Feeling French-y

September 5, 2012



I know, I know, it’s been a leeetle slow in this space lately. I haven’t been vaporized by aliens or anything. It’s just that the Freakshow Circus is still in town. Can you hear the peanuts crunching? Smell the cotton candy?

Actually, if you really were here, you’d be smelling peaches. Luscious, fragrant peaches. 20 (ahem) pounds of them. I have no flippin’ idea what I’m going to do with 20 pounds of peaches, but keep your ears open because I’m sure I’ll be writing about them soon. Anyone got a favorite peach recipe to share? Jesus, I might even have to bake. That’s a serious threat.

In other Circus news, I think the Scamper-man (our little Russian white hamster) is dying. He’s been a lethargic little dude lately and I think he’s gone blind?  This is sad news. Even sadder is that I’ve cried several times already over the impending demise of a rodent. I’m going soft, readers. There’s no other explanation.

When you are weepy and facing the possibility of RodentGate, there’s only one thing to do: find a distraction.


Meet Aria. New Distraction.


Miss M. fell in love with Aria this past weekend, and I thought about saying “Hell no,” but then she pulled out the big eyes. That girl can work the big eyes like nobody’s business.

Thus, we have a new family member. A very affectionate, very talkative family member. Seriously, this girl loves to chat. She also loves to hop into the nearest lap and stay forever a while, even if you are busy typing on a laptop computer. Aria is a little needy right now, which is fine, although my writing is suffering the consequences. I like to think that she’s worth it, but man, I’d forgotten that a new pet is sort of like a new baby. Aria=Needy Bit of Baggage.

Aria is a tiny girl, unlike our last cat, Harryboy. Harryboy was pushing 14 pounds. I’m used to his behemoth frame, but she’s dainty. She rarely hangs around the food bowl. I wish I could say the same of myself but alas, I’m a feeder. Why hasn’t someone invented feed bags for humans yet? That would totally save me time. If I weren’t so busy working on a patent for the Valium Salt Lick, I’d totally be on board for the Human Food Bag. Then again, maybe human beings are a little overfed already…just go to WalMart. That’s an eyeful, right there.

*Awkward Segue*

So, let’s talk potato salad.

*Told you it was awkward.*

Sorry. You really have to forgive me. I’m not wearing my game face today. Aria has been howling in the night, demanding love at ungodly hours. I’m punchy, readers. Punchypunchy.

The good news is, this potato salad will not completely destroy your ass.  Most potato salads are filled with mayonnaise and eggs, which is why people like potato salad. My Daddy-o is particularly fond of potato salad, because this is a man who thinks mayonnaise is a beverage. Daddy eats a frightening amount of mayonnaise, but don’t fret about his health; Daddy has the constitution of a cockroach. He’s gonna outlive us all, I swear.

Daddy-o loves all potato salad, but he’s partial to one kind–the orange potato salad of my youth. Orange potato salad is shameful and good at the same time. Sometimes, though, I feel the need to shake the tree a little, and last week (while I was folding mountains of laundry) I saw a recipe on the Cooking Channel that intrigued me.

This recipe comes from Laura Calder, who hosts a show called “French Food at Home.” Laura’s a Canadian, but she attended cooking school in France and fell in love with the place. Honest truth: normally, I don’t like French food. Too fussy, too saucy, too buttery, too…whatever. But sometimes Calder makes simple, rustic French dishes that are beautifully simple and straightforward. This recipe is one of them.

You know what I also like about this recipe? The potatoes get a lovely bath in white wine before you dress them. Boozy potatoes? Sign me up. The wine adds a nice little acidity, as do the vinegar-marinated shallots, which were a revelation. I never thought to pour vinegar over shallots, wait five minutes, and then drain them, but Calder says the French do it all the time in salads. Maybe those French do know something, after all.

What you get in the end is a hundred miles away from the potato salads you’ve grown up eating. This one’s light, bright and fresh–no murky mayonnaise in sight. It’s served at room temperature, so the flavor of the potatoes really shines through. I was afraid that maybe Daddy would miss the potato salads of yore, but he loved this version. I did, too.

It keeps well, so you can enjoy leftovers. I took the chill off by letting the leftovers sit at room temperature for about a half hour, but I think it would be fine cold. Luckily, we had plenty of leftovers, so I had a minute to catch Minx 2 practicing her sharp-shooting maneuvers. She’s a budding Annie Oakley, and I am very grateful that her first target of choice–my backside–escaped her this time.

Check in, lovely readers, if you can. I miss you. I’m hoping to return to normalcy soon, if Aria allows.




French Potato Salad

recipe courtesy of Laura Calder

serves 6


2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed

1/2 cup white wine, such as pinot grigio

2 small shallots, diced finely

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil

salt and pepper

1-2 tablespoons each fresh tarragon leaves and snipped chives


In a large pot, cover potatoes with cold water. Bring water to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes, depending on size. Drain potatoes and cool just slightly until you can handle them. Peel (optional) and thinly slice potatoes. Place the warm potatoes in a dish and drizzle wine over. Allow it to sink in–about ten minutes. While potatoes rest, chop shallots and pour red wine vinegar over. Let marinate for 5 minutes and then drain the vinegar off. Sprinkle potatoes with shallots.

Combine Dijon mustard, oil, salt and pepper to taste and whisk to emulsify. Pour vinaigrette over potatoes. Sprinkle herbs over. Season with additional salt and pepper and serve at room temperature.

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