A secret: for nigh on 4 weeks now, I've had a plastic bag full of potatoes sitting on my butcher block counter. They've been sprouting strangely pretty purple and green nubbins, which I rub off each time I pass them. Their skins have grown wrinkly and I've felt worse and worse every time I enter the kitchen, seeing the potatoes in their dusty bag reproach me silently for not ending their misery and cooking them.
The thing is, I've not really been in the mood for wintery mashed potatoes or herbed roasted ones. Those are for the real winter, when all you want to do is wear wool socks and watch the snow fall and listen to old jazz from the 40's on the radio. Today I want sourness and spice and sharp, bright flavors, a little heat to wake up my taste buds, gustatory jolts to shake off the remaining winter doldrums.
Now think about this: a little pile of minced shallots, a tiny mountain of diced cornichons, a palmful of salted capers, soaked and squeezed, a spoonful of sharp mustard, a few glugs of vinegar, and smoked paprika, glowing red. All of these things, plus some nice olive oil, mixed together, then used to dress that whole bag of potatoes, roasted. Can you imagine that? Is the water running together in your mouth now? You're welcome.
Actually, thank Bread Baby and Clotilde, for drawing my attention to Rose Bakery's way of getting rid of excess potatoes (though they probably don't use that exact - er - phrasing). The dressing is sort of a deconstructed sauce gribiche, a classic mayonnaise-based sauce, though it's lighter, of course, and instead of being used to dress a calf's head, you use it to dress a pile of salt-and-pepper-flecked roasted potatoes.
The salad tastes really, really good and it's simply such a relief after the relentless march of cold weather potato dishes. I, for one, can't stand them any more. The capers and pickles and mustard provide nice little zings and pops of flavor, the shallots give the salad a faint bite, the chopped eggs add creaminess and ballast, and the smoked paprika is just its usual mysterious and alluring self. Seriously, smoked paprika is like the Penelope Cruz of the spice world.
Clotilde didn't much like this salad the next day, but I had so many leftovers that I didn't have a choice but to refrigerate them and turn them into lunch the next day. I think the salad stands up just fine - all it needs is to be brought to room temperature and tossed with a fresh glug of good olive oil, which helps to brighten the flavors that have actually melded quite nicely overnight.
But a cook's work is never done, is it. Though my CSA's winter share is over (praise be), I still have about three more pounds of potatoes to fight through. I figure I've got at least another week of ignoring this batch before they start to sprout...
1 1/2 pounds small waxy potatoes
2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
5 to 6 cornichons, diced
2 tablespoons capers (if using salted capers, soak for a few minutes in water first)
1 shallot, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Drain immediately, let cool for a minute, cut in two-bite wedges, and transfer to a baking dish large enough to accommodate them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat, and roast until golden and crusty, about 30 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine in a salad bowl the eggs, cornichons, capers, shallot, mustard, vinegar, paprika, a bit of salt and pepper, and 2 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil.
3. When the potatoes are ready, add them to the salad bowl, toss gently to coat, and fold in the parsley. Taste for seasoning. Let cool to slightly warm or at room temperature.