Hamburgers & Potato Salad

Part one of my meal plan is complete. However I am almost certain parts 2 & 3 will never materialize. Its too late in the week to have them on back to back nights, we've already got plans for dinner Saturday and Lauren specifically said that beer can chicken is of no interest to her when I brought it up. Tonight we're having chicken kebabs.

So last night we had the first burgers of the spring/summer grilling season. I doubt you need a recipe, but here are the ingredients we generally use:

  • Certified Angus Ground Chuck (it was on sale, otherwise I'd just use regular ground beef)
  • Onions
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • Pepper
  • Egg
Mix it all together to your taste, add one egg for binding, form patties and grill. In my opinion the extra lean (4% fat) ground beef isn't great for burgers. I'd find something with at least 10% fat, or add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to your ground beef mix.

Anyhow the point of this post isn't the burgers. It is the homemade potato salad. I've always been mildly annoyed that the grocery store deli charges $3-$6 per pound for potato salad. Not enough to do anything about it, but that all ended last night. Never again will I wonder how long that potato salad has been sitting in the display case, subconsciously forcing me to chose the whitest (and typically most bland) variety available so as not to mess with the unknown yellow of the other varieties. Sure, that yellowing might be from mustard, but are you willing to take that chance at $4.99/lb?

The recipe I chose came from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. It doesn't have a fancy name, just potato salad:
  • 3 pounds small white potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
Directions Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters or in half, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.

As for the changes, Lauren and I went in a couple of different directions. First, the potatoes. As I mentioned earlier the whiter the potato salad, the more bland it looks and often tastes. So we skipped the small white (russet) potatoes and went for something with more flavor. When choosing your potatoes here is what you need to know:

While Russets are still by far the most commonly used variety of potato , consider mixing it up a little. There are several high-moisture varieties with a texture that many people refer to as 'waxy'. Among these varieties are Yellow Finns, Yukon Golds, and red potatoes. Their high moisture means that they have a more pleasant texture when they are cold, and their waxier flesh holds up better to chopping and to tossing with dressing than that of the drier, more mealy Russets.

Following that line of reasoning we chose redskin potatoes. I think they may have been some kind of hybrid Yukon Red or at least named in such a way on the packaging. Whatever they are they were on sale for $2.50 for 5 lbs at Meijer this week.

Our second change was that we didn't simmer and steam the potatoes. We placed them in cold water, brought them to a boil and boiled them whole for almost 20 minutes, taking them out when they slid off of our potato stabbing fork (aka fork tender). You could chop the potatoes beforehand, but the smaller the pieces the smaller your margin of error in cooking them. Cook too much and you might as well turn it into mashed potatoes. Once we thought the potatoes were done we dumped them into a colander and tried to stop the cooking process by running them under cold water. As soon as they were cool enough to handle (3-4 mins), we chopped them into potato salad appropriate chunks, layed them out on a baking sheet and stuck them in the fridge for about 20 minutes while we prepared the burgers.

The last two changes in potato salad were the use of green onions instead of red, and dried dill instead of fresh. Drieb herbs are quite a bit more potent than fresh (generally 1 tbsp fresh = 1 tsp dry, so 3:1), so if you make the potato salad this way you're going to want to use about 1/3 of what the recipe calls for. I didn't really measure, but I estimated about 1/8 cup of dried dill.

One thing I forgot was that while I did let the potatoes cool a bit, I in no way came close to waiting hours (or even one hour) to eat the finished potato salad. It might be better today at lunch than it was immediately after we made it last night, but this isn't a recipe you must make the night before.

I am about 90% certain that the next time I'm asked to bring a side dish, this potato salad will be it.