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Mashed potato salad finds magic in mistake

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    Potato salads are normally made with chunks of potatoes that are soft to the bite but still firm enough to hold shape. If your potatoes overcook, though, you can mash some to make a dressing.

Perhaps, say, a well-meaning spouse overcooked the potatoes while you were having a glass of wine on the deck of someone else’s summer house.

Then, maybe, you mixed together the salad ingredients a little too energetically, being overly animated from the conversation at hand.

By the time you looked into the bowl, the potato salad was, well, fluffier than intended.

What’s a hungry cook to do?

Change the name, and pretend you meant it to be that way all along.

And that is the origin story of this mashed potato salad.

The happy ending is that, it turns out, mashed potato salad is a very good thing indeed — worth making on purpose, not just by mistake.

It’s a little like the potato salad you get at a deli, without any of the sweetness usually found in that dressing. But it has that same creamy-chunky texture, with each piece of potato coated in a highly seasoned dressing that’s thicker than usual. The starch in those overcooked tubers helps the dressing cling to the potato chunks, instead of falling off like so many vinaigrettes can.

Because the potato salad is so delightfully soft, the scallions here provide the only textural contrast. Make sure to get crisp ones, and use the full amount. Or substitute crunchy shallot, onion or even celery, if you are avoiding alliums.

You can play with the other ingredients, too. The beauty of this recipe lies more in the technique than in the seasonings, which are quite straightforward — mustard, mayonnaise, lemon and herbs.

Take it in any direction you like. (Goat cheese! Kim chee! Bacon!)

The key to achieving the right ratio of chunks-to-puree is mostly in the mixing.

After adding the soft potatoes to the dressing, stir them vigorously with a spoon, but don’t break out the masher (or a fork). You want the majority of potatoes in bite-size pieces for texture against the fleecy dressing.

Also, be sure to cook the potatoes just past when you would drain them for salad, about two minutes longer, until a fork plunged into the flesh is met with no resistance.

If your potatoes turn out a bit firmer than that, and don’t begin to fall apart when you mix, fear not. You’ll just end up with a lovely bowl of regular potato salad. You could even say you planned it that way.

MASHED POTATO SALAD WITH SCALLIONS AND HERBS

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons minced rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Dash or two of hot sauce, to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, sour cream or creme fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or whole-grain mustard
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil or dill

Cook potatoes in a pot of well-salted water until very tender but not mushy, 15 to 22 minutes. Drain well.

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, rosemary, salt, pepper and hot sauce. When salt is dissolved, whisk in oil, mayonnaise and mustard.

Add potatoes and mix until well coated with dressing. Use the spoon to mash about a quarter of them. You want 1-inch chunks of potatoes coated in some mashed potatoes.

Add scallions and parsley; toss. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice, hot sauce and olive oil, if needed. Scatter with chopped basil or dill. Serve warm or at room temperature, not cold. Serves 6 to 8.

No nutritional information avaialble.

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