My grandma makes a really mean potato salad. And she will tell you that.
It’s always her job to make the macaroni and the potato salad at family functions. Pretty much all of them, too, but especially for summer BBQs. Bless her 84-year-old heart, too, because she will always take on the responsibility with full avidity. I love that lady.
My grandma’s potato salad is a lot like her: classic, straight-to-the-point, and timeless. My grandma, Angelina, is the nicest, sweetest, most warm-hearted person you would ever have the pleasure of meeting. However, with that said, it would also be wise not to cross her.
Sometimes, we don’t even understand how my grandmother can be so kind and see the good in so many people. Even the not-so-good ones. “If the devil knocked on her door,” my dad would say, “she would invite him in and ask him if he wants a glass of iced tea because he looks really thirsty.”
This is true, undeniably. Her kindness is a sincere one, too. One that stems from a truly genuine, beautiful place. What I love most about her, though, like all the strong, beautiful, lovely women that I truly admire, is that she still has a fiery side. Not a temper, per se (I’m pretty sure that I got all of that), but a fire that gets ignited when it absolutely must. Should you mess with someone she loves, for example, or should something she truly believes in get threatened. Or, sometimes, when her trusty lasagna recipe fails her. But her patience is remarkable. I have never, in my life, met anyone more patient.
And her potato salad is one of my favorite things she makes. When I go back home to visit, she will usually send me out the door with tupperware of it. If I’m being completely honest, I’m kind of a food snob, even though I absolutely don’t have the intention to be. I wouldn’t necessarily make a mayo-based potato salad at home, or something as simple. I would want to reinvent the wheel. Like this fiddlehead fern and purple potato salad, for example. But there is something so magical, wonderful, and familiar about the classics. The comfort foods. Our grandparent’s way of making something. And anytime I do anything in the kitchen, I think of that. I reinvent what I’ve been taught, and I do it with respect.
I don’t know if this salad would make grandma proud, though. Maybe. Or maybe she’d just ask me what the hell those green swirly things were and why my potatoes had turned purple.
If you’ve never seen a fiddlehead fern before, please try one. Their seasonal window is a short one indeed. They’re only usually available from mid-late April to early May…which is why I snatched them up as quickly as I could. They’re snappy, earthy, and taste similar to asparagus. They need to be cooked, though. Don’t eat these bad boys raw, but do blanch them for 15 minutes, roast them, steam them, or saute them.
If you can’t find these little green goodies, you can substitute them in this recipe for asparagus or green beans.
I think that this recipe is an especially gorgeous one. I absolutely love the purple potatoes, green ferns, bright yellow yolks, and brilliant fresh herbs. The vinaigrette is a simple one, and this salad is best served at room temperature. You can make it the day before, keep it cold, and bring it to a BBQ/picnic and it should be good to go. Since there’s no mayo, it’s the perfect outdoor side dish.
It may not be grandma’s potato salad, but it sure is pretty. And pretty darn tasty, too.
- 7 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 medium shallot, finely diced
- 1 cup fiddlehead ferns
- 2 pounds purple potatoes
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Make the hard-boiled eggs, refrigerate, and set aside.
- Make the dressing. Combine the finely diced shallot with the vinegar, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard. Let sit for 15 minutes.
- Clean, trim, and cook the fiddlehead ferns in salted boiling water for 15 minutes. Immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
- Boil the potatoes in salted boiling water until tender when pierced with a knife, but not mushy. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. When cool, cut the potatoes into medium-sized chunks.
- Place the warm potatoes in a bowl and mix with diced celery and fiddlehead ferns.
- Finish the vinaigrette by very slowly streaming in the olive oil while whisking. Season with a heavy pinch of sea salt and pepper.
- Drizzle the vinaigrette over the potatoes and mix gently, taking care not to mash the potatoes. Mix in the parsley and sprinkle with chives. Top with quartered eggs.
- Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Fiddlehead ferns can easily be swapped for asparagus or green beans.