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Recipe: Potato and Asparagus Salad

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

From the essay, "Recipe." by Phyllis Grant, included in The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage:

Potato and Asparagus Salad with Crème Fraîche and Poached Eggs

Serves 4 or so

  • Lots of kosher salt 
  • 12 Yukon gold or German butterball potatoes
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, bashed, Microplaned, or finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 10 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 4 pieces each, or 40 asparagus tips (save the stalks for asparagus stock or soup)
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons any kind of white vinegar
  • ¾ cup crème fraîche
  • 3 spring onion stems (or chives), thinly sliced

Fill a large pot three-quarters of the way up with cold water. Add several tablespoons salt. Peel the potatoes and slide them into the water right away. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, turn down to a simmer. The potatoes are done when a paring knife slides in easily. If you’re not sure, just cut one open and taste. Drain the potatoes in a colander. If they’re falling apart a bit, remove them one at a time with a slotted spoon. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, combine the shallots and garlic. Cover with the lemon juice and champagne vinegar and let sit for a few minutes. Whisk in the mustard, then slowly whisk in half the olive oil. Taste. This salad is best with a very tangy dressing. Add more olive oil if it’s too strong.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn down to a simmer and add the asparagus tips. Cook very briefly (1 to 2 minutes, depending on size). Taste one. Make sure there’s still some crunch left. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a kitchen towel. Save the broth for soup or lunch or sick kids.

Fill a large wide pot of water for the eggs and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat so low that there are no bubbles on the surface of the water. Add the white vinegar and a pinch of salt. Stir. Crack 1 egg into a bowl. Slide the egg into the water. Repeat with remaining eggs. I like the yolks very runny, but I hate it when the white is still raw on top. The only way I know to test for doneness is to use a slotted spoon to pull an egg out of the water and touch the top to make sure it’s completely cooked. Slide an egg onto a clean kitchen towel or paper towel. Remove all the eggs the same way. It’s OK for them to sit for a few minutes. If you want, you can reheat the eggs in the hot water right before serving.

Slice the potatoes and spread them out in a single layer on a big plate or platter. Salt each slice. Spoon on the shallot dressing. Scatter the asparagus tips all over the potatoes. Carefully (or not) blop crème fraîche all over the potatoes and asparagus. Add more salad dressing. Place the eggs on top. Add a few sloshes of olive oil and sprinkle the spring onion slices all over. Serve (and eat) right away.

From The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage, © 2013 by Caroline M. Grant & Lisa Catherine Harper. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA. www.roostbooks.com

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