From time to time during our June Cookbook Challenge, we’ve found a few of our cookbooks to be – well – a bit more challenging than others. In some cases, a book’s narrow focus made us put it off until we were ready to face a stir-fry or a chocolate-based dish. In others, we just couldn’t find a recipe that caught our eyes despite going page-by-page through a book.
Roast Chicken and Other Stories, despite its description as “the most useful cookbook of all time” by Waitrose Food Illustrated, was definitely one of those latter cases. On the surface, it would appear that Simon Hopkinson’s approach to his recipes would be truly tempting to us. Organized into ‘chapters’ by some of Hopkinson’s favorite ingredients (garlic, leeks…cod? liver?), the book combines anecdotes and tips with a few representative recipes for each.
Maybe it’s because we’re not British…or maybe it’s just the fussiness (heaviness?) that characterizes most of the recipes in the book, but we had a really tough time finding something that we were excited to make. Finally, a trip to the H Street Farmers’ Market turned up some beautiful new potatoes and we decided to take a stab at one of the few recipes in the book that didn’t include copious amounts of butter or oil: potato salad.
In fairness, we were REALLY impressed with the way this recipe turned out. The salad is light and tangy, with a great combination of flavors that complement the waxy potatoes nicely. But is one recipe reason enough to hold onto an entire book? Michael Ruhlman’s quote about food writing comes to mind: it’s like digging for gold; you don’t keep the dirt.
I’d say it’s far more likely that we’ll copy this winner of a recipe to an index card, file it and consign the book to the “donations” pile.
1 1/2 lb waxy potatoes (Jersey Royals or red and white new potatoes recommended)
salt and pepper
4 mint sprigs
1 Tbsp smooth Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil (the original recipe called for 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 of olive oil, but we opted for half as much oil and went with olive oil exclusively)
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oils slowly, to create an emulsion.
Drain the potatoes and, depending on taste, peel the potatoes or not. While still hot, dress the potatoes together with the spring onions in a bowl that will allow maximum movement for even distribution of the dressing. Eat lukewarm.