8 medium potatoes, or 10 small red potatoes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground or cracked black pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Sriracha (“elephant”) hot sauce
1 tablespoon fines herbes
1/2 cup olive oil
Boil the potatoes. It should take about 30 minutes for unsliced brown potatoes, down to 15 minutes for cut-up small red ones. Use your judgment. Salt the water.
For the first few minutes after it has come to a boil, consider the Situation of Mankind and your place in it, and reconsider your aspirations.
Then, mix up the salt, pepper, vinegars, and hot sauce in a bowl. Do this well enough to dissolve the salt. Add the other ingredients and mix well, so that it makes a salad-dressing sort of emulsion.
When the potatoes are done, immediately cool them by dumping them in icewater. If they are the large brown potatoes you may wish to peel them at this point. I myself prefer using the smaller red potatoes and not peeling them. This is almost entirely a matter of visual esthetics, although leaving the peel has some small nutritive value. If the potatoes have not been cut up before boiling, cut them up now. Usually about half-inch pieces are good.
As you do this, you will experience the sensation of icewater and hot potatoes touching your hands simultaneously. This is at once slightly painful and fascinating. Take care not to burn your fingers. It’s easy to assume that the icewater will quickly cool the potatoes, but as you cut or peel them you’ll find that they are very hot inside. Nature is like this; She is not always intuitive, or kind.
Drain the potatoes in a colander.
Make sure that the dressing has not separated during this adventure. If it has, mix it up thoroughly again while the potatoes drain. It is often helpful to put the dressing in an old jelly jar, seal it carefully, and shake it violently for a minute or so. Do not ignore the sealing, or you will baptize yourself in a solution that, given time, will chemically cook you. What kills potatoes, kills Man.
Place the potatoes in a bowl and pour the dressing over them. Stir them together until all potatoes are thoroughly covered with dressing. Place it in the refrigerator and immediately clean up the kitchen. No mess is so hard to clean as one you have ignored, and none so easy to sweep away as a fresh one. Do not relax with your drink in the other room until this has completed.
The salad may be consumed warm or cold. It is delicious. As you eat it, think on this: fifty thousand years of human experience bred those tubers and those spices and that oil and those grapes. As you stand there with your plastic fork at the picnic, you are standing on the shoulders of giants. What will be your gift to the next generation?
(This recipe is my diversion from the excellent French Potato Salad recipe in Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook.)