Sunday, September 6, 2009

Great Canadian Potato Salad

Recipe #5:

I'm not sure what makes this recipe "Canadian" other than the fact that my eggs and potatoes were from Canada. Are Canadians known for their love of potato salad? Anyway, I ended up doing this recipe because I was eager to use up the half bag of potatoes left over from my pea soup recipe.

Taking my own advice, I didn't buy any ingredients for this recipe. What I didn't have on hand, I scrounged from my mom and my aunt Corry. How did I manage to get ingredients from two women who live at least 2.5 hours from me? I took my one woman cooking school show on the road! Yep, I kicked my cast iron cooking skills up a notch by doing this recipe at the cottage.

Cooking at the cottage always presents a extra edge of challenge:
1) - the kitchen is small and often crowded. Our family shares the cottage with my aunt/uncle/cousins/cousin-in-law/cousin's girlfriend/small dog, and we're often all hungry at the same time. From years of experience, we usually do the kitchen dance quite well but sometimes things get squishy.
2) - the pots & pans and bowls are often a charming melange of cast offs and "gently used" stuff that have been replaced with upgrades at home so they've been moved to the cottage. This translates to "recipe calls for medium bowl but I'll need to use what's available". It takes improv cooking skills to a new level of fun.
3) - the cottage is on an island and the closest grocery store is on the mainland, about a 15 minute drive away. This = bring everything you'll need, keep a mental inventory of what's already up there, and beg the neighbours for items that you realize with growing horror got left at home.

As is becoming usual, I made a few modifications to this recipe: I didn't measure the potatoes! I know, I can hear your gasp of shock. Instead, I just dumped all of the potatoes I had (ended up being about 6 cups instead of 4) in a big pot of water. After seeing my mother's celery seed (circa 1950s?), I balked and decided to use the vintage dill weed that my aunt Corry dug out of the cottage cupboard. She said it still had flavour and would be fine. She was right. I didn't have any sweet pickles so I finished the jar of sweet relish, hacked some kosher pickles into tiny pieces, then made up the balance in tangy relish. I also refused to add raw onion since I hate onion and have only recently forced myself to add it to soups that are getting thoroughly cooked. There you have it.

Overall, this recipe wasn't too bad. Certainly I didn't burn my hand blending it, or sob uncontrollably while chopping onion with an eye infection. Nor was I overwhelmed when the recipe didn't say at what temperature to cook the potatoes. Luckily, Corry and my culinary-wise cousin Jenny helped me out a lot with that dilemma. Here's what to do in case you too start to panic: put all of your potatoes, whole, with the skin on, in a big pot and fill to covering them with water. Put the stove burner on high to bring the pot to a boil, then turn the temperature down to 5 (if you're at my cottage) to maintain a low boil. The potatoes should stay at a low boil until they are "fork-tender". Admittedly, I struggled to apply the "fork-tender" advice which resulted in some potato dissection by my mom, followed by sampling a hot potato to see if it tasted too starchy. Yep, too starchy, back in the pot with you, whench. A few rounds of this circus and the final exasperated decision was to let it boil for 5 more minutes then take it off the stove no matter what happens. I lasted 3.5 minutes. At this point, the eggs were also in the potato pot. I had (carefully) chucked them in there to boil close to when the potatoes would be finished. 2 ingredients, 1 pot, fewer dishes. I'm happy.

While the potatoes were taking their sweet time getting ready, I mixed up the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge to blend the flavours. You'll notice this contradicts the instructions from Kraft. I sided with my aunt in the Corry vs. Kraft epic. Once the potatoes and eggs had sat in the fridge for a while (and I had unsuccessfully tried to have a nap), my aunt and I cut them all up into small bite-size pieces, after which I gently blended them with the sauce, using a wooden spoon. You don't want to savagely mash the mixture together because then it will turn blobby and gross, and you'll be stuck with it all because no one else will want to try it.

End result? Jenny gave it 5 forks up (means it's also vegetarian-friendly as long as you eat eggs), the rest of the family who tried it agreed that it was quite tasty and good. No one died or got sick either, at least they didn't before I left an hour later... I've already had some for breakfast today with no ill effects.

1 comment:

  1. Way to go!! Cooking at a cottage can definitely be an adventure... One year we had to cook our Thanksgiving turkey on the barbecue and other stuff over the wood stove as the power unexpectedly went out! I think we ate around 11pm...