tarragon and frilly dill leaves are plucked from their stems, waiting for the moment to act like a feather in the lid of this salad.

Right before the garnish, perhaps the most important step of the entire recipe takes place: the briefest and most gentle manual mixing of the salad ingredients, so delicate that the streaks of aioli and discs of poached egg whites remain intact and identifiable. in the mix. If you’re tempted to overdo it – well, don’t. Take it easy here; you worked so hard on the rest of your potato salad.

Revenue: The best potato salad ever by Monifa Dayo

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