Thursday, April 21, 2011

Potato Salad with Asparagus

This is a "grown-up" potato salad, and I make it every year for Easter so I figured this would be good timing to post this recipe now.

3 lbs small red new potatoes
1/4 c + 2T olive oil, divided
2 lb fresh asparagus
1 c chicken stock
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 c pine nuts
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub potatoes with 2T olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through but still firm (this is important; if you cook them too long and they get soft, you run the risk of having a potato mush as the end result). Let them sit until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, blanch your asparagus. Any time I make asparagus, I have people asking me how to prepare it. The bottom of the stalk can be really tough, chewy, or stringy, and I think it's a very underused vegetable that a lot of people don't know how to prepare. To make sure you have tender asparagus without the chewy ends, just gently bend the stalk. It will snap where it is tender, and you just discard the bottom. Some may snap over the halfway mark, and some may snap really close to the base so there's no formula, just let the asparagus snap itself!

But I digress....on to blanching the asparagus. While you're preparing your stalks, bring about 2-3 inches of salted water to a boil. Drop the asparagus in the boiling water and boil it JUST till it gets really green, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and immediately plunge the asparagus into some ice-water. Again, you cook these too long or fail to use the ice bath and you'll risk having mushy asparagus as the end result.

Drain the asparagus and pat it dry. Cut it into 2 inch segments (I think it looks prettiest cut on the bias). Cut the potatoes into quarters. Heat the 1/4 c olive oil in a large saucepan - add the potatoes. Heat them through. Add the asparagus, stock, and garlic. Simmer 3-5 minutes, until everything is thoroughly heated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and stir in pine nuts and basil.

This is best if it's served immediately, but it also makes really great leftovers. It's also much, MUCH simpler than it sounds.

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