Photographs and memories and potato salad

This is a story that began with a recipe for Leek and Dijon Potato Salad: Here are the ingredients: (scroll to the bottom to see the recipe)

  • 2 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
  • 1/3 plus 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium to large leek, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped Vidalia onion, rinsed and squeezed dry in a paper towel
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

I found this mayonnaise-free recipe at Parsenip in June and was oddly looking forward to the opportunity to prepare it. I say oddly because I’ve avoided mayo-based salads all my life and had never eaten, or even made, potato salad before. But I was intrigued by this recipe, and wondered why.

Food often evokes memories, of course. In this case, I discovered that sometimes the memories are so elusive, and the food item so rarely cooked, the recollections takes time to surface. So the thought of potato salad was stuck in my head, and I wondered for two months.

In August I finally had an occasion to try the recipe. Then while slicing potatoes – a flash of memories. Cruising across the endless Lake Ponchartrain Causeway. Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico’s white sand, slathering Bain de Soleil SPF 2 on my bare arms and legs. Awkwardly dancing to Nights In White Satin in a hotel bar, sipping diet soda while our chaperones tossed back their scotch and soda. And suddenly I remembered. As a teenager, on a spring break trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama with the (co-ed) Boy Scout group at my church, I helped make a similar potato salad.

I must have offered; it’s the kind of thing I would have done as a teenager. I remember the off-white formica countertop of that house on the beach, the large red potatoes simmering in a stockpot, the chaperone demonstrating how to pull off the peel once they’re cooked and laughing as he tossed a cup of beer, then a cup of tequila, in the dressing. I remember him telling me that every recipe was better if you added alcohol. It was particularly well-liked at dinner. I remember being surprised at how much I enjoyed chopping and mixing, and also at how much I liked the potato salad.  After a week on the beach we drove to New Orleans, where we ate beignets in the morning, visited cemeteries in the afternoon, and bar-hopped Bourbon Street at night. It was the ’70’s. I was fifteen. I had fun, and kept an empty cocktail glass as a souvenir for a while before life moved on and the trip was just a blip in my mind.

It’s now the Teens. I’ve been chaperoning kids now for almost two decades.  So with an adult’s point of view, I realized while slicing potatoes this August that we probably weren’t particularly safe on that trip. Our adults were drinking and driving. They took us to bars. They thought it was funny. All fairly horrifying thoughts to me as a mother. I take this parenting business pretty seriously – taking defensive driving classes and clearing all the alcohol out of the kitchen before Kid One’s first big party. I have a hard time now imagining what in the world those chaperones were thinking. Even if it was the ’70’s.

By the time I finished thinking all of this, my potato and leek concoction was ready to serve. I did tweak it a bit; I was out of dijon so substituted brown mustard then topped it with a big handful of crumbled bacon. My mother and father-in-law joined us outside for mixed grill and salad. It was tangy, crunchy, savory, and filling and received rave reviews.

This recipe has what I think of as an elegant flair, so I thought it would be a perfect side dish to serve at my sister-in-law’s baby shower recently. I flew to St. Louis for the occasion and spent an afternoon in another sister-in-law’s kitchen preparing it for our family and friends. I could try and make some connections; the mama-to-be was a baby herself when I was on that trip back then, and she went to college in New Orleans. Or I could not, and just say it was really good potato salad and a lovely dish to serve at a shower.

Here the story ends. I found a handful of photos from that trip in an album high in my closet. They’re are faded to a pale red-orange and depict people I no longer know. If I ever even knew them at all.

Potato salad with leek and dijon dressing
 
This is an elegant potato salad that is equally good on cold nights and hot afternoons.
Author:
Recipe type: salad, side
Ingredients
  • 2½ pounds small red potatoes
  • ⅓ plus 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium to large leek, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped Vidalia onion, rinsed and squeezed dry in a paper towel
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Wash and boil potatoes until cooked through. Rinse, drain, and cool.
  2. Make the dressing in a small bowl by stirring together garlic, mustard, wine, vinegar, salt, and pepper until salt is dissolved.
  3. Whisk in olive oil and set aside.
  4. Cut potatoes in halves (or quarters if they are large) and gently place in a large bowl.
  5. Add leek, onion, and parsley. Stir gently.
  6. Pour dressing over the vegetables. Stir gently again.
  7. Cover and refrigerate.
Notes
This salad is good when made the day before and the flavors have had time to combine. Serve at room temperature.

 

2 Comments

  1. This potato salad was truly delicious! I didn’t miss the mayo at all.
    Love the story of your high school trip. I, too, am horrified at the notion of some of the things that other kids’ parents permitted…Like the champagne fountain at the pre-prom party; the mom of a friend who took me bowling when I was 14 and got me drunk on beer. Funny thing is, they were all probably a little younger than we are now!

    Reply
  2. First, thanks for this yummy looking recipe. I can’t wait to try it.

    Second, I think food (and olfactory) memories are some of the strongest ones we hold. Your blog makes me think that maybe when are kids are studying for tests, we should have them study near food cooking, and then have them bring snacks of that food to school to help them retrieve what they studied! We can start a movement.

    Reply

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