From last week’s lament regarding the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s incomplete recipe of Charlie’s Café Exceptionale’s world-renowned potato salad…we have a major breakthrough! You’ve GOT to try this!
First, I dispensed with the notion that I would get anything from food critic Rick Nelson or anyone affiliated with the ‘Strib’, and even if I did get a snippet of information, I knew I wouldn’t receive the fine print on this holy grail-esque recipe. So I forged ahead…and what I found was a potato salad rebirth.
The changes were few and simple but critical. Boil the potatoes until they are super-soft, in well-seasoned water. I used ‘B’ small red potatoes, whole and boiled them for 24-25 minutes. You can use the potato of your choice, but the point is, you must “boil the snot out of them” and then get them into a quick ice bath. Dice them fairly fine – in 1/2″ cubes. Mine didn’t completely collapse when I folded them in with the other ingredients, but it was close, and if I had gotten vigorous, it would have been potato salad puree (which is gross). I eschewed less of the red bell pepper in favor of some very finely minced celery (about 2-3 T. worth) and some capers (about 1 T.) and added an extra hard-boiled egg. Trust me on the capers, btw. That, and the HM mayonnaise recipe I shared last week make this leagues above what it originally was.
One kernel of info I gleaned from the recipe had nothing to do with an ingredient listing, but an interview Barbara Flanagan gave to former WCCO anchor legend Don Shelby during the TPT television program, “Lost Twin Cities”, wherein she gushes forth about Charlie’s and the wonderful décor and the fantastic menu and “that incredible potato salad!”. She purred about the potato salad, “it was very, very creamy”, and that was my clue. I translated that the potatoes were much softer, AND that a little extra dollop or two of mayonnaise was added. My instincts were right and the two married into that lovely creaminess. Feels so good on the tongue too!
Long story short: once these tweaks were done, I had simply the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten. That is speaking volumes, my friends. I eat a lot, I cook a lot and I pay acute attention to the things I taste and savor. This potato salad is no small feat; even if I’m off slightly on this timeless concoction of Charlie’s Café Exceptionale, I know I’ve hit the right notes and captured the spirit of the dish. It is the effect I was looking for. Charlie and Mrs. Saunders would have no reluctance serving this to their discerning clientele. If Charlie’s potato salad is better than mine, someone will have to prove it to me.
There we are. Friends, make this for yourself. Honestly, add your distinct personality to this salad. Charlie’s was a fine restaurant, I’m told, but we’re not talking state secrets here. Take the basic tools of this salad recipe and make it your own. I implore you to add the new HM mayonnaise recipe I shared last week. You owe it to yourself and the other mouths you fill to make this fabulous potato salad at least once. You’ll not be sorry.
What a great day! Now….go eat something! -Jack
photos by 1) chefstore.com and 2) me….