A Chic Potato Salad | Cup of Jo


potato salad by Katherine Lewin

There are many reasons why I’m a fan of Katherine Lewin’s new book, Big Night, about dinner parties large and small: the loud, infectious, can-do spirit, laid out in primary colors. The intentional way she goes about believing that anything can be a big night. And the recipes, of course, crowdpleasers, all of them — Baked Challah French Toast with Maple Cream, Clams and Corn Pasta, a Bloody Mary Bar…you get the happy picture.

But here is where I related in the biggest way to Lewin: Before going on vacation, she advises, make a schedule for your meals. Yes. For the whole week. This is her thinking:

Planning your Vacation Big Nights in advance of vacation means you get to fully enjoy yourself on that vacation, instead of wondering what you should eat. Sure, scheduling vacation meals in advance doesn’t sound very…vacation-y. But who wants to be sitting on a beach, or hiking, or reading a book, while there is a little voice in the back of your head wondering What’s for dinner? Who’s going to make it? Do we need to go to the grocery store?

I am this person! And so is my husband, who earned the nickname “The Drill Sergeant of Leisure” in our family. It may sound counterintuitive to “plan to relax” but it makes sense once you think about it. Don’t you want to expend the least amount of psychic energy on meal planning in order to make brain space for the more important things, like tracking down the nearest swimming hole or drifting off to dreamland by the pool, book splayed across your chest?

Lewin created this plan to optimize a Big Party weekend with friends.

How delicious and perfectly summery does that look? I want to make every recipe on her schedule — and maybe I will! — but for now, that Chic Potato Salad is calling. Here’s the recipe.

A Chic Potato Salad
Serves 10-12

3 pounds baby or small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
Kosher salt
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
6 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch celery, including any leaves
1 bunch scallions, or 2 large shallots
6 hard-boiled eggs
6 ounces cornichons
1 bunch fresh dill, parsley, or a mix (about 4 ounces)
1 lemon
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise (optional)

In a large pot, combine the potatoes with 3/4 cup salt. (Don’t freak out about the quantity of salt. It’s to properly season the potatoes—you will not be drinking the water!) Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and 6 tablespoons of the olive oil until emulsified to make the dressing. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and and lots of pepper.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and let cool for about 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Halve the potatoes, or quarter them if larger, and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and give them a good toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight, tossing them a couple of times, if you remember.

When ready to assemble, remove the potatoes from the fridge and let them come to room temperature, about an hour (the oil may have solidified while it chilled).

Meanwhile, thinly slice the celery and scallions on the bias (if using shallots, mince them) and add them to the bowl with the potatoes. Finely chop the hard-boiled eggs, cornichons, herbs (reserving a big handful), and any celery leaves; add them to the bowl. Zest and juice the lemon into a small bowl, then whisk in the mustard and mayonnaise (if using). Pour over the potato mixture. Toss to combine, then season with more salt and lots of pepper to taste. The assembled salad can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Top with the reserved herbs and a glug of olive oil before serving.

What do you think? Would you plan an entire week of vacation meals? Katherine, we love Big Night!

(Photo by Emma Fishman.)

P.S. A genius potato salad trick and six summer spritzes.

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