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Tara O'Brady's Double-Dressed Potato Salad.

Tara O'Brady

I associate Father’s Day meals with the outdoors. Since it takes place toward the end of the school year, my children are usually itching for the start of summer and I’m usually right there with them. Where I live in Southern Ontario, that third week in June is when our growing season is hitting high gear, too. And while the fathers in my life are varied in their tastes, none argue with a picnic.

Potato salad has a permanent spot on the menu, but the details vary. They’ve been hot and cold, vinegar-based or creamy, sometimes full of chilies and other times mild and subtle.

This year, I liked the idea of a heartier potato salad. It sounds redundant, as a salad made of carbohydrates is pretty hearty as is. But I mean it in the sense of texture and a combination of ingredients to make it a possible main as easily as it could be a side. This is one that brings together all the potato salads of my past into something new, satisfying all cravings.

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Thus, this doubly dressed composition of tiny golden potatoes, white beans and soft-centred eggs, bound in a not-too-heavy dressing. The starch-on-starch of potatoes and beans grant substance and subtle variance. Using soft-set eggs means the yolks enrich the dressing and the whites stay supple and tender.

For contrast against all the softness, there are capers, fried so they open up into salty, crispy blossoms, and a showering of smashed corn nuts for unfaltering crunch. The first dressing uses tahini instead of mayonnaise, with a spoon of yogurt to brighten. The mustard can be mixed in, but for prettiness I keep some separate until right before serving. The second dressing, really more of a splash of vivid herb oil reminiscent of Green Goddess dressing, adds pungency and a saline hit of blitzed anchovy.

There is space for adaptation to suit mood and kitchen inventory. Use only potatoes if beans are not to be found. Instead of corn nuts, plain potato chips, potato sticks or fried onions will give a similar effect. Chop the capers if frying is too much work.

It all comes together for a dish that is surprising with each bite, as comfortable alongside grilled meats as it is with bread and greens.

Double-Dressed Potato Salad

Ingredients (Serves 6)

For the green dressing
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup parsley, leaves and tender stems
  • 2 tablespoons lightly-packed dill or tarragon leaves
  • 6 chives
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 anchovy fillets, optional
  • Half a lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more

For the salad

  • 1 pound small potatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup well-stirred tahini
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (any fat will do)
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • Half a lemon
  • 1 cup cooked white beans (cannellini, butter beans, great northern, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, for frying
  • 3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and dried
  • 3/4 cup corn nuts, crushed
  • Tender herbs, sprouts, edible flowers to garnish

Start with the oil. In the carafe of a high-speed blender or food processor, pulse the basil, parsley, dill, chives, garlic and anchovy into bits. Grate in the lemon zest with a microplane and squeeze in a splash of juice. Season confidently with salt and pepper. With the motor running, stream in the oil until emulsified, stopping and scraping the carafe as needed. Taste for seasoning, then let stand as you make the salad.

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside.

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Tumble the potatoes into a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Salt generously, stir, then place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to maintain a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 15 minutes, depending on size.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the potatoes to the prepared ice bath. Add more ice cubes once the potatoes are submerged.

The water should still be simmering. Using the slotted spoon, carefully lower in the eggs one at a time. Cook for 6 1/2 minutes. Immediately transfer the eggs to the bowl with the potatoes.

Make the dressing. In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini, yogurt and mustard (or keep some aside for garnish, if desired). With a microplane, grate over the lemon zest and squeeze in some juice. Season well with salt and pepper, stir, then taste. It should be assertive; adjust accordingly. When satisfied, tip the beans on top.

With clean hands, break up the cooled and drained potatoes and add them to the beans. Peel the eggs, then tear into similar bite-sized pieces. Fold to combine.

In a small saucepan or the dry one from earlier, heat the oil for frying over medium-high. When shimmering, drop in the capers and step back to avoid splatter (tip the oil to collect on one side if using the medium pot). Fry until crisp, 45 seconds or so. Drain on paper towels.

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Scatter the fried capers and corn nuts onto the salad. Scatter with herbs and drape with lashings of the green dressing. Serve immediately.

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