Monday, July 13, 2009

German Potato Salad (PTC - DS)

Old timers may remember the TV sitcom Happy Days, in particular an episode where the patriarch Howard Cunningham (the portly wise dad played by Tom Bosley) brought home a hundred-pound sack of potatoes, so that mother Marian could make potato salad for Mr. C's company picnic.

That episode in particular ended with the entire family trucking in bucket after tub of leftover potato salad. The problem, apparently, was that Mr. C's favorite potato salad was made with mustard and onion instead of mayonnaise.

I couldn't help but recall this episode when I came across this particular recipe in Personal Trainer: Cooking. This salad does use mustard and onion, as well as white wine vinegar. (There is, in the American section of PTC, a recipe for American-style potato salad which (I think) does use mayonnaise, but for now let's try the German version.

Ingredients: One of the faults I can find with PTC is that sometimes the programmer leaves things a bit vague. For example: cooking oil. Does that mean olive, or something lighter like peanut or corn? PTC doesn't say; I opted to use canola oil.

The oil forms a dressing along with white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, Italian parsley, and salt and pepper. Here I confess I made a substitution: I thought I already had a bottle of wine vinegar at home when I went shopping for ingredients, but it turned out to be red wine vinegar. So I decided to use apple cider vinegar, and crossed my fingers.

This genericness was also troublesome when it came to potatoes; the recipe called for large ones, but not which type. Red potatoes, from PEI, might have been the natural type, since PEI reds are meant for boiling; I opted for regular white potatoes instead. And I used a Spanish onion.

Techniques: This turns out to be one of the easiest recipes, in terms of technique. You boil the potatoes for 20 minutes with skin on, then peel and slice into quarter-inch half-moons. The pictures give the impression that you could peel the skin off with your fingers; that may be so, but that struck me as a bit too time-consuming. Using a peeler worked okay, although the softened skin tended to plug up the peeler.

Onion gets chopped fine, then prepare a dressing with a second pan using vinegar, mustard, and cooking oil with seasonings. Then you lightly heat the chopped onion in the dressing before pouring the results over the potato slices, then toss, cool, toss again with the chopped parsley, then serve.

One thing: you might get the impression, due to the step-by-step nature of the way PTC describes things, that this could be a time-consuming thing. Not so: there's nothing to stop you from chopping up the onion and the parsley during the 20 minutes that the potatoes are boiling, or even getting the dressing ready during that time.

Results: Using the cider vinegar combined with the Dijon mustard resulted in an odd smell that might turn off some people, but when I tasted the resulting potato it seemed fine; just a little bland. Doing more seasoning, and using a proper vinegar, might have resulted in something stronger, but I'm not going to complain about the taste of this one.

This recipe is definitely one to do if you're just learning the basics of cooking: just using a straight chop with a knife, and using the stove. Basic skills result in an acceptable picnic dish.

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