Herbed Potato Salad

I made a dynamite potato salad for supper tonight. Served warm, it was a delight to the taste buds, and made up the main portion of my supper (I had a lot of steak left over).

The key to this salad is to use fresh herbs. They have a brighter taste than their dried counterparts and make the salad really dance on the tongue.

Herbed Potato Salad

56 ounces golf-ball sized red or white potatoes, scrubbed
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/3 cup finely diced shallots
3 tablespoons sherry or champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon

Place the potatoes in a large pan filled with heavily salted water. I used 1/4 cup of salt to 3 quarts of water. If the water is well salted enough, you won’t need to add more salt at the end. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium and boil for about 15 minutes, until a paring knife can be easily inserted into the potatoes.

While the potatoes are being boiled, whisk the oil, shallots, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a non-reactive bowl and set aside.

When the potatoes are ready, drain them and layer in a single layer on a baking sheet. Set aside until cool enough to handle, but still warm, 15 to 20 minutes. Slice the potatoes into half in rounds and put in a large bowl.

Pour the vinaigrette and herbs over the potatoes and toss to combine. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

I really loved this potato salad, which has a great contract between the acid of the vinegar and the brightness of the fresh herbs. It’s especially good still warm.

Great Gratins

We’ve all had something called potatoes au gratin. It comes from that Betty Crocker box and I’ve never really been sure of the difference between it and the similarly boxed scalloped potatoes. But, a real gratin is something of an unctuous marvel. All cream and melty cheese with a little bit of a crust on top, it’s marvelous. If I didn’t have to share, I could eat a whole one by myself.

Here’s the thing – gratin is kind of a method, not just a dish. You can make gratins out of most any vegetable. Here in the states, we seem to call most of these casseroles, but there are a fair number of gratins that we lump into this list.

From what I can tell, any dish of a vegetable baked in milk and/or cream, and topped with cheese is pretty much a gratin, so I’ve been eating them all my life and just didn’t realize it until I started paying attention.

Tonight, I made a wonderfully simple potato gratin, but I also make them with leeks, brocolli and cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. I just change the amount of liquid and the kinds of cheese.

Potato Gratin
1.5 pounds of potatoes (you can use any kind you want, I used Yukon golds)
2 cups of cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
4-5 oz of shredded Gruyere
4-5 oz of grated Parmesian

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

The key to the great potato gratin is to have thin, even slices of potato. I use a mandolin and slice them to about 3/16″. I wouldn’t make them any thicker than 1/2″.

Arrange the potato slices in layers in a 13×9″ baking dish. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the layered potatoes. Pour the cream over the potatoes. You want the cream to come about 2/3rds of the way up the potatoes in the pan, which can be kind of hard to tell. I used about 2 cups in mine. Sprinkle the nutmeg and pepper over the top. The even scatter the cheeses over the top. Assembly is easy here.

Put in the oven for about an hour – you want the cheese to be melted and starting to brown, and you want the potatoes cooked through.

You can play with the cheeses. Use cheddar or comte or other strongly flavored hard cheese.

This is an marvelous side and I really encourage you to try it from scratch, instead of out of the box.

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Tater Tot Casserole

Okay, okay…everyone has a terrible for you beloved comfort dish. This one is my wife’s. I like it okay too.

Tater Tot Casserole

Ingredients:
1 package tater tots (I like Ore Ida Extra Crispy or Onion)
1-2 lbs of hamburger
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1-2 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
Lawrey’s Season Salt to taste

Brown the hamburger and set aside. ¬†Add the oil to the pan and sautee the onion over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes until the garlic starts to smell nutty. Mix the onion & garlic, and hamburger together and sprinkle with Lawrey’s Season Salt.

Put the tater tots in the bottom of a 13×9 dish. Cover with the hamburger mixture. Cover that with the mushroom soup.

Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 40-50 minutes…the tater tots should be turning brown.