Ah, dinner party, uh? You’re having people over. Hot, no HOT, summer nights. What’s better than a crisp, cool potato salad? And so easy to make for 10 or 12 or 20 people. Just scale it up.
Well, actually, there are a couple of stops here. There is someone who does not like hardboiled eggs. Someone hates onions. No pork [that is bacon] for still someone more.
All of a sudden, that “easy” potato salad becomes a logistic nightmare. What do you put in, what do you pull back on, how can you please everyone? And, of course, you don’t want someone breaking out in a rash or needing a paper bag to control asthma.
What to do? Make a base salad. One that is safe. Then scoop out portions that need special handling and add in the extras you want to make your salad distinctive. This is just what we did last weekend for 12 friends. No bacon for Erin. No onions for Cynthia. For the rest of us? Everything!
Base Potato Salad for 12
Yield: plenty for 12 people
- 5 pounds of small white or new [red] potatoes
- 4 stalks of celery
- ½ cup of diced pickles [sweet and sour, gherkins, …]
- 2 cups of mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup juice from the jar of pickles
- ⅓ cup of red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper
Place the potatoes in a wide pan and cover with water. Place on the stove and put the heat on high. Bring the water to a boil and reduced the heat to medium-high. Cook 10+ minutes, or just until a sharp knife literally slips easily into the potatoes.
Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.
In a large metal bowl, large enough to eventually hold all the potatoes add the mayonnaise, pickle juice and red wine vinegar. Whisk to mix. Add additional ingredients to adjust the flavor of the dressing. The red wine vinegar will give you that “bite” you expect. The pickle juice will add flavor that you don’t expect but will love.
Taste and add salt or pepper to your personal taste.
Dice the celery and add to the dressing.
Slice each potato and add to the bowl. Carefully stir to mix potatoes and dressing. If you have 1 to 3 people requiring special handling, take out a suitable portion of the salad and place in a smaller bowl. Refrigerate that smaller bowl now.
Adjustments to the Potato Salad:
Now you can have fun with that based salad, adding new ingredients for flavor or decoration including:
- 2 medium red onions, diced
- 2-4 raw jalapenos, sliced, membranes and seeds removed, then diced
- ½ cup of pickled jalapenos, diced
- 3-4 hardboiled eggs, sliced [VERY optional]
- 4 sticks of bacon, cooked crisply and crumbled
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
If you are using onions, add now, mix, and then refrigerate that big bowl. The same holds for the raw or pickled jalapenos. If you are a boiled egg person, then add them now, too.
The bacon can be added now, too, and mixed in. Or wait until just before serving and sprinkle over the top for decoration and not so much for flavor. The diced red pepper is for final decoration as well.
After putting in adjustments for flavor, put that big bowl in the fridge for at least two hours. I used the word “crisp” earlier and it is just that wonderful feel that you want to enjoy.
For the dressing, consider some combination of mayonnaise and sour cream. For 5 pounds of potatoes, a total of 2 cups here will make for a very lightly dressed salad. For the more commonly dressed salad, 2 ½ cups is a better choice. If you want the salad drenched, then 3 cups will have you reaching for an umbrella.
Source: Brian O’Rourke
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM macro lens, F/5.0 for 1/50th second at ISO 1000
Congratulations. You’ve just cooked a chicken. You may be carving it up, prematurely because you are eager to get to the table. What’s the next thing you do?
Clean that roasting pan while it is hot and before things begin to “clunk” on the bottom and sides?
No. Leave the pan. Using that pan, which is a treasure trove of flavors, is your first step. Your chicken should rest before you can carve it up anyway. So, put the roasting pan on your stove top. Stir the juice there with a wooden spoon. Break up the solid bits that are “flavor piles” lying there. Now, add something. Peas, beans, corn, onions or a combination of some or all. How much to add? It depends on your chicken but easily two or three cups of veggies is fine. You may want to add a little butter for flavor and additional liquid. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice. Some salt, some pepper. Stir over medium heat for 3-7 minutes until thoroughly cooked. If you wish, add some white wine or even sparkling. Keep in the pan on low heat to remain warm as you finally do carve up that chicken. Then serve as your side dish, adjusting the seasonings to your taste.
You’ve just made a one pot meal in two stages.
Now for step two. After dinner, return to that carcass. Strip it of the remaining meat. For a normal size chicken that has been carved up before to serve 2-3 people, the carcass will still have nearly a cup of scraps on it. After all, when you are carving and want to begin eating, you really have not focused on stripping off all the meat. Now you can. Except, except, you don’t want to get every last scrap of meat off. Get rid of the skin, but leave the ultimate final bits of meat on the bone. Then crush the carcass into pieces, and put the mess into a plastic bag. Put the bag in the refrigerator or refrigerator.
You’ve just made the protein component for a terrific stock. The next day, the next week, plunge those bones with vegetable scraps into cold water and heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for hours. Indulge in the fragrant scents. The resulting broth, once you have removed the chicken pieces and any veggie chunks, is perfect by itself for a simple meal. Or add noodles. Or make risotto.
The Chicken Salad
And now for step three. When you did strip off the carcass, you got some meat, perhaps up to a full cup. Place the meat into a metal bowl. Add mayonnaise, in the ratio 3 parts meat to one part mayo. [Or, if your wife is not going to eat it, make the ratio 2 to 1]. Add some lemon juice to taste, plus salt and pepper. I like to add about a quarter cup of chopped candied jalapenos for heat and sweetness. Or you can add pickle. When you were making that roast chicken and perhaps a salad, there may have been some onion pieces or herbs that were chopped up. You have to clean your kitchen up anyway. Don’t treat those goodies as trash. They are finishing components.
Mix it all up and refrigerate.
You’ve just made some wonderful chicken salad. Not the manufactured goop you find in your store. But, real home-made chicken salad. It’s ready to be scooped onto lettuce, put in a sandwich or used top off your favorite crackers.
You roasted a chicken, but then you accomplished a great deal more.
Photo credits: Canon T21 with 18-55 mm Macro lens, first shot at F/4.0, 1/60th second, ISO 400 and the second at F/5.0, 1/50th second, ISO 3200.