The year is 1976. It’s the summer before my ninth birthday. There I am, smiling away (not much changes, right?) in Nanny and Poppy’s backyard on Silver Lane. In front of me is a freshly made batch of Nanny’s potato salad, still warm.
Dig our tablecloth on the picnic table, by the way. Is that a stylish touch or what? We weren’t wealthy, but we always had at least three things: each other, good food and a little bit of style.
My mom has that funny expression on her face. And that’s my uncle Greg on the other side of the table. It’s the first time I ever had Nanny’s potato salad. I remember liking it so much, we took some home. The next day, my mom dished out some out for me. Cold. “Aren’t you going to heat it up?” I asked.
So, that’s where it starts. Warm potato salad. It’s not just my childhood memory of how I think things should be. Thirty-seven years later, warm potato salad still sounds right to me.
I recently learned of Salad Olivier–a.k.a Insalata Russa or Russian Salad. How about that? Potatoes and carrots and peas and diced pickles! Doesn’t that sound good? Well, aren’t you going to heat it up? It’s traditionally served cold, but it sure tastes great warm with the best wurst from Noack’s to go with! And, by now, you know the drill. Of course we’re gonna crinkle-cut those carrots.
SALAD OLIVIER OR INSALATA RUSSA (RUSSIAN SALAD) A LA KATTY
2 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, diced
2 cups frozen peas
3 carrots, peeled and crinkle-cut
1/3 of a large sweet onion, finely chopped (sauté in bacon grease or olive oil if you’re short on bacon)
about 1/4 cup of pickles, diced (I used Vlasic Stackers Zesty Dill—3 Stackers slices, very zesty indeed!)
black pepper to taste
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 a fresh lemon, squeezed
¼ cup parsley, minced
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Penzey’s horseradish powder (yes, a random ingredient, but I like it–so add it if you have it!)
First, saute the onions. It’s handy if you’ve already made a trip to Noack’s. In addition to the best wurst, they also have killer bacon. Save the bacon drippings from breakfast and sizzle up the onions till nice and soft and golden. Set aside.
Now, may I suggest boiling the potatoes in a large stockpot of salted water? It’s really preferable to filling them to the brim of a pan that’s not quite big enough and watching them boil all over the stovetop. Oh, not like I know from personal experience or anything. Cook just till fork-tender and drain.
Meanwhile, same as the potatoes (badadas), boil the carrots till fork-tender. Add 2 cups frozen peas to the pan when the carrots are almost done—just throw ‘em in for about a minute or two.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Then fold the sauteed onions, warm potatoes, carrots and peas into the dressing. Don’t delay–serve right away with your favorite wurst. Or eat it cold if you must. Just heat up my portion, OK?
Let’s surry down to a stoned soul picnic with the family. ♫ Red yellow honey, sassafras and moonshine. ♫ I can only get there in my mind’s eye now, but if I could make it happen, I would definitely bring this potato salad. Warm. On a picnic table with a tablecloth, capisce? See you there!