Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

There was once a town in North Texas known as Cathron’s Store. In the late 1800s, a grocery, a grist mill, and a post office could be found in this small Lamar County community, though by 1905 the name had changed to Tigertown and Cathron’s Store was no more. Most people, I reckon, have never heard of this place; it is forgotten. But because of a most unusual potato salad recipe by one of its residents, the town and its legacy continue.

Now, I realize that potato salad may seem an odd subject for contemplation, but Texan-style potato salad—which is typically yellow and tangy with mustard and often mashed to the point where you can’t tell where the potatoes end and the other ingredients begin—is not usually seen outside the state. It’s a unique dish.

Curious as to its beginnings, I began to do research and delved into a collection of recipes from the 1800s to see how it was made in the state’s early days. Most of the potato salad recipes followed a familiar fashion with hard-boiled eggs, pickles, and onions all bringing color and spark to the dish. Surprisingly, mustard was the preferred dressing even then, and while some recipes were prepared with cubed or sliced potatoes, mashed potatoes were used, too. The potato salad that Texans eat today has deep roots.

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

As I was reading, I came across a mashed potato salad by a Texan named Mrs. Lissa Gardner Bowman. She lived in Cathron’s Store. Her version started with leftover potatoes that she mashed and then mixed with the usual suspects. But just when things were becoming predictable, Mrs. Bowman encouraged the cook to go out into the garden and pick some nasturtiums for garnish. Not only was her hometown new to me, but also was her directive to add flowers to one’s potato salad.

Admittedly, I don’t cook with nasturtiums and I certainly don’t have a garden. But I had to try this unique combination so I headed over to the Union Square Greenmarket to see what I could find. My first stop was at the stand of Windfall Farms, a reliable source of squash blossoms, and to my delight they had a whole cooler full of the brightly colored nasturtium blooms. With a bit of a jig and much jubilation, I bought some flowers and rushed home to recreate the dish. A windfall indeed!

In my kitchen, I had the rest of the ingredients, which included cucumber pickles, diced onion, and hard-boiled eggs. (Pickled beets were also recommended, but I demurred as I’m not a fan). The original recipe’s dressing was only vinegar, but I augmented that with some melted butter and mustard, a popular combination found in most other Texas potato salad recipes from the late 1800s. Since I’d never tried nasturtiums before, I ate one and was surprised at its peppery bite. It was assertive and strong, a sharp edge to the plain potatoes, so I chopped a handful and mixed them into the salad, too.

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums

After it all came together, I garnished the salad with more flowers. It was the prettiest potato salad I’d ever seen with a flavor both familiar and new. So, here’s to Cathron’s Store, Mrs. Bowman, and a delicious addition to my side dish repertoire. It’s a joy to have discovered all three.

Texas potato salad with nasturtiums


Ingredients:
3 pounds russet potatoes
Salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup diced dill pickle
¼ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup finely chopped flat parsley
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
4-6 freshly picked nasturtium blossoms
Black pepper

Instructions:
Peel the potatoes then cut into 2-inch pieces. Place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil on high, then turn the heat down to medium and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse and turn off the heat.

While still warm, return the potatoes to the pot and add the butter. Mash the potatoes with a masher, leaving a few lumps, then stir the warm potatoes with the butter until the butter is melted. Stir in the apple cider vinegar, mustard, dill pickle, onion, parsley, and eggs.

Leaving 2 nasturtium blossoms for garnish, finely chop the remaining blossoms then mix into the salad. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Chill for 4 hours. Garnish with the remaining whole blossoms before serving.


Yield:
4-6 servings

Notes:
Don't fret if you can't find nasturtiums, as it's still a good, classic potato salad without them.


Author:


HOMESICKTEXAN.COM

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17 comments:

Elizabeth said...

This looks amazing --- I love your site, and cook from it often, and love the stories that go with the recipes. Can't wait to make this!
Elizabeth

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Elizabeth--Thank you for the kind words! It's a wonderful potato salad!

Celeste said...

This sounds delicious! I think chopped arugula would make a good peppery sub for nasturtiums. This sounds like a great recipe for the Fourth!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Celeste--Yes, that's an excellent substitution!

Pam said...

An interesting story, Lisa! I've heard of potato salad made with mashed potatoes and have to give this a try. And I've seen lots of recipes using nasturtiums, but never cooked with them. Sounds like Mrs. Bowman was on to something delicious! And all that mustard makes it even better. Thanks for the recipe!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Pam--I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the nasturtiums in the salad. Mrs. Bowman definitely knew what she was doing!

Cathy said...

I have had nasturtiums in a leafy salad before. Back in the late nineties, a supermarket was selling them. Never in a potato salad. Mustard makes almost everything better, esp potato salad.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Cathy--If you can find them you should try it! And yes, mustard definitely adds a spark to a dish.

Mark said...

I like the idea of pickled beets from the original recipe. Big fan.

Kelly W said...

I live in Paris, Lamar County, Texas & I know exactly where Cathrons Store/ Tigertown is. I'm thrilled that you shared this recipe. It's on my list of recipes to try SOON. Maybe it'll make the 4th of July bbq menu? Thank you!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Mark--You should include them!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Kelly--It would be perfect for the Fourth. And how cool you know the location of Cathron's Store!

Janet said...

I first encountered potato salad made with mashed potatoes when my decades long best friend, a Texas born and bred, moved 2 doors down from me in Florida in the early 1970s. While a mustard, pickle, and egg potato salad is common in both the midwest and south, this version seems unique to Texas. My personal version is sort of in between--I use russets that are cooked until pretty soft. My midwestern mom always used 1 egg per potato, although large russets can come out pretty close to the ratio in the above recipe--I use 1 egg per 8oz of potatoes, sweet pickles instead of dill, and a couple of ribs of finely diced celery. The nasturtiums sound like fun and a way to add color--I've used them for garnish in the past, so don't see any reason not to try them in the salad soon.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Janet--Thank you for supporting my theory that only Texans eat their potato salad mashed. And sweet pickles and celery are always excellent additions!

stephanie said...

i've never used mashed potatoes in potato salad per se, but i do purposely cut the potato chunks a little bigger and cook them a little longer and then rough them up quite a bit - the mashed bit acting as a binder (along with the mustard, pickles, onions, eggs, and a little mayo, etc). the best potato salad is creamy...with potatoes, not mayo. and should have very few distinct pieces of potato.

i'm a born and bread new englander though, so i'm not sure where it comes from!

i was hoping to find nasturtiums to make this, thinking maybe whole foods would have a container for a price, but alas. i like the arugula suggestion, and think watercress would also be good. (recently i made a horseradish potato salad with watercress and it was yummy.) anyhow, i'm going to try it your way today, to have alongside some jerk chicken and corn on the cob.

stephanie said...

ps, i did make it that night and it was so delicious! i was a bit heavy handed with the pickles and i should have trusted your judgement on that one, haha. so i will next time. but i still loved it. i was amazed how creamy it was with no mayo. i couldn't tell the difference. i decided that night to just make it "plain" but i really hope i can find the edible flowers at some point because they would be so tasty and pretty.

estella said...

I'm a 3rd generation Texan; the potato salad we fix has always left the potatoes in nickle-sizes chunks, some of which get broken down in the mixing to bind the salad. Other ingredients are mustard, chopped egg, celery, and smaller amounts of onion, sweet relish, mayo, salt & pepper. Mashed potato salad has always just seemed a little odd-textured to me!

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