Sunday, May 16, 2010

Recipe: Potato Salad

I'm not the biggest fan of potato salad, but my mom is. So for Mother's Day, I made a vibrant potato salad, filled with red potatoes, steamed carrots, chopped celery, and just a few other choice ingredients, including hard-cooked eggs.

Hard-cooked eggs are one of two things that take real care and experience in the kitchen to make. The other is rice. There are many very good cooks in this world, but until they master both rice and hard-cooked eggs, they aren't truly experts in the kitchen. (Coincidentally, I have yet to master rice!)

To make hard-cooked eggs that do not stink like sulfur or taste like powder, start with a cold pot of water, enough to cover the eggs. Turn the heat on medium-low, and think to yourself that you are warming the eggs until they set. It's this mentality that turns out a bright, soft, luscious yolk.

Heat the eggs and water gently until it comes to a slow boil. Keep your eye on a clock, and let the boil continue exactly 3 minutes. Remove the eggs and submerge them in a bowl of ice water. When they are cool enough to handle (about 5 minutes in the cold water), but still warm (which is how I like to eat them) peel them with care. If they are difficult to peel, they are probably cooked right. However, the more overcooked they are, the easier they are to peel.

Gently hard-cooked eggs are delicious on toast with black pepper.

Once you've mastered the eggs, you can make this amazingly light potato salad, where they are showcased on top.

Vibrant Potato Salad for Mother's Day.
8-10 small red potatoes
2 large carrots
4 ribs of celery
3 to 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Hellmann's Mayonnaise (also known as Best Foods)
1 tablespoon Dijon or brown mustard
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
salt and pepper to taste
4 hard-cooked eggs
Optional additions and garnishes: fresh dill, parsley, chives.

Scrub the potatoes clean, then steam or boil them until they can be easily pierced with a fork, about 25-30 minutes. Remember, it's almost impossible to overcook red potatoes while they're in their skins, so don't worry about the cooking time too much.

When the potatoes are almost done, put the carrots into the same pot, and steam or boil them for about 5 minutes. They should turn a bright orange color, but not be soft.

Remove the carrots and potatoes and set aside until they are cool enough to handle, but still warm.

Meanwhile, chop the celery, and slice the eggs. Set aside.

While the potatoes are still warm, quarter them and splash them with 2 to 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar. The potatoes will absorb the vinegar. You don't need a pool at the bottom.

Peel the dice the carrots.

In a small dish, whisk together the remaining tablespoon of vinegar with the mayonnaise, mustard, and sugar or honey. Taste, and if you prefer your potato salad tangy, perhaps add a splash of red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar.

Toss together the celery, potatoes, and carrots. Dress with the sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste. Lay the egg slices on top. Garnish with fresh herbs if you like, and enjoy at room temperature.


Leigh said...

Huh. This is interesting to me because I use hard-boiled eggs in my potato salad too and appreciate that they have to be done just right, but this is not how I cook them at all.
I wait until the pot of water is at a rapid boil, then slowly add the eggs and let them cook for exactly 12 minutes. Then I submerge them in cold water, wait, peel, and enjoy. I wonder what the science behind these two different approaches says.

Jill E. Duffy said...

Mom taught me the 12-minute method, but it has a couple of problems.

1) You have to drop eggs into boiling water, which is always dangerous, for both my hands and the eggs!

2) Egg shells are porous, so when you slowly heat them, the air has a chance to expand and escape slowly through the shell; when the eggs heat quickly, the air expands faster than it can escape, and the shells can crack or break, sending albumen into the water or letting hot water into the egg and cooking it too quickly.

The slow-simmer-to-3-minute-boil method also adapts better to different altitudes, although the 12-minute method scales up or down more easily.

Anonymous said...

I hate to tell you, but those eggs are soft-boiled, not hard-boiled. Correct hard-cooked eggs have solid yolks, not runny yolks.

Jill E. Duffy said...

Soft boiled eggs are liquid-runny on the inside. Mine come out "set" but soft and bright orange. Sometimes they are a tad runny, in which case I would consider them slightly under-cooked. When this is the case, after I shell the first one, I will put the rest back into the pot of warm water and let them hang out for another 10 minutes to firm up more.

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