Spring is so close, I can smell it in the air. But even as warmer days set in, there's still a small wait here on the East Coast before all that great spring produce starts flooding the market. What I need to tide me over is a salad that celebrates good produce and hints at the greens to come, even if most of its ingredients are straight from winter's larder. This salad of roasted potatoes and shallots, marinated shiitake mushrooms, and kale is exactly that.
I'll admit that this salad has a handful of components, but they all come together easily. I start by dropping tiny fingerling potatoes into a pot of heavily salted water and simmering them until they're tender. You really can't oversalt the water here—the more, the better. I also like to add aromatics and herbs to the water, in this case garlic and thyme (though it's flexible), to improve the flavor of the potatoes.
I know I said these were roasted potatoes. They really are. But we're boiling them first here, then roasting them. Through side-by-side tests, I've found that boiled-then-roasted potatoes come out tenderer and juicier than plain roasted potatoes do, even when whole. We already knew this was true of roasted potatoes cut into cubes, but it seems to also be true of the whole small fingerlings I'm calling for here.
While the potatoes simmer, I lightly brown peeled shallots in some olive oil, then transfer them to a 325°F oven to finish roasting. It's a temperature that's low enough to give their sugars time to caramelize, enhancing their sweetness.
Meanwhile, I sear shiitake mushroom caps in oil until they're softened and starting to brown, hitting them with some minced thyme during the last minute or so of cooking, just to take the thyme's raw edge off. Then I whip up a quick vinaigrette, using an immersion blender to purée scallion and parsley into a base of white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard; I whisk olive oil into that to avoid introducing the bitter flavors that shearing olive oil in a blender will create. This vinaigrette does double duty as a marinade for the mushrooms, which soak up its tart flavor like sponges.
With the mushrooms done and the onions roasted, all that's left is to crank up the oven's heat, toss the drained potatoes in, and roast them until they're lightly browned and crisp. I let them cool a little, then toss it all together in a big bowl with some tender baby kale leaves. I like Red Russian kale for this, but any type will work. The residual heat from the potatoes is just enough to keep the salad slightly warm and soften those kale leaves a bit.
I said before that I can smell spring in the air. Eating this salad, I can almost taste it.