I absolutely love cooking with the seasons. It seems like the only way to cook, in spite of our modern American grocery stores supplying us year round with just about every fruit and vegetable that we demand. I’m so stubborn about this, I can’t even remember when I last bought a tomato, although I do purchase cherry tomatoes in the winter.
The concept is smart – stemming from the peasant way of preparing food, which involved using what you raised and what grew around you, whether you lived amongst olive groves in Italy, or on the coast of Greece. But it’s also a more fun way to cook. Cooking the same dishes using the same ingredients for me would get so boring month after month. It’s also less expensive using in-season produce.
I was recently at a hip, small-plates and shared-plates restaurant, and one of the vegetable offerings was asparagus. I, of course, had to make a comment about it not being in season, which was most likely met with silent snickers. In the end, I was outvoted. And it was terrible. Well, not terrible, but you could tell it wasn’t just-picked springtime asparagus. It may have been grown in a greenhouse nearby, but there’s still a difference.
In any case, because I cook seasonally, I bring you a winter version of potato salad. It contains red potatoes, Polish sausage, and Gruyere with a creamy vinaigrette, served at room temperature.
A few months ago I published a late summer potato salad with corn, because corn was abundant. I love creating seasonally different potato salads. Why not?!! In fact, they can end up being a meal, instead of a side.
So this is what I did.
Winter Potato Salad with Kielbasa and Gruyere
8 small red potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces Polska Kielbasa, or Polish Sausage, sliced
1 large shallot, diced
8 ounces diced Gruyere, at room temperature
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon yogurt, sour cream, or half and half
Approximately 1/3-1/2 cup prepared dressing*
To begin, quarter the potatoes and steam them until they’re just tender, or about 8 minutes. This, of course, depends on the size of your potato pieces. You just don’t want them so soft that they fall apart.
Let the potatoes cool in the steamer basket. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, half and half or whatever product you want to make the vinaigrette creamy.
Then whisk in the vinaigrette. You can make it creamier, with a smaller amount of the vinaigrette, or stronger with more. It’s up to you.
Pour the olive oil into a skillet over high heat and brown the sausage slices on both sides. Using a slotted spoon, place the sausage in a small bowl and set aside.
Just for fun and flavor, I gently tossed the cooling potatoes in the remaining oil in the skillet. Then I placed them in a medium-sized bowl.
Add about 1/4 cup of the creamy vinaigrette to the potatoes and toss gently. Set the bowl aside so the potatoes can cool further. However, if later you see that the potatoes have absorbed all of the vinaigrette, add a little more, or a little olive oil and toss gently.
When the potatoes have completely cooled, add the sausage and about half of the diced shallot and stir gently. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Regarding the Gruyere, you can toss it in to the potato-sausage mixture, or sprinkle the dice on top just before serving, which is what I did. Just don’t add the cheese too early or it will melt. The texture of the room temperature cheese is a nice texture compliment with the potatoes and sausage.
Then sprinkle the remaining shallots and some parsley, if desired, for color.
* The vinaigrette I used I’d prepared with olive oil and a combination of apple cider and balsamic vinegars. It also contained a little Dijon mustard, which goes so well when sausage is involved. I don’t typically toss any kind of salads with balsamic vinegar, because of the dark brown color; I tend to offer balsamic on its own. However, because the balsamic was cut with the apple cider vinegar, plus the mayo and half and half, it wasn’t too brown.