It was HOT in Seattle this week… record breaking hot. And, like most of Seattle, we don’t have A/C in our unit. In fact, according to an article I read in the Seattle times, only about 21% of apartments in the greater Seattle area have A/C, making this city the least air-conditioned in the country. Granted, we only need it for about two weeks out of a year. But 30°C inside of my apartment is unbearable, and there is no way I want to cook. So I rely on cool foods that refrigerate well, like this potato salad.
I usually avoid fennel, as I have never enjoyed licorice. However, I decided to experiment with caramelizing the root to soften the flavor so it would be more complimentary rather than the star of show. Holy cow, did it work well! The buttery hint of sweetness peeking through the salty tang of the vinaigrette and prosciutto is to die for! A note on caramelizing: go slow! This step should take about 20 minutes. The goal is not to brown or cook the fennel, rather to let it sweat and to draw out the natural sugars which will develop the flavor.
Italian speck is very similar to prosciutto, the difference being that speck is smoked after the curing process. This makes it a bit drier and therefore easier to dice and mix into a salad (other types of prosciutto will clump and stick together). To further facilitate this step, make sure your speck is quite cold before slicing.
This recipe is adapted from one of Rachel Ray’s recipes. It is my go-to summer salad, perfect for a hot evening. It refrigerates well and can be made several days ahead of time.
Caramelized Fennel Potato Salad
- 1.5 lb tri-color baby potatoes
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 lb finely sliced Italian speck
- 5 green onions green part only
- 6 large fresh basil leaves
- 2 T grainy mustard
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 medium lemon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil
Cut the potatoes into quarters (or halves if they are very tiny)
Put potatoes into water, bring back to a full boil, then lower heat to medium-low
Cook until a fork can be inserted with little effort, but not so much that the fork breaks the potato apart
Drain, rinse with cool water, and place in fridge to cool
While the potatoes are cooking, mince the fennel
Melt butter over low heat and toss in the fennel
Let the fennel caramelize, stirring occasionally
Once the fennel is lightly browned and very soft and fragrant, cool in fridge
While the fennel is cooking, small dice the prosciutto and finely slice the green onion and basil
Juice the lemon and blend with the olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper
Once the potatoes and fennel are cool, mix together with prosciutto, green onion and basil and toss in the mustard vinaigrette