I know, I know. Is a potato – a plain ol' potato??? – worth so much adulation? But yes, Finnish potatoes are special. They're firm but soft when cooked, the flesh is a pretty yellow color with thin and light-colored skins that peel easily with no more than your fingers. They're less mealy than a baking potato but not at all creamy like a red potato. But it's the taste, somehow better and more potato-y than other potatoes, that makes Finnish potatoes coveted, especially when they are "new" potatoes. Mind you, "new potatoes" is for-real, Finnish potatoes aren't just bred for smallness but instead are taken from the ground about half-grown, that's usually in mid-June near the summer solstice when Finland earns its name as the "land of the midnight sun".
So our timing was good! Earlier this month, we spent a week in southern Finland – and also some days in Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Copenhagen. Yeah, I know, lucky me, what a trip! Everywhere we went, requested or not, potatoes appeared on the table. Still not convinced?
Check out a story from the international edition of Helsingin Sanomat, the big newspaper in Finland's lovely capitol city, Helsinki. It's called Praise the Lord and pass the butter - the time has come for lovely, lovely new spuds. It's in English not Finnish!
During our trip, after a late and filling lunch with Pille Petersoo from Nami Nami in her hometown of Tallin, Estonia, we accompanied her home to a supper of boiled potatoes, fresh pickles, strawberries and a gorgeous rhubarb cake. Three kids and three adults went through a whole pile of potatoes, yes, they were "dinner" and soooo good! Pille's middle child, an adorable tow-headed boy of three, likes his new potatoes about 1:1 potatoes:butter. :-)
So when new potatoes show up at the farmers markets soon, ask about Finnish potatoes. The two varieties that come up in Finland are "timo" [pronounced tee-moe] and "siikli" [seek-lee] but in the U.S. I've also seen Finnish potatoes marketed as "Yellow Finns" and even just "Finn" potatoes.
No luck finding Finnish potatoes? No problem. Do as I did when I made this recipe on our first day back, carefully picking the smallest Yukon golds from the potato bin at the grocery store. My goal here was to replicate the potato salad that my Finnish "sister" Ritva made for a casual weeknight meal for four last week: "just" smoked salmon and smoked whitefish with good Finnish rye bread, butter, some cheese, sliced tomatoes – and potato salad, new potatoes boiled and then tossed in a simple vinaigrette of Dijon mustard, olive oil, white wine vinegar and chive. "This is what we make in summer," she explained. And so I will ...
RECIPE for FINNISH SUMMER POTATO SALAD
Time to table: 40 minutes
2 pounds new light-skinned potatoes, preferably Finnish potatoes, otherwise small Yukon gold potatoes
Cold water to cover
2 tablespoons kosher salt
VINAIGRETTE (see ALANNA's TIPS)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Fresh chive, chopped
Salt & pepper, if needed
POTATOES Bring potatoes, water and salt to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and let water simmer until potatoes are fully cooked, a knife should slip easily into the center. Drain and if there's time, let cool. Cut into bite-size pieces.
VINAIGRETTE Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Toss Vinaigrette with either warm or cooled cooked potatoes.
TO SERVE Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled. May be made ahead of time, in fact, it may actually taste a bit better on the second day.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
BOIL POTATOES IN COLD WATER We all know the general rule – right? – that when boiling vegetables that come from below ground – carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, say – that we start them in cold, salted water? But don't boil potatoes hard, they'll break apart. I fear that as boiling vegetables becomes passé, we'll forget the basics!
DRESSING HOT VS COLD POTATOES Hot potatoes will soak-soak-soak up the Vinaigrette which is great flavor-wise but may make the overall salad look and feel a little dry. To prevent it from happening, cool the potato pieces before tossing in the Vinaigrette. But if there's no time for cooling, toss the hot potatoes with about half the vinaigrette. If you're serving the potato salad right away, no problem, half the Vinaigrette is probably enough. But if you're serving the salad later, either at room temperature or cold, you'll want to toss it with the remaining vinaigrette just before serving.
SHARPNESS This is a slightly sharp Vinaigrette, if it's too sharp for your taste, thin it with a little more olive oil or even warm water, you could also add a teaspoon or two of agave (to stay vegan) or honey (if you like).
HERB SUBSTITUTES Fresh dill, parsley or another herb may be substituted for the chives.
POTATO SALAD & FOOD SAFETY Did you know this? Me either. According to this interesting piece in Cook's Country, it's not the mayonnaise in potato salad which goes bad when left out for more than a couple of hours, it's the potatoes!
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MORE SCANDINAVIAN / NORDIC RECIPES for MIDSUMMER CELEBRATIONS
~ Finnish Carrot Casserole ~
~ Swedish Red Cabbage ~
~ Swedish Beets ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Finn Crisp with Marmalade & Cheese ~
~ Finnish Summer Soup ~
~ Homemade Finnish Mustard ~
~ Finnish Fruit Tart ~
~ more Scandinavian recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
MORE FAVORITE POTATO SALAD RECIPES
~ Mom’s Potato Salad ~
~ Southwestern Potato Salad ~
~ Cauliflower "Potato" Salad ~
~ more potato salad recipes ~
~ more potato recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Confetti Potato Salad ~
~ Cornmeal Catfish with Warm Potato Salad ~
~ Sweet Potato Salad with Roasted Poblano, Roasted Corn & Chipotle ~
~ Favorite Summer Salad Recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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