I gave the secret away in the title. The secret ingredient in this roasted potato salad is crème fraîche. This French cream is the cook's ultimate friend in the family of creams. It's incredibly versatile with its smooth and tangy flavor. The Larousse Gastronomique defines crème fraîche as a thickened cream that has a "slightly sharp, but not sour flavor." I've often baked with it (think muffins and scones.. nomm...), but I definitely need to add it to my cooking repertoire more often. I think the reason I haven't used it more in the past is that it's always tucked in the corner of the dairy case in the US. And who am I kidding, its pricey and I think I can get away with a cheap substitute. Well, I've decided that that's not the case. Crème fraîche is the real thing. And here in London, luckily, it's set eye-level on the shelf, front and center... and it's only 75 pence! :)
This roasted potato salad is served warm, and crème fraîche is perfect to use because it is very resistant to curdling, even in hot dishes. Curdling occurs when high heat causes two different types of proteins in dairy to denature and bind together into clumps of larger proteins. Crème fraîche has a high percentage of butterfat, roughly 30-40%. By comparison, yoghurt has roughly 4% butterfat, and sour cream has roughly 18-20% butterfat. Therefore, the proteins in crème fraîche are better coated with fat, and the fat prevents the proteins from binding together into larger clumps. In addition, since crème fraîche has a higher percentage of fat, there are fewer proteins in it that may bind together when heated.
It had never occurred to me to make potato salad with crème fraîche before. But seeing it on the eye-level shelf inspired me to pick it up and put it in my shopping basket. Adding it to the potato salad was amazing! The potatoes took on nice tangy flavor. It was reminiscent of sour cream, but the tang was more subtle and subdued. It also went well with the second highlight in the recipe....
Coppa (or also known as Capocollo, capicollo or capicolla).
Coppa is a traditional Italian dry-cured meat, made from pork shoulder or neck. While it's often referred to as a ham, it technically is not a ham because it is not made from the pork thigh or buttocks. I love all Italian cured meat, so naturally, this made the salad spectacular. The meat itself is salty, so it will flavor the potato salad too. This is why there can be so little salt in the recipe. If you prefer, you can substitute the coppa for the more well-known Italian cured pork, prosciutto, too. Or, you can follow suit ... I paired my potato salad with a plate of prosciutto and melon. And a block of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Like I said, I love all Italian cured meats (and cheeses)!
I know it's still a few months out, and I'm not even in America anymore, but I cannot wait to put this on the table for Thanksgiving dinner.
- 15 - 20 whole baby potatoes (about 400 grams)
- 1 medium red pepper
- 3 medium hard boiled egg whites
- 2 spring onions
- 5 slices coppa (about 40 grams)
- 1 big dallop crème fraîche (about 75 grams)
- salt - to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F / 200 degrees C.
- Thoroughly wash potatoes and cut each one either in half, or into 4 wedges, depending on the size of the potato. The potato pieces should be roughly equal in size.
- Lightly toss the potatoes in some salt and a very light layer of olive oil. Place potatoes in a baking dish, and set in the middle rack of the oven.
- Roast for approximately 25 minutes.
- In the meantime, wash the red pepper, remove the seeds, and dice.
- Wash and trim the spring onions, and slice them thinly. Use both the white and the green part, but I tend to discard the top 4cm of the greens because I find it too rough.
- Chop the egg whites.
- Gently use your hands and rip the coppa into smaller pieces.
- Once the potatoes are out of the oven, gently loosen any potatoes that stick to the pan.
- Mix in the diced peppers, chopped egg, and half of the sliced spring onions.
- Mix in the crème fraîche and add salt to taste.
- Add in the coppa and gently mix.
- Serve and garnish with the remaining spring onions.