As promised, here is this month's sneak peek into my upcoming book, Cook This Now, to be published in October. Enjoy!
I’d been cooking with and eating new potatoes for years before I finally learned that in fact I had not. Those cute little red potatoes I’d always called “new red potatoes”? Turns out they are not necessarily new at all.
My education came – where else -- at the farmers’ market, when Franca Tantillo at Berried Treasures Farm, my favorite strawberry grower at the Union Square Market, proudly showed off a basket of her newly dug potatoes. Upon first inspection, I wasn’t excited. They looked like every other potato I’d ever seen, and I was about to walk away without buying any.
“You’re missing out. Have you ever had real new potatoes?” she asked in tone that conveyed “obviously not.”
She went on to explain that potatoes, like garlic and onions, are such good storing vegetables that they will last the whole winter through. There isn’t a season without them at the farmers’ market, where they fill the bins week in and week out. And it’s because they are so ubiquitous, she said, that they get taken for granted. No one makes a tomato-like fuss when the freshly dug ones hit the farm stands along with the peas in early summer.
So I brought home a bagful, and boiled them up for dinner.
And do you know what? New potatoes, with their gossamer thin skins and moist, almost nutty-tasting flesh, really are different – and better – than old potatoes. They have a rich, buttery flavor that doesn’t need a lot of fat to bring it out. I have no problem slathering older potatoes with buckets of butter and/or olive oil, but that would overwhelm these youngsters, which need just a touch a butter and salt to make a memorable side dish all by themselves.
But, if you want something with a little more pizzazz, try this savory salad. It’s got a little bit of a lot of different elements, and they all work together to enhance the gentle earthy character of the actually new potatoes, with peas adding a sweet crispness, yogurt lending tanginess, and Dijon mustard and mustard seeds spicing everything up with their warm bite. If you’ve only got old potatoes to cook with, make this anyway. Then follow Ms. Tantillo’s advice and watch for new potatoes when they next come into season. And spread the word; they deserve a bit of fuss.
Makes 4 servings
1 pound new potatoes
3/4 cup fresh shelled peas
3/4 teaspoon black or brown mustard seed (see What Else?)
3 tablespoons plain yogurt, optional
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or chives
1. Place the potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Drop in the peas and cook until they are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: In a small, dry skillet, toast the mustard seeds until they just begin to pop, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl. Whisk in the yogurt, mustard, shallot, salt, and pepper. Place the warm potatoes and peas in a large bowl and gently crush the potatoes (they should remain almost whole). Add the dressing and olive oil and toss to combine. Fold in mint. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve warm.
- Old potatoes will work well here, just choose thin-skinned boiling potatoes in place of thick-skinned bakers. Yukon gold, which split the difference, are perfectly fine; Russets, not so much.
- If you don’t have black or brown mustard seeds, leave them out and just add in a little more Dijon mustard.
- If you want to leave out the yogurt, add a little more olive oil to keep things moist.
- I love mint with peas, but tarragon is a less obvious and equally tasty choice. Use 1 tablespoon since it’s a lot more potent than mint.
- Sometimes I make this with thinly sliced sugar snap peas in place of the shell peas. You’ll need about 1/4 pound.