Real Potato Salad

No personal vendettas against potato salad, but the stuff, all things considered, is pasty goo that I have never been fond of. 

What I am fond of, are very hearty salads with hot and delicious stuff added to them.  Some of the best salads I’ve ever made or have been served contained hot ingredients – from spinach salads with hot currants, duck confit, and andouille sausage to salads filled with fried gnocchi and mushrooms.  The hot-cold combination is amazing, and for some reason, as spring is springing, Aurora and I have been eating this salad like it’s going out of style. 

In a sense, it is going out of style.  Aurora’s jaw surgery is less than 2 weeks away – wired shut for 12 weeks.  I’ll be joining her by doing an old-school “milk diet” for the first month or so.  No salads for us.   

Anyway, we’ve made this salad a half dozen ways over the past month.  In the video, I keep saying that hard-boiled eggs will be added, but in the end Aurora got the eggs and I opted to have my salad without them.  They are part of the “official” salad.  We’ve also made the salad with grilled beef (amazing), beef carpaccio (excellent), and so on.  But no matter how you choose to get down with this full-throttle “dinner salad,” the fried potatoes are a must. 

When done correctly, there is no better salad on earth, or in the words of Mr. Miyagi:

“When do right, no can defense.” 

Here is the REAL potato salad…

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 diced Yukon Gold potatoes fried in coconut oil, beef tallow, lard, or a combination
  • 6 strips bacon
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, still warm
  • 3 ounces of your favorite cheese grated or crumbled
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • 2 chopped Romaine “hearts” 
  • A little arugula or field greens
  • Fresh-picked herbs (optional) 

Prepare as shown in the video, adding your hot ingredients at the very end so the lettuce stays fairly crisp. 

Simplify by making it with just potatoes and cheese and/or a little shopped salami.  Olives would make a nice addition I would imagine.  I also think it’s easier to bake the bacon in the oven on a large sheet pan (with sides), 1-2 packs at a time so you can make this salad several times but only cook the bacon once. 

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Beef Wellington

This concludes our month of mega-gourmet filet action.  It’s about time.  Next month I’m going to try to go to the opposite side of the fence with the easiest, quickest, most ghetto food that I make for myself. 

This is definitely the most fancy pants of ’em all.  Beef Wellington is an old-school French preparation made by stuffing beef tenderloin (ideally with foie gras, but we’re not all jillionaires), wrapping it in Puff pastry, and baking it to perfection. It’s not as difficult to make as it seems at first, and can be greatly simplified as well by stuffing it with something simpler.

In the video I decide to stuff the Wellington with grilled asparagus and cream cheese.  I made it again two weeks later with wilted spinach, Cambozola, and cream cheese and it was even better.  If you want something really easy, a little creamy cheese is probably all you need – like Brie or Camembert.   I leave that call up to you. 

To make Wellington you will need:

1) A big hunk of beef tenderloin

2)Something to stuff it with

3) 1 Puff pastry sheet, rolled out pretty thin

4) 1 egg yolk and a splash of water (egg wash)

Then you:

1) Cut it open

2) Stuff it

3) Sear it in hot coconut oil, ghee, or beef tallow

4) Wrap it and egg wash it

5) Bake it.  In this case 425 degrees F made it slightly overdone before the pastry got fully browned. 450 is probably a better temp. – granted, I’m cooking at 6,200′ in elevation which makes a difference. 

If you dare to make this you won’t regret it!  What a treat for a small gathering of 4-6 people! 

Rendering Beef Fat for Tallow

Making beef tallow isn’t exactly a difficult or skillful process.  You are basically exposing solid fat to high temperatures to extract all of the fat in liquid form from the rest of the meat and muscle fibers.  Then you pour off the liquid fat and save it for cooking.  Beef tallow is an excellent fat, and has pearly, ivory-like texture at cold temperatures.  Good for cooking vegetables and searing meats in which you want to impart the rich flavor of beef into the food.  Mmm, mmm good.

In the following video, I do not cut the beef into smaller pieces, which would’ve cut down the cooking time and yielded a larger amount of fat.  Probably a bad habit.  But I got 2 cups of good-quality beef tallow nonetheless. 

As an interesting factoid – beef tallow was the most frequently-used household fat in the early 20th century prior to the earliest documented cases of heart disease.  So much for saturated fat clogging your arteries…

As the causation of heart disease science has evolved over the past couple decades, we now know that heart disease is a disease of inflammation, oxidative damage from free radicals, and certainly not a matter of having something we eat jump into our arteries for lack of a better place to go.  What increases oxidative damage and inflammation?  Lots of things, but mostly polyunsaturated fat – omega 6 in particular, the type of fat we embraced while shunning the beef tallow and butter that never did us any harm.  Make friends with tallow.  Its incredibly low concentration of omega 6 makes it a perfect household fat along with coconut oil and dairy products.

Best temperature is probably slightly lower than the temp. I began with.  350 degrees F is probably better.