Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Potato Salad with Chipotle-Lime Vinaigrette

It only occurs to run this recipe today because you were so mad that I’d withheld the vinegar egg for so long—and this potato salad? I have been making it for almost 20 years. I happen to know that, because I made it the first time for a picnic we took to this concert. No wonder I’m so old! It’s on account of the oldness.

Birdy's first not-home haircut! Which she loves, loves, loves. Sorry, I had to sneak it in here.
It is one of my signature potluck dishes. In fact, a friend of mine requests it so often that we mostly refer to it as “Becky’s potato salad” as in, “Do you want me to bring the bacon potato salad or Becky’s potato salad?” Like the mandatory green sauce I serve with salmon, it is one of the most transformative dishes I have ever made. It changed the way I thought about flavor, lo those 18 years ago, when I had to scour the entire Bay Area to find the tinned chipotles. (I ended up buying them from the Mexican grocer at the Ashby flea market.)

The potato salad is tangy and smoky and sweet and, oh, perfect in every way. Unless you’re a child, in which case it is unperfect in every way: spicy and sour, and filled with such slithery horribleness as peppers and onions. I can tell Ben is really growing up because yesterday he said, devouringly, “I can’t believe I used to not like this,” and I feel for him, for all those wasted years. We were eating it as part of our picnic lunch at Six Flags, where I went for the first time ever. I loved it! I will never, ever go back even if I live to be a hundred, which I won't, now that the Bizarro took 20 years off my life.

Raise your hand if you look like your normal self (Michael). I was so scared that I kept my eyes squinched shut the entire time except for when I squinched them open for a nanosecond to make sure the kids hadn't fallen out. "I can't believe you're buying the photo!" Ben said. "That's so not like you." So true. But it's the best ten dollars I ever spent.
Potato Salad with Chipotle-Lime Vinaigrette
Serves 8-10
This takes a surprisingly long time to make.

Adapted from the marvelous Fields of Greens cookbook. I always roast the peppers, but over the years I have done different things with the potatoes, depending on my mood. You can absolutely boil them in salted water and then dice them, and this is a classic and good way to make the salad, and it’s easier. Likewise, you can leave the onion raw if you like, but then I’d use only one, and I’d dice it. Annie Somerville roasts and then grills the potato, which sounds great. If spiciness is an issue, you could try making this with smoked paprika instead of the chipotle. If you want to add crunch, you can top the whole thing with roasted pepitas. All that said, this here is my favorite way to make it.

2 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1-inch cubes (or tiny potatoes, halved or quartered as appropriate)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
2 red onions, halved and sliced ¼-inch thick, slices kept more or less intact.
Chipotle Vinaigrette (below)
1/3 cup or so of chopped cilantro

Heat the broiler and cover a small baking sheet with foil. Lay the peppers cut-side-down on the foil and broil them close to the flame until they are entirely black, around 10 minutes or so. Wrap them loosely in the foil and leave them to cool while you deal with other stuff. Turn the oven down to 450.

In a large bowl, toss with potatoes with 3 tablespoons of the oil and a teaspoon of salt. Spread them on a very large baking sheet that is either completely reliably nonstick, or that you’ve covered with parchment. They’ll be super-crowded, even a little heaped, and this is fine because by the time they’ve cooked through they’ll have gotten as brown as they need to, given that they’re getting tossed with dressing, not served as is. However, if this is too alarming for you, spread them over 2 sheets, and plan for them to roast shorter. Put them in the oven and roast them until they are completely tender and browning in spots or on one side or something, depending on whether or not you’ve turned them with a spatula in the middle of roasting them (I make a point of stirring them around once or twice). This will take around 45 minutes, but check them at 30 to get a sense of what they’re doing.

Meanwhile, cover that small baking sheet with foil again, oil it heavily with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Lay the onion slices on it carefully, then flip them so that both sides are covered in oil. If you have cooking spray, you can spray their tops if that’s easier. Pop them in to roast alongside the potatoes, and take them out when they’re browning but before they’re black, after 15 or 20 minutes or so.

Peel and rub the black skins off of the cooled peppers, then cut the peppers lengthwise into skinny strips and then crosswise into thirds so that you end up with 1-or 2-inch strips.

Now you’re an old, old woman. Put all the cooked potatoes, onions, and peppers in a large bowl, and add half the dressing. Fold it all together with a rubber spatula and then taste it. Add more dressing and/or salt until it tastes really good, then cover it and leave it on the counter until you’re ready to serve it. (Try really hard not to refrigerate it, because it is so much better unrefrigerated.) Now taste it again and re-season with salt and/or vinaigrette and/or chipotle puree, as needed. Stir in the cilantro, top with extra cilantro, and serve.

Chipotle-Lime Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons white wine or Champagne or sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from, say, 2 small but very juicy limes) (Note: It is atypical for me to use the juice from a lime but not its zest. I think the zest would be good here—but there’s so much else going on, flavorwise, that I’ve never included it.)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 2 teaspoons chipotle puree
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or put through a garlic press
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
½ cup light olive oil (I use half olive oil and half canola oil)

Whisk together everything but the oil, then slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify.

* To make the chipotle puree, scrape an entire 7-ounce tin of Chipotle in adobo (brands to look for include Embasa, San Marcos, Herdes, and La Costena) into the blender and puree it. Store it in your fridge in an impeccably clean glass jar where it will keep indefinitely—unless it doesn’t, which is what sometime happens. A thin layer of oil over the top seems to prevent mold from forming.

There are so many process shots that would have been helpful, but I didn't take any. I'm sorry!


  1. Jennifer LB10:54 AM

    How how how is it possible that 1994 was almost 20 years ago? You're right. We're old.

    Love Birdy's hair!

    Thanks for the recipe...but given that I eat more like a child than my 9 year old it may be one of those dishes I take to a potluck and don't actually eat myself.

    Hope you are getting the lovely weather today...ahead of the heat that is to come.

  2. Jeanne10:57 AM

    Birdy looks adorable. My daughter cut her hair short last year and has never looked back. I consider it a very brave thing to do...since I'm 51 and my hair is still shoulder length! Your recipe is just in time for my contribution to the July 4th festivities.

  3. Yum! I bet this would be good with sweet potatoes.

  4. OMG, that picture is awesome! You're not kidding -- that was ten bucks well spent. I love how Michael looks like he's having so much fun. Also love Birdy's new hair. Smart choice for summer.

    I don't think I have the patience to make the whole potato salad recipe, but I'm bookmarking the dressing for sure.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Thanks for reminding me of the vinegar-egg recipe. Must get back to that. I smiled through this whole post, then laughed out loud at that picture. Holy nutty faces! Tell Birdy she looks great.

  7. Anonymous12:16 PM

    Birdy looks gorgeous!

  8. I love Birdy's haircut - so spunky! And I'm sure I'll love the potato salad. Yummmmm!

  9. Angela12:47 PM

    Oh dear, I was grown up in 1994... (although such statements always make me think of The Byrds, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now"!). Birdy's hair looks lovely. I always wanted hair like that, but when I had mine cut short, it was too floppy and looked really bad!

  10. Francine MaOdiLeo12:58 PM

    So much laughing and laughing again at the photo I should pay a part of the 10$.
    Brave Catherine. I would have NEVER embark on the Bizarro ride.
    And Birdy is lovely with her new hair style!

    1. We have a picture of ourselves on the log flume ride at Santa's Village in NH. My husband looks normal (like Michael), my son is grinning like a psycho, eyes bugging out, and my face is frozen in a scream with my mouth open. Not a flattering picture but yes, I laugh out loud every single time I see it! I love it!!!

    2. OK and now I'm laughing even MORE at Francine's comment that she should pay part of the $10. Me too! Oh my. Wiping my eyes.

  11. Cathy1:34 PM

    Love the hair cut! Have you ever made the salad with sweet potatoes? That's what I want to do, looking at the recipe.

    Re: buying the photo, the best part of being a mostly strict-ish, thrifty mom is being able to blow their minds by occasionally saying, what the heck.

    1. dale in denver9:51 PM

      I made it yesterday with half sweet potato and half red potato. delish! Next time I might add some bacon.

  12. you spent the 10 bucks and bought the photo because everytime you look at it you snort. out. loud.
    am i right?
    i am laughing out loud at your photo -
    just like i do at pics of myself on these things.
    and i have bought one or two of them. . .
    Birdy's hair is gorgeous -
    enjoy the week!

  13. That haircut is BEAUTIFUL and perfect for her gorgeous face. Such a pretty look for her! And yes, a little too grown up ;)

  14. Anonymous3:58 PM

    oh dear god your daughter looks stunning. and I love love love love your blog. just finally letting you know this.

  15. Potato salad sounds so good right now, but the turning-on-the-oven-to-roast-things part is far less appealing this week. I might go halfway and try this vinaigrette on a potato salad prepared more the way my mom taught me (boiled potatoes, raw veg), an include some poblanos I roasted and froze aback when it was cooler.

    Your daughter's haircut is adorable. I had a very short haircut for years as a kid, but it was very much against my wishes, so I did not love it nearly so much!

  16. Oh thank you for sharing the bizarro photo. It is fantastic and I agree, money well-spent!

  17. I went "Duh! 1994 was so NOT 20 years ago." Then I did the math and said, "SHIT! I'm old too."
    Birdy looks like a cross between Michelle Williams and Ginnifer Goodwin. What a beauty.

  18. I am having a minor panic attack because I can't get to any of your recipes on family.com. WHERE DID THEY GO? I never copied them all! CRAP.

    Also, Birdy looks beautiful.

    1. OK, I can't find any other recipes on there, either. Once they fix whatever is wrong with their search feature, I promise to copy all of your recipes and put them in a safe place. Pinky swear.

  19. Everything about that post was perfect! Can't wait to try the potato salad. Birdy's hair is gorgeous!

  20. Oh I am laughing so hard. That was $10 very well spent! Tears are streaming down my face!
    And, I love birdy's hair cut. :)

  21. Great photo! I was thanked by a friend yesterday for taking her daughter on every ride at our Six Flags two years ago. I reminded her that the Ninja gave mild concussions to both Malory and I, necessitating that neither Malory nor I ever, ever go on the Ninja again. Did Birdy donate her hair to Locks of Love?

  22. Birdy looks AWESOME!!! (not in the six flags photo, though, she looks the most different, then it's you, then Ben and last Michael who looks just fine, obviously ;)

  23. I keep looking at this and thinking, where is the bacon? Do you ever make it with bacon? All things with bacon. Yum.

    1. Me too! My brain keeps seeing bacon in this...

    2. dale in denver9:54 PM

      i just made it yesterday with half sweet potatoes and half red potatoes. it was delish - but i do think it would be better with the addition of some bacon. good call - next time i'll add bacon.

  24. I'm sorry, I cannot stop laughing at that photo. It should be your holiday card!

    I love Birdy's hair. So beautiful!

  25. Caitlin K in Ontario, Canada3:08 PM

    I gasped (literally) at the photo of Birdy. Beautiful!!

    The other pic is too hilarious. I would have parted with the $10 too. :-)

  26. Alison3:28 PM

    I LOVE HER HAIR! I luaghed SO HARD at the rollercoaster shot. I can wait to try this recipe, but it does seem like i'll be a very old woman by the time it's done.

  27. Birdy looks beautiful! The short hair shows off her gorgeous dark-chocolate eyes. And it will be perfect for summer.

  28. Birdy looks absolutely awesome!

  29. OK, a few things here: 1. Birdy looks gorgeous and adorable. 2. This post is probably unintentionally hilarious. I mean, it's a good recipe! But I laughed out loud--really hard, alarming my two children nearby--at the photo from Six Flags and mostly your commentary (raise your hand if you look like a normal person (Michael)), and then again at the line, "Now you're an old, old woman." Indeed! But it sure looks yummy. Thanks for the laughs. :)

    1. Ha! My comment down a little lower is almost exactly this comment, format and all. :)

  30. Love Birdy's hair! I chopped my hair after having my first child and it was so liberating. And also saved me from prying my tangled locks from his damp little hands.
    I've been thinking of you as we have had our own boys-with-nail-polish episode. My son, who will be 5 in 2 weeks, saw me painting my nails and asked if he could have his done. I was using a red orange color, and that's what he wanted, too. I painted his nails, knowing he'd probably get teased at day camp, but I didn't want to tell him he couldn't wear it. Anyway, of course he was teased and came home so upset the next day. He wouldn't say who teased him or what they said. I tried to explain about rotten kids teasing others and how it's just different so people feel the need to make fun and blah blah blah. He surprisingly didn't want to take the polish off, but finally after being teased by cousins, friends, etc. I gently nudged him to let me take it off (under the excuse that it was getting too chipped). I feel so bad for him, my heart was aching. I just don't think he's old enough to have the tools to tell people to get lost or to handle the teasing.
    As for the recipe, I can't use the oven in this summer heat, but I will save it for later. I too thought it would have bacon based on the first picture. I was happy to read that it didn't, being vegetarian and all.

  31. Anonymous3:07 PM

    Not sure which will make me more of an old, old woman: having just attended my 20th college reunion, or making this salad. Love Birdy's haircut, and the photo is hilarious!

  32. Anonymous3:09 PM

    Hmm, that would be my 20 year college reunion. As written, that would make me a REALLY old, old woman, no?

  33. Ok. 1) Birdy is ADORABLE. My mouth dropped open when I saw the photo. She looks like a little-girl, brunette Michelle Williams. 2) Even though I don't love cooking enough to make your recipes, I always read them so I won't miss stuff like "Now you’re an old, old woman." 3) That photo of the ride made me giggle hysterically. All the expressions are TOO FUNNY.


  34. melissa4:21 PM

    We love Birdy's hair! (And I, too, think I should chip in on the $10...). Is there any way you'd consider posting a pic of the back of Birdy's head? My 7-year-old is begging for shorty short hair, and pics of little girls with this hair are few and far between. I love our stylist, but I'd also love another pic to use as inspiration. Thanks either way!

  35. That Six Flags pic reminds me of the movie "Parenthood" (from the late 80's with Steve Martin), which I remember really enjoying, way before I WAS a parent. I imagine I'd "get" it much better now. How people feel about roller coasters can sometimes seem to correlate with a certain approach to life (and parenting??).
    Birdy's cut is simultaneously incredibly cute and supremely sophisticated!

  36. Love this! I grew all those veggies this year so can't wait to try this recipe!

    Thank you!

    Also, what do you do about lice?

  37. (This is my second time commenting about this post) I wanted to thank you for making the bizzaro photo the rss cover photo (not sure if i am using the correct terms here). I recently started using the flipboard app and of course, have put you on my front board, so this week, whenever i open the app to get my news, the photo is right there. I realized today, that it would end when you do your next post. This is the first time i will be sad to see a new post by you!!! :)
    And I too think that I should chip in some money for the photo because the joy that I have gotten from it has been soooo worth it. :)

  38. miryboo9:41 AM

    I can't even read the recipe, I'm laughing too hard at the Six Flags photo.

  39. Cheryl3:51 PM

    Birdy looks beautiful! I swear she looks 15 in that photo. (Which is scary because they grow up so fast, don't they?)

  40. Birdy looks so beautiful with her sassy new do.

  41. Jenny7:50 AM

    1994 is 18 years ago, my eldest just turned 18, I feel so old...and I have a 10 year old, a toddler and am planning on more! Love Birdys hair although I did gasp at the photo!x

  42. I made this for a potluck last night and it was WONDERFUL!! Totally worth the 1,287 hours it took to make! For real. I happened to have most of those veggie ingredients available from our garden. Everyone loved it, including my very picky kids! The only thing I did different was use dried cilantro because I was out of fresh. Still amazing. Thank you!

  43. I made this once again for a potluck yesterday and also added arugula to the finished, warm product. I highly recommend adding arugula to this!

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