April 20, 2024

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The potato is, like rice or pasta, a blank canvas that allows you to place on it from the most baroque combinations to the most austere ones, which can shine as much or more than the previous ones if they are well chosen and combined. The summer potato salads are a good example of this: from the Spartan potatoes seasoning —a minimalist delicacy from Cádiz par excellence— to Russian salads where lust reigns much more than fantasy, according to the members of the Observatory of this preparation, which leave the orthodox of Valencian paella at the level of simple aficionados.

The primal recipe

As it happens with so many other humble preparations, the origin of the aliñás potatoes is uncertain: simple food helps history to be generated by feeding the people, but it is rarely reflected in it. Someone was hungry, they had potatoes, they had onions and something to season them with, and magic arose out of necessity.

For this, someone had to domesticate potatoes as a crop, something that happened in the Andean highlands in the fifteenth century BC, although the first to consume them “were the Navajo peoples and their ancestors, settled in the southwest of the current United States , which, still in the middle of the last century, collected the small tubers of two wild potato species (S. jamesii and S fendleri) that they consumed roasted or cooked”, the study points out. History of plants I: the history of the potato from the University of Extremadura.

To honor the tuber eating a good portion, from the Cadiz gastronomic portal things to eat, Pepe Monforte —who defines himself as an “expert in Tapatology and a Master’s in Saladillism with stickiness, from Cádiz and Sevillian”, so if there is a qualified voice to speak on the subject, it is him—, he begins by recommending “the mother of all seasoned potatoes: those of Barbiana de Sanlúcar. They are served warm and with a large piece on top of melva in oil”, followed by the Bar Terraza, Venta Gabriel and Barbiana. Monforte points out that good potatoes are also served in Seville, and he highlights those from La Bodeguita Romero in Seville and the San Rafael de Camas winery.

the illustration arrived

Monforte recommends at this point “a historical version of this dish, since it began to be served at the Venta de Vargas in 1924” which is a bit different from the more classic formula of this dish, since it includes tomato. “Nevertheless, they are exquisite, with a very good point of seasoning and juicy,” he says of these almost hundred-year-old potatoes, along with those he also recommends others illustrated with cuttlefish from the El Colorao bar or the most sophisticated ones —templaíto, with boiled egg low temperature and loin shavings— from El Laúl.

If, following the tomato trail, we add other vegetables such as red and green peppers to this expanded basic, we will get a country, Spanish or summer salad; a kind of richer Pokémon evolution. It is not a closed recipe with which we can become fundamentalists: each orchard and each house put, and puts, what it had and has. Although it is tasty, simple and nutritious, it has two ingredients that when raw can repeat more than the chorus of a summer song: pepper and onion. You can reduce the effect by seasoning both ingredients in the fridge for a while before; the vinegar will cook them slightly thanks to the effect of the acid. If you stay up late this August, let it be to dance at the town festivals and not because dinner is sponsoring you a Toledo night.

With the Russian we have come across

The Russian salad, one of the star dishes of the summer and an institution in Spanish gastronomy
The Russian salad, one of the star dishes of the summer and an institution in Spanish gastronomyPhoto by Rafa Elias (Getty Images)

A sauce that envelops everything, adds creaminess and blends the flavors together? It was a matter of time before the potato salad and the mayonnaise coincided: that’s how the Russian salad arrived. Although its creation is attributed to the Belgian chef Lucien Olivier in 1860 —a very sui generissince the ingredients included lobster, partridges, crabs, olives and more, in a kind of salad cornucopia—, says our colleague and wise gourmet Jose Carlos Capel that “the salad is mentioned for the first time in Spain in the book The Modern Kitchen (M. Garciarena and M. Muñoz, Madrid 1857), probably the most important manual of Spanish cooking of the 19th century”; three years before Olivier opened his restaurant.

It took 35 years to find the next reference, this time in the General Cooking Dictionary by Ángel Muro (1892), in a much simpler format based on vegetables and as a courtesy tapa in bars and taverns, where things were not for salmon. According to Antonio Casado and Pepelu Moreno and Javi Padilla, the founders of the Russian Salad Observatory (ODER), currently their ideal recipe calls for potatoes and carrots, hard-boiled eggs, tuna or frigate fritters, bell pepper, mayonnaise and optionally peas. From ODER they recommend trying those from Seville Seafood Emilio; Becerrita restaurant and Donald seafood restaurant, their podium without discussion and in this same order.

Putting pickles —although the Murcian version has it—, pink sauce or alioli, anchovies, Modena chorreton, parsley or crab sticks is grounds for cessation. The same as serving it in a can, slate or churrigueresquely decorated with a mayonnaise dispenser, nor bowling it like ice cream; you have to serve it in goop or, as Moreno says, “with contempt”. It has become clear: the Russian salad is not a cupcake, and if someone treats it as such from ODER, they will not hesitate to send their Special Security Operations Group GOES, whose purpose is to defend the delicacy at all costs (and incidentally ensure the It sucks on social networks, you just have to look at the hashtag #nobolasensaladilla to see how they spend it).

If you go beyond orthodoxy

All this seems very good to you, but you are an adventurous spirit and you have come here looking for mambo, we also have salads for you. In Seville itself, Mikel López Iturriaga recommends La casa del tigre, with hake, piparra and fried capers; that of Cañabota with chopped parsley; and that of Lola Taberna, with fried egg and shrimp. In Málaga, the fusion of Tragatá —with piparra—, the templaíta of Candado Golf that is served at room temperature and that of Chinchín Puerto, with endemic prawns from the area called coloraíllos, have collected prizes in Madrid in recent years. Out of competition but winners in many stomachs, the ones from La Cosmopolita, Refractorium or El Estrecho do not admit discussion in Malaga lands either. Long live potato salad in all its versions!

Potato dressing recipe

Ingredients

For 6 people

  • 1 kg of new potato
  • One spring onion or half a sweet onion (or to taste)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (in a generous amount)
  • White wine vinegar (optional)
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt
  • Optional: black olives, tuna canutera or tuna in oil, hard-boiled egg

Instructions

1.

Boil the potatoes in plenty of salty water —starting with cold water— for about 25 minutes (a little less if they are small, a little more if they are large). Turn off the heat and leave them for 15 more minutes.

2.

Drain in a colander and wait until they can be peeled without burning. Meanwhile, cut the onion into strips.

3.

Peel the potatoes while they are still a bit warm—it will help them absorb the flavors—and cut them into about six pieces. Transfer to a bowl and dress with oil, salt and if you want vinegar. Add the onion and parsley, mix and cover.

4.

When they are at room temperature, serve; if desired with any of the optional ingredients.

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