Senior Web Editor Jessica Mordo discovered a surprising new way with cucumbers while making Japanese Potato Salad.
Why this recipe? In my humble opinion, no picnic (or barbecue for that matter) is complete without potato salad. I mean, potato salad is the stuff of Kickstarter campaigns, so I know I’m not alone. I was intrigued by this recipe’s unique twists on the classic. First, it uses mayo and vinegar; I like potato salads that use either, so why not enjoy the two together at last? Second, the use of Asian flavors put a tantalizingly different spin on the dish that I was game to try.
What was it like to make it? Pretty easy. The prep mainly involved chopping, boiling, mashing, and mixing, so it wasn’t overly precious and complicated—always a plus for me! I made the salad a day ahead, but it would’ve been a cinch to prepare the day of a picnic. I have to confess that I did cut one very big corner and used store-bought mayo instead of DIY as the recipe suggests (and not the recommended specialty brand of mayo at that). One aspect of the prep that surprised me was de-moisturizing the cucumbers. Who knew?! When I first sliced up my very long English cucumber, I thought it looked like waaaaaaay too much in proportion to the potatoes. But after performing the recipe’s salting and wringing trick, I had just the right amount of cucumber in the end.
How did it turn out? I wasn’t wild about the dish from an aesthetic perspective, but then again, we are talking about potato salad. The bright green scallions and edamame, and orange carrots popped nicely, but it basically looked like mashed potatoes with some stuff mixed in. Good thing it was so tasty! The flavors really worked, and I liked the crunch of the veggies against the creaminess of the potatoes.
Will I make it again? Perhaps. It was easy and tasty, and it’s nice to have an alternative to classic potato salad.
Would I bring it to a picnic? While I liked it, the dish wasn’t one of the standouts among the delicious recipes my fellow Cookbook Clubbers created from this book. Just sayin’.
JAPANESE POTATO SALAD from The Picnic Serves 4 to 6
"This dish offers the definitive answer to that Thanksgiving imponderable: Why can't we eat mashed potatoes year-round?" write the authors of The Picnic. "We can! And in this Japanese twist on potato salad, they're even better by the chilled spoonful."
Ingredients: Fine sea salt2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed1 cup D.I.Y. Mayonnaise (recipe follows) or store-bought, preferably Kewpie brand Japanese mayonnaise2 tablespoons rice vinegar2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced diagonally1 cup fresh or frozen shelled edamame1 Japanese or English cucumber, halved lengthwise and very thinly sliced4 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
In the basket: serving spoons
- Fill a large saucepan two-thirds full with water and season generously with salt. Peel the potatoes, cut them into 2-inch chunks, and drop them into the water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the potatoes are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside for 5 minutes to steam dry. While the potatoes are still hot, mash them using a ricer, food mill, or potato masher. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the warm potatoes and whip with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, fill a small saucepan with water, season it generously with salt, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the carrots and edamame and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and dry well.
- Put the cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat evenly and set aside for 15 minutes. Wrap the cucumbers in a kitchen towel or paper towels and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
- Add the cucumbers, carrots, edamame, and green onions to the cooled potato mixture and stir to combine well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until the picnic, or for up to 2 days. Just before leaving for the picnic, transfer the salad to a serving bowl and cover tightly for transport.
Makes 1 1/3 cups
"Homemade mayonnaise trumps store-bought any day, and it's straightforward to make," the authors of The Picnic assert. "Try this once and next time you'll be whipping up a batch in minutes."
2 large egg yolks (preferably fresh eggs from a farmers’ market)2 teaspoons cider vinegar1 teaspoon Dijon mustard½ teaspoon fine sea salt¾ cup vegetable oil¼ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil2 teaspoons fresh lemon juicePinch of freshly ground pepper
- Put the egg yolks, vinegar, mustard, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. With the motor running, begin adding the vegetable oil in a slow stream, then the olive oil, until it emulsifies and thickens. Scrape the sides of the bowl again. When the emulsion has formed, begin adding the oil in a faster stream until it is all incorporated. If at any point after the emulsion forms, the mayonnaise becomes too thick, add about ½ teaspoon of the lemon juice to loosen it, and continue. To finish, pulse in the lemon juice and pepper, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Store the mayonnaise for up to 1 week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Tiny tip: If the mayonnaise separates after some of the oil is added, the emulsion has broken. To fix a broken mayonnaise, whisk together 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water in a clean bowl. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the broken mayonnaise. When it has all emulsified, continue adding the remaining oil and proceed as directed in the recipe.Excerpted from The Picnic by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2015.