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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Syracuse Salt Potato Salad - American - Sides 4

Salt Potatoes are a dish synonymous with Syracuse, NY and is a staple of the region's summer time and cookout cuisine. Born out of the lunch-time tradition of the many salt-workers that supported the salt industry from the springs and marshes along Onondaga Lake, their appeal eventually extended beyond the industrial water front centers and became a favorite across Central New York by the early 1900's and remain so today. So much so in fact, that they are a permanent resident on the menu of Dinosaur BBQ restaurants, which is now one of the city's best known modern day exports with locations opening up as far south as our very Baltimore. This is where I first tasted, and fell in love with the savory fluffy (never water-logged) Salt Potato.

I've been exploring options for side dishes and snacks that can be taken for lunch, the typical fare of carrots and hummus or tuna salad just aren't cutting it anymore. I picked some red skin potatoes recently and figured I would try to put a spin on one of Mark's Syracuse favorites. This would serve a dual purpose in that I am also developing recipes for our upcoming engagement party, for which I am determined to prepare all the food for the "Maryland meets Syracuse" themed affair.

Typically the salt potato is boiled in briny water, then tossed in or otherwise infused with a bit of garlic. I decided I wanted to steep the potatoes in a combination of garlic and fresh herbs in additional to the salt. I used black pepper, dried thyme, garlic powder and lots of fresh whole rosemary springs to create the fragrant brine. It filled my kitchen with the most delicious savory steam as the potatoes boiled and my mouth was watering by the time I was done. I carefully removed the potatoes once fork tender, so as to retain the cooking solution. I had decided, as the scent intoxicated me (OK maybe it was wine), that I would reserve the liquid and use it to brine for chicken to be used at some later date. I patted myself on the back for my ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Once the potatoes had cooled a but, I plucked 2 or 3 springs of fresh rosemary and gave the leaves a fine chop. I did the same to 2 stalks of crunchy celery, and combined it all with about a 1/2 cup of mayo in the potato bowl. Before I mixed it all together, I took some sweet and tender roasted garlic I had made a week earlier and had been keeping in my fridge and added it to the salad-to-be. The cloves were super fragrant and buttery soft, so when i began to toss the mixture together then combined smoothly with the other ingredients.

What resulted was savory, herbaceous, with a subtle crunch that lent a refreshing aspect to the typical potato salad. At an elemental level the dish was incredibly straightforward, at least on paper, but it was elevated by the adoption of the "Salt Potato" preparation, technical success! It was absolutely delicious, eliciting a far more positive response from Mark than I could have hoped for. This is one side that will have a permanent place in my repertoire, despite the fact it wasn't the most photogenic dish...

Syracuse Salt Potato Salad


  • 6 Large Red Skin potatoes - halved
  • 3 Tablespoons salt
  • 6 Sprigs of fresh rosemary (3 plucked and leaves finely chopped)
  • 2 Stalks celery - chopped
  • 1 Table spoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Head of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


Place potatoes in a large pot. (Note: traditional Salt Potatoes were made from young, or smaller potatoes - As I was planning on chopping and quasi-mashing into a potato salad, I used a normal sized spuds, recipe works either way_. Add 3 rosemary springs, and the other spices and herbs. Fill with water until the potatoes are covered. Bring to a boil on medium heat until potatoes are fork tender. Meanwhile, if you do not already have roasted garlic on hand, out the oven on 400F, cut the top off of a garlic head place a head of garlic in a small baking vessel, drizzle with the evoo, and roast for the duration of your potato process. When the potatoes are done, carefully remove them from the cooking liquid, and place in a large mixing bowl. Save the liquid to use for a meat brine (chicken or pork would be perfect). Add the chopped celery, chopped rosemary, mayonnaise, and several cloves of the soft roasted garlic. Combine until evening mixed, serve chilled with a rosemary sprig.


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