It's picnic season in Paris, which means it's time to soak in the sun and prepare potluck dishes. While I'm a fan of cheese and charcuterie, those picnic standards can seem a little déjà vu after a handful of outdoor meals.
In an attempt to avoid fromage fatigue, I've taken to pulling together spontaneous potato salads for my various picnic engagements. I think American-style potato salads (and their French equivalent salade piémontaise) get a bad rap because they are traditionally swimming in mayonnaise- an unappetizing overdose that is made worse when said salad sits under the sun for hours during your picnic or barbecue.
Separating the mayo from the tato instantly improves a potato salad- a fact that the Scandinavians figured out long ago, according to my friend Anna who grew up eating vinaigrette dressed potato salads during her summers in Sweden.
The ingredients in this salad are almost entirely based on what's in my refrigerator when I make it. The common thread- besides potatoes and eggs, of course- are the pickled radishes, which add color to the dish and also contribute their brine as a light and slightly sweet vinaigrette that stands in for heavy mayonnaise.
Have fun constructing your own salad- just make sure to include something crunchy and as many handfuls of fresh herbs you can muster to make a refreshing and filling contribution to your next déjeuner sur l'herbe.
Pickled Radish and Everything-In-Your-Fridge Potato Salad
For the pickled radish:
1 bunch red radishes
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro or parsley
Equal parts water and apple cider vinegar
1/4 part honey
Thinly slice each radish, removing the tops and root ends. Coarsely chop cilantro (or parsley). Combine radish and fresh herbs in a mason jar or other glass jar that you can close firmly. There needs to be enough brine to cover the radish and herbs, so measure equal parts water and apple cider vinegar accordingly so that there will be enough to submerge the fresh ingredients. Stir in honey and bring to a boil. Once boiling, make sure the honey is fully dissolved and then pour liquid into the mason jar. Close firmly and keep in the refrigerator 24 hours before serving.
For the potato salad:
4-6 medium sized red potatoes, boiled until easily pierced, but still firm
2-3 medium hard boiled eggs, halved and sliced
1 jar pickled radish
A large handful combining ALL the fresh herbs you have in your fridge, coarsely chopped- but mostly: dill and parsley- chives and cilantro are great, too
1 cup (330 grams) crunchy vegetables- think sliced, raw fennel or celery , or grated cabbage or carrots
Salt and Pepper to taste
Optional: whatever else you have in your fridge that you think sounds good! Pumpkin seeds, green onions, red onions, etc. Just keep a nice balance of crunchy with cooked and salty with sweet.
Once the boiled potatoes are cool enough to handle, but still warm, cube them into medium-sized, equal portions. Add potatoes to a large glass bowl and dress and toss in about 1/3 of the radish brine/vinaigrette. Start adding the other ingredients, slowly incorporating the radishes and their brine as ingredients are added and tossed together (keep a small amount of each ingredient to the side to add at the last minute). Once all ingredients (except for those set aside to garnish)- eggs, radish and dressing, fresh herbs, and crunchy veggies- are combined, salt and pepper to taste, tossing as seasoning is added for uniform distribution. When the desired taste is achieved, garnish with remaining ingredients. Cover in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for up to 2-3 days or serve immediately.