It's not easy being The Bee's food columnist.
I spend grueling hours flipping through magazines and searching Web sites, seeking recipes to e-mail to the paper's recipe testers. On top of that, I actually have to cook these recipes — I'm paid for my time — and serve the results to my family for dinner.
And this weekend, I have to judge a barbecue contest.
Yes, life is tough. Sometimes I wish I could go back to covering hours-long school board meetings. Those were the days ... .
Seriously, selecting this week's recipe was quite a task. That's because The Bee's marketing department asked me to choose from side-dish recipes sent in by contestants in a competition the paper is sponsoring along with Save Mart Supermarkets this weekend. It's called the Great American Tailgate Party, and the theme is — of course — barbecue.
You should see the side dishes people came up with: crab-stuffed mushrooms; barbecued shrimp; pinto bean and avocado salsa; spicy grilled asparagus; a chocolate- bourbon-pecan pie to be cooked on the barbecue.
I wanted to try every one. Except the pie. Some things don't belong on a barbecue.
The recipe I chose? Poblano potato salad, submitted by Kathy Benavidez of Modesto. Kathy, a self-taught chef who has worked in restaurants in Sonoma and the foothills, came up with the idea when her daughter — whose husband's family is from Mexico — made mashed potatoes with poblano peppers, a la her mother-in-law.
Why not try the same trick with potato salad?
Why bother, I asked myself at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, when I was scurrying around the grocery store trying to find a clerk who could tell me what a poblano pepper was. I gave up and bought something called a pasilla pepper, which I now understand is basically the same thing.
I made the salad that night, because my deadline for this column was the next day. Yes, food columnists have deadlines. The nerve!
Anyway, preparation was easier than I expected. I had already Googled "roast pepper" and discovered that running it under the broiler for a few minutes seemed easier than an alternate method, where you hold it over the gas burner.
I did the broiler thing, and then put the pepper in a bowl and covered the whole thing with plastic wrap as my Internet instructions said to do. After a few minutes, I took the pepper out, let it cool and peeled it. This might seem like a lot of steps, but it wasn't too bad. And not nearly as time-consuming as I thought it would be.
Mixing the dressing in the blender was a breeze. But it turned out slightly green, and I'm thinking that's because of the pepper. I've got nothing against green potato salad, but I wonder if you could avoid this by finely dicing the pepper, and not incorporating it in the dressing.
The result was delicious. The caramelized onion added a sweet flavor, while the dressing was both creamy and slightly spicy. My only criticism would be that a little more kick — hot sauce? — is needed.
So, I herby pronounce the potato salad a success. Whew, that was tough. I think I'll call it a day.
Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This potato salad was quite good. We could definitely taste the distinct flavors ... . I would suggest using these sparingly if they don't appeal to you because their flavors were not obscured by the other ingredients. I had a hard time finding a poblano pepper, but a grocer pointed out that it is the same as a pasillo pepper. We liked the pepper flavor and will add more than one the next time we make this dish.
This recipe was a little short on ingredients and directions. It was basically potatoes and onions in a poblano-flavored sauce. The flavors of the caramelized onions and the poblano combined with the creaminess of the red potatoes well, but this just doesn't say potato salad to me. It seemed more like it could be a hot side dish rather than a salad. Also, the recipe should probably say medium potatoes and have a measurement for the lime. I was a little worried about serving it at room temperature as the sauce is made with sour cream and mayonnaise. How long is it OK to leave it at room temperature?
I thought this potato salad would be the perfect accompaniment to ribs and chili. I used about 2½ pounds of red potatoes, cutting them into bite-sized pieces and boiling until soft. The pepper took forever to roast in the oven and would have been much more economical to roast with the ribs on the grill. The dressing came together quickly once the pepper was complete. The caramelized onions are delicious. When warm, the flavor of the sweet onion and the smoky pepper with the surprisingly light dressing was great. Not any one flavor stood out and I kept taking bites hoping to be wowed. This dish was very mild, especially when cold. Next time I will double the onions and pepper and hope for a stronger flavor -- or maybe a dash of hot sauce?
Delicious! I was so impressed with this full-flavored, fantastic potato salad. The dressing alone is a slight bit spicy, but when you add it to the potatoes and the caramelized onions, it becomes not spicy at all; everything is perfectly balanced. The recipe didn't specify so I tried it hot, warm and cold; cold tasted the best. I think this is the best potato salad I have ever had.
This potato salad is very good. The pepper added a rich, almost meaty flavor. The contrast with the caramelized onion was really a nice surprise. My family thought it one of the best potato salads I've ever made! The recipe makes a lot of dressing, so depending on the size of your potatoes, you don't want to add it all at once or you'll drown the potatoes and onions.
Only a sense of duty prompted me to make this potato salad because, in my estimation, there is no potato salad worthy of the name if my wife didn't make it. This recipe doesn't give complete and useful instructions on what to do with the ingredients. I followed the instructions I was given and improvised the remainder. What resulted was a potato salad that we ate and thought was OK. There was probably too much sauce for the amount of potatoes, and the sauce wasn't zingy enough for my taste, but it wasn't offensive. I confess I used a pasilla pepper instead of a poblano; the green grocer assured me the two are comparable.
The taste was not worth the effort. Somewhere between the pepper roasting and the onion caramelizing, I lost momentum; the recipe didn't say whether to blend in the onions or add them to the blended mixture, so I split the potatoes and made two different concoctions. I preferred the dish with everything blended and then tossed with the potatoes. Before serving, I splashed more lime juice over the finished salad and sprinkled it with smoky paprika and a little chopped cilantro. We finished it off the next afternoon as tapas; using a little serving of the salad spooned onto slices of salami and washed down with cold beer.
This potato salad is really delicious. The tartness from the lime is a wonderful complement to the sweetness of the onions. I made half the recipe and then added the leftover lime juice and the other pepper half. It's perfect. The preparation is simple. While the pepper was in the oven, I started the onions and then diced the potatoes, so all were cooking at the same time. This salad would be a wonderful addition to roast beef or traditional fried chicken. It's definitely a keeper.