Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Improvisation no. 2.

Actually the improvisation began the night before, or perhaps the day before that. I was at the farmer's market on Sunday, thinking about what I could make to accompany the leftover oven-fried chicken lurking in my refrigerator. It is Spring now, too warm for mashed potatoes, so I buy red-skinned potatoes for a potato salad. Then I spend the rest of the day wondering what else I could put in the potato salad, as I didn't want to bother going to the grocery store for celery or herbs or anything else. As I baked cupcakes and whipped up frosting (bittersweet-chocolate-and-sour cream, and cream-cheese) and made a mess of my kitchen and dining room table I thought about whether to use onions or scallions in my salad, or if I should just run to the supermarket for a little fresh dill.

Last night I came home and threw together a simple pasta for myself, and then thought about potato salad some more. As I ate my dinner I put the potatoes and eggs on to boil, removing the eggs after eight minutes, leaving the potatoes in until the skins split and a knife pierced the flesh easily. I have never been any good at judging the doneness of potatoes, perhaps because we rarely ate them when I was a child, except for in curry or Julia Child's potato gratin that appeared every Thanksgiving. The boiled potatoes were cut into reasonably tidy cubes, splashed with a little white wine vinegar, tossed with a sprinkle of salt, scallions sliced as finely as I know how. In went the mayonnaise with a plop, everything tossed together. I taste it, add some freshly ground black pepper. It needs something more - what? A spoonful of pickle relish. It is still too warm to taste properly; I will just leave it in the fridge and walk away.

All day I am thinking about that leftover oven-fried chicken (marinated in buttermilk with all sorts of seasonings, baked in a cast-iron skillet until crunchy all over) and that potato salad, even as I am sitting on a bench eating balsamic strawberry ice cream from Molly Moon. I come home just before dinnertime, and take a bite of potato salad, straight from the plastic tub. It is perfect. I wish I had not eaten that ice cream, but not really.

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