On paper, yams (a.k.a. sweet potatoes) should make a great-tasting salad with a gorgeous golden color. However, my first attempts turned out mushy and cloyingly sweet. The answer to the problem turned out to be to use a combination of roasted yams with boiled potatoes (peeled after boiling, for the same reason), and a brightly acidic lemon vinaigrette to balance the sugary yams. Mint supplies a fresh note, but cilantro or parsley can be substituted. Use medium potatoes so they cook evenly and with relative speed.
Make Ahead: The salad can be prepared up to 1 day ahead, covered, and refrigerated
2-1/2 pounds medium orange-fleshed yams, such as Louisiana, jewel, or garnet, peeled and cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
1-1/4 cups plus tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin, which may be too rich), divided
3 pounds medium Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1-1/4 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
4 celery ribs, chopped
4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, cilantro, or parsley
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Toss the yam chunks with 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large bowl. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the chunks are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 45 minutes. Cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water and cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 25 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks.
3. Combine the lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually add the oil to make a thick vinaigrette.
4. Mix the yams, potatoes, celery, scallions, and mint in a large bowl. Toss with about three-fourths of the vinaigrette. Separately cover the salad and remaining vinaigrette and refrigerate both until the salad is chilled, at least 3 hours. (The salad and vinaigrette can be made up to 1 day ahead.)
5. Just before serving, toss the salad with the remaining vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.
Excerpted from Celebrations 101 by Rick Rodgers (Broadway Books, 2004). © 2004 by Rick Rodgers.
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