Monday, November 2, 2009

Roasted Beet and Potato Salad with soft-cooked egg, smoked salmon, and mustard vinaigrette

I don't like beets.

Actually, I don't know if I like beets or not because I avoid them. I'm not sure I've ever even eaten a beet - any beet - let alone one of the three varieties needed for this recipe. But, while at the New Amsterdam Market, I saw these beauties - red and chioggia varieties:

While at the market I also purchased a dozen eggs from Stone Barns and I wanted to use them in a way that would show them off - not scrambled or in a quiche. The last component I needed were marble potatoes. I was not able to find the marble variety so I substituted baby white, yukon gold and red bliss potatoes from the grocery. In reality, this recipe came together naturally because of the great ingredients available at the market. I love that.

This recipe, like a lot of others in the book, requires each individual component to be cooked and seasoned separately and assembled to create the final presentation. I have mentioned before that these are not one-pot dishes; by giving each ingredient individualized attention, each ingredient is going to shine in the finished product. Such construction will be a common theme as this project progresses. I started by roasting the beets (each variety roasted separately, of course):

Once cooked, I let the beets cool before I peeled and cut them into bite-size pieces. I don't have pictures of this process because I was trying not to stain my hands/kitchen/everything with red beet juice. I peeled them with paper towels and managed not to get too much staining on my hands. I was pretty proud of myself but, knowing my luck wouldn't last, I went to Walgreens to buy latex gloves for my next beet preparation.

Step Two: Eggs. I took the huge, beautiful Stone Barns eggs and cooked them according to the "soft-cooked" instructions (I usually give my eggs ten minutes in the hot tub for regular hard boiled - the recipe called for seven minutes).

After they spent seven minutes in the water I put them into an ice bath to cool. Once thoroughly cool, I peeled them under running water and stored them in the refrigerator:

Step Three: Potatoes. The recipe calls for each variety of potato to be cooked separately (obviously). However, I did not have purple potatoes that could potentially discolor the other non-blue potatoes, so I cooked them all together. Also, the potato water was seasoned with salt and a sachet (a bouquet garni of sorts). The sachet is supposed to be wrapped in cheesecloth and removed after cooking. I didn't have any cheesecloth and figured that I could pick the potatoes cleanly from the sachet ingredients, so I skipped this step. In retrospect, it would have been easier if I had used the cheesecloth - but it was not totally necessary. I will tell you that I snacked on a few of the cooked potatoes before I plated the final dish and they were good. This treat-each-ingredient-separately idea is pretty ingenious (and delicious).

Step Four: Vinaigrette. This is a pretty straightforward mustard vinaigrette with champagne vinegar, mustard, extra virgin olive oil and it is finished with some whole grain mustard so you know what you're eating.

Step Five: Assembly. Lettuce, potatoes, beets, eggs and dressing. The potatoes are tossed in a little dressing before being added to the salad.

The recipe calls for the salad to be built in layers:

The finished salad - sorry for the terrible light. I'm working on it. I promise. But look at that salad - colorful, complex, fresh, smoky (with the salmon):

So, how was it?

Not exactly CleanPlateClub status, but close. My wife and I started eating this salad thinking that we would have another component of our dinner - I had some skirt steak marinating in the fridge - but after this dish, we were full. Not stuffed, but satisfied. It was rich enough with the smoked salmon; the potatoes were tasty and filling. But this salad was not my favorite. Not to say that it was nasty or terrible, just not get-the-defibrillator good.

Some of the problems were my creation:

See those nasty yolks? My fault. I should have cooked the eggs longer than the seven minutes suggested. These were very large eggs, but I didn't want to overcook them. I wimped out and second-guessed myself. Dammit.

Regarding those Stone Barns eggs - the yolks were orange, not yellow. My always eloquent wife said, "Holy Crap! Those yolks are like, neon orange." In her defense, they really were remarkable - even more than other farmer's market free-range eggs I've gotten in the past.

However, I don't think properly cooked eggs would have saved or made the salad. They would have added a certain richness and cut some of the sharpness of the mustard vinaigrette, but still, the earthiness of the beets was too overpowering for my beet-virgin palate. While I preferred the chioggias to the red beets, I would not say that I "liked" either of them. The smoked salmon was a nice touch. This salad would have been a complete pass without it.

Most likely, I will not be making this preparation again. But I did give it a try and now I know for sure:

I do not like beets.

Beets from NA Market: 2.89/lb.
Salad Greens from my garden
Smoked Salmon from Wegmans
Potatoes from Wegmans
Eggs from Stone Barns: 5/doz.


  1. Aww...I love beets. Sad to hear it didn't make you a fan. I was confused about the marble potatoes thing. I think they just mean potatoes that are the size of marbles and I'm sure they would prefer heirloom varieties. I usually hunt and peck for the smallest ones in bins of petite potatoes and you can usually find some small ones, but not always. Maybe you can get a clarification from someone.

    I think the eggs look really good! I would even say they are over soft-cooked. I'm pretty sure they are supposed to be runny when they are soft-cooked.

  2. Maybe it's just me - I love poached eggs, I love hard boiled eggs - but these, I just couldn't do. I did try one just to see how the flavors changed with the addition of the yolk - and it was a no-go for me. Personal preference I guess.

  3. yeah, those eggs look beautiful. Especially when you get farm fresh eggs with amazing orange yokes like those. I think there's few things more delicious then the creaminess of the runny yolk.

  4. Just made this last night (along with the heirloom bean and escarole soup). I thought the salad was near perfection. Then again I'm a TK whore after FL and Bouchon :) 7 minutes wasn't long enough for my eggs either.

    I think loving beets is a requirement for loving the salad, sadly.