June 19, 2014
Rheinischer Kartoffelsalat (Rhineland-Style German Potato Salad)
Summer weather has arrived in Rheinland-Pfalz, and with it many restaurants have switched over to their summer menus. Oh, not to worry, you can still get the heartiest of hearty items (Sauerbraten, Rinderrouladen, Goulash, etc.), but the seasonal offerings have definitely shifted. This includes a fundamental shift in the lunchtime menus from fried potatoes (that is, bratkartoffeln) on the side, to potato salad.
I was a pleased and surprised, here in the heart of sweetened mayonnaise country, to discover that most of the potato salads in this region are marinated in a vinaigrette as opposed to a creamy dressing. What didn't surprise me, however, is the lack of crumbled bacon in the salads. Oh, a lot of them have pork in them, but it's ham. Tiny, tiny cubes of fried ham. Also, not every potato salad, even the Rheinisch ones, contains pork - although plenty of them do. But it is definitely not the crumbled bacon, or even bacon bits, that so often comes with the "German Potato Salad" label in Canada. I chose to make this one vegetarian, simply because I was serving it as part of a duo alongside a sausage and cheese salad, and decided that my meat requirements were being well met already.
At its most plain, this potato salad omits the radishes, and at its most fancy (known as Bunter (colourful) Kartoffelsalat) it will have not only the radishes, but also a sparse inclusion of red and/or yellow bell pepper pieces, and possibly fresh cucumber to go alongside the pickles. The fun thing about salads is that it's very easy to customise them to your personal tastes. So, by all means, feel free to add the extra vegetables. Or tiny cubes of fried ham. This ham-free version is vegan.
Rhineland-Style German Potato Salad
Serves 4 - 6
2 kilos waxy potatoes
1/2 medium yellow onion
4 cornishon-style pickles
4 large radishes
200 millilitres vegetable stock or broth
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon hot mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
white pepper to taste
1/4 cup parsley (and/or fresh dill)
Boil and peel the potatoes in whichever order you choose. Allow them to cool, and then cut them into slices. Some of those slices will break up a bit - that's supposed to happen, and if it doesn't happen now, it probably will when the remaining ingredients are stirred in. Put the potatoes in a bowl with a bit of extra room (to allow you to stir).
In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock or broth (or heat up some water and add vegetable base as is appropriate). Add the vinegar, mustard, salt and white pepper, and whisk to partially integrate. Finely dice the onions, and add them to the stock, simmering very briefly - not for more than about two minutes. Pour the onion-stock mixture over the potatoes, and stir through. Allow to cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes, then stir in the parsley. Cover and place in the fridge. Let the potatoes soak up the liquid for at least an hour or two, then thinly slice and add the cornishons and radishes, and any of the optional additional ingredients that you like. Taste, and add a little extra vinegar if you like (places around here serve it extremely tart, which is very refreshing in hot weather) and more salt if needed. Allow the salad to chill again, covered, for about half an hour, and serve. If you like, you can garnish with wedges of hard-boiled egg or tomato. I like to do a final pass with freshly ground black pepper to serve.
Coming soon: Swiss-style Sausage Salad (Update: Now posted!)