Recipes : Salads
If you are going to try a new potato salad, it has to be this one.
It’s rich. It’s filling. Yet at the same time, it’s light and bright. How can this happen? You may wonder…
Soft tender potatoes are combined with an exuberant poblano chile rajas, or strips, and lightly caramelized red onion mix. It’s not a creamy salad, but one that has an unexpected vinegary kick, laced with olive and sesame oils.
In my kitchen, it’s a well documented fact that poblano chiles love the company of allspice. And it is no secret that potatoes love to be showered with tarragon. Mix it all up, and I want to eat the entire serves-six-people bowl.
Of course, potato salad is as familiar and old-fashioned as apple pie, but you have never tried one like this. It brings the character of Central Mexico, where the combination of papas con (poblano) rajas has a long history at the table. But this may be the first time you see that combination in a salad form.
I dreamed it up while sitting at my desk wondering how I could bring the legendary combination of potatoes and poblano rajas to your table. Maybe it was the seesawing March forecast teasing spring, after the coldest winter in years here in Washington, DC, that put the idea of potato salad in my head…
Perfect, I thought, if it comes out as I am hoping, to bring this substantial salad to your table for Easter, or Passover, or a cookout, or any occasion you may have in mind this spring, where a big bowl of the best-ever potato salad will come in handy. And: I loved it!
Don’t think about this as a potato salad with chile peppers.
We are not using a spicy chile for the heat. We are adding the grand poblano chile, which is more like a stunning vegetable with mild heat than what many people consider all chiles to be.
Not only is the poblano a large, shiny, curvy, dark green beauty – it also has the most extraordinary rich, fruity, spirited flavor.
However, the poblano chile is a bit timid in it’s raw form and calls for a little coaxing, or prep work, before it can bring out its finest flavor, color and texture. Though, not to worry, it’s very easy to master the process of charring, sweating, and peeling the chiles.
Once you prep the poblanos a couple of times, you’ll see it’s no harder than roasting a red bell pepper. And the reward is in the deepened flowery, smoky, mildly spicy flavor of your transformed poblanos.
This salad is versatile, too. I like it warm, but you can eat it any way you prefer or best suits the occasion: warm, room temperature, or cold.
And it’s filling enough to eat as a main course for a quick lunch or as a side dish for a celebration table, for sandwich night, or for a backyard BBQ.
Seriously, give it a try.
Ensalada de Papitas con Rajas
2 pounds baby red potatoes
3 poblano chiles, charred, sweated, peeled and cut into strips
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 cups halved and thinly sliced red onion
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup sesame seeds
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Drop in the red potatoes and cook for about 20 minutes, until they are cooked through and the tip of a knife goes in without much resistance, but the potatoes are not falling apart. When ready, drain into a colander. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into halves.
In a large deep skillet or casserole, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once it is hot, add the sesame oil. Stir in the red onion and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring once in a while, until they have completely softened and edges have begun to slightly brown. Incorporate the poblano chile rajas (strips), stir, cook for a minute or two.
Add the tarragon, allspice and sesame seeds and cook for a couple minutes. Pour in the white wine vinegar and rice vinegar, stir, cook for another minute and turn off the heat.
Place the potatoes in a large bowl, pour the onion, rajas, oil and vinegar mixture on top, and gently toss. Serve warm, at room temperature (how I like them the best) or cold.
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