This dish started with an excess of wood sorrel, which I tend to hoard during its short spring season. One night, realizing that I had so much I was going to lose it if it didn’t get eaten, I began researching recipes and found that the bright, lemony-tasting green is often used to make a sauce for fish, particularly salmon. Except I didn’t have salmon. No problem. What I did have was potatoes, and bacon, and those two items are actually ideal companions (or vehicles?) for wood sorrel. This potato dish, which I’m calling warm potato salad because it reminds me of the tangy German potato salad I remember my aunt making, is a delightful combination of (my memories of) her salad and the elements that make sorrel sauce so nice. It has quickly become a favorite spring recipe: we take advantage of the wood sorrel from Foraged & Found Edibles, bacon from Skagit River Ranch (the best I’ve ever had) and Romanze potatoes from Olsen Farms. All these ingredients come from our local farmers’ market and remind me how lucky I am to have diverse, quality local products available so easily.
One of my very favorite things to do, beginning in April and going all the way through October, is head to the market Saturday or Sunday morning (or both) and build a meal from what I find there. It’s a good way to learn about new items and specialties in season (talk to those nice farmers!) and support your local economy. And it’s a good way to acquire the building blocks of simple, delicious dinners. Have you heard the phrase, “If it grows together, it goes together”? Use that idea as a starting point and you’ll be amazed what you can create. I find that most vendors are more than happy to give you recipes or preparation advice for their products; that’s how I learned about– and why I started buying– wood sorrel in the first place.
Back to the potatoes. The flavors here are bold on purpose, as potatoes are traditionally both up to the task of supporting big ingredients and in need of flavorful additions to offset their starchiness. Choose a potato you would use for a potato salad; I favor medium-sized red potatoes or Yukon gold. Again, ask your farmer! The gentleman at the Olsen Farms booth was helpful in pointing out which varieties held their shape when boiled and which were better left to baking. Wood sorrel has a short growing season and may be a tricky find; in a pinch, substitute 4 c. tender spinach and 1/4 c. fresh dill. Cook the spinach as you would the wood sorrel and stir in the fresh dill just before adding the sauce to the potatoes. If available to you, a handful of fresh peas or some chopped asparagus are great additions to the salad. You can serve your potato salad as an entree, as I do, or as a beautiful accompaniment to any dish you would have with potatoes.
So, tell me what you’re getting at the farmers’ market near you! I’m always thrilled to hear what’s in season and abundant in different areas.
Warm Potato Salad with Bacon & Wood Sorrel (serves 4-8)
- 2 lbs. small red or Yukon gold potatoes
- 6 slices of good-quality, thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces (lardons)
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 4 c. wood sorrel, picked over if foraged, rinsed and spun dry
- 1 T. apple cider vinegar or malt vinegar (optional)
- 2/3 c. cream
- kosher salt to taste
Put your cleaned, unpeeled, whole potatoes into a large 3-qt pot and cover them with cool water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook for 35-40 mins. The potatoes are done when you can pierce them without effort with a fork or the tip of a knife. Start your sauce while they cook, since they will be served warm.
To make the sauce, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is crispy and golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined bowl or plate and set aside.
Pour off all but 1 T. bacon grease. Add the garlic to the pan over medium-low heat and cook for about 1 min., stirring constantly. Add the wood sorrel to the pan and stir until it’s soft and wilted. It will lose its brilliant green color and become drab brown, which is unfortunate, but unavoidable; use your slotted spoon to remove the sorrel immediately to a cutting board once it turns color.
Using a sharp knife, roughly chop the cooked wood sorrel until it is quite fine. I know this is unusual, but the results of doing this were so much nicer than using an immersion blender or food processor for the sauce, so trust me. Once you have reached this step, see where your potatoes are in the cooking process. Pause if you have more than 10 mins. to go with the potatoes; the sauce comes together quickly from here.
When you’re ready to proceed, return the skillet to a medium-low burner and add the chopped sorrel mixture back to the pan. Add the cider or malt vinegar, if using, and stir until it cooks down and the sorrel looks almost dry again. (If you don’t cook off the vinegar, the cream may curdle, but I love the flavor the vinegar adds.) Add the cream and stir; remove from heat as soon as the sauce is warmed through and add salt to taste. The cream doesn’t need to cook, just heat.
Drain the cooked potatoes and use a fork or tongs to transfer them to your cutting board. Using the fork/tongs for assistance so you can work quickly without burning your hands, roughly cut the potatoes into quarters, if they’re quite small, or ninths, as I did. Put the hot, cut potatoes into a large bowl and season with salt. Pour the still-warm sorrel mixture over the potatoes and add the reserved bacon pieces. Toss gently to coat potatoes with sauce. Serve immediately. Leftover salad will keep for up to 2 days in a tightly-covered container and can be eaten cold, but it’s really best warm.