Potatoes, Turnips & Green Beans
July 17, 2012
Life is like riding a bicycle — in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.
Never have these meant to be autobiographical musings, despite the medium. Hopefully it’s never read as self indulgent, indiscreet, insipid, smudge free, egocentric OMG! Zuckerbergish gibberish run amok. That social mediacrity with identity-indifferent-track-and-sell-persona greed as the true intent — razing individual privacy and autonomy with impunity. Instead, these thoughts are meant as mere reflections, sometimes gentle and other times sharp edged, on food and culture.
Compared to previous years, I have been remiss with Tour de France coverage. This year’s edition began in Liège, Belgium, swept toward northern Normandie then swung back to northeast region of Lorraine. The peloton then streaked southward down the eastern border of France through the Vosges, the Jura, the Alpes to the Mediterranean and then back westward toward the Pyrénées when the riders finally turn north toward Paris and the Champs-Élysées. Today was a relatively flat étape (stage), with one stage 3 and two stage 4 “little” climbs, that runs 158 km from Samatan to Pau in southwest France which just precedes a showdown in the Pyrénées. In all, the riders cover 3,947 kilometers (2,452.55 miles) over three weeks this year – already 42 riders have retired. Makes my lungs burn and my legs weary just typing.
While much of the Tour’s majesty and quirks have been noted in previous posts, a couple were brought to my attention from earlier stages. Ahead of the riders on the course is a publicity caravan of advertising vehicles (le caravan publicitaire) while behind the peloton is a snarl of mulit-hued team little cars laden with components, parts, tools, equipment, bikes, spares, bottles, computers, radios, the directeur sportif (team manager), and the like. Titanium, carbon fiber, and high tensile steel alloys galore. Within this circus are officials’ vehicles, motorcycle cops, medical vans, and photographers hanging precariously off the back of even more motorcycles. Ballet and mayhem meet.
A sticky bottle is when a cyclist receives a water bottle from inside the team car with both parties grasping the vessel as long as possible, towing the rider and giving a little pedal-less boost to launch his return to the peloton while saving precious energy. A magic spanner usually occurs when a rider has just had a mechanical issue, a wheel change or outright crashed. Once again, while being assisted, riders latch onto the mechanic or car which accelerates, slingshotting the rider back into the peloton. Similarly, attending to minor medical needs like spraying a topical antibiotic on a rider while he holds onto a speeding car is also rather common during races.
Article 7 of the Tour’s rules, entitled Race Offences sternly reads: “(S)lipstreaming or being pulled along by a motor vehicle, whether from the front, back or side as well as any grasping-hold of the bicycle or vehicle is forbidden under all circumstances.” As with most sports however, team tactics sometimes delve into gray to achieve those little boosts with an eye on that sometimes elusive, collective goal of victory. Just a little help from their friends.
Other times though, the game is not worth the candle. This year’s Giro d’Italia race jury pulled several sprinters from the race during its penultimate stage for holding onto team cars. The incident happened on the 20th stage, the Giro’s “queen stage,” which boasts five climbs, making it an exceptionally difficult stage for sprinters . A jury communiqué called it a fatto grave or “serious fault.”
This distinctly French plate seemed à propos.
POTATO, TURNIP & GREEN BEAN SALAD
1 lb medium Yukon Gold potatoes, washed
1 lb medium turnips, washed, with roots and tops trimmed
2 bay leaves
2 large thyme sprigs
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed to a paste
1 T high quality anchovy filets, rinsed, dried and chopped
1 1/2 T fine capers, rinsed, dried and chopped
2 t Dijon mustard
4 T champagne or sherry vinegar
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb fresh green beans (preferably haricots verts), ends trimmed off
4 large eggs, room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T parsley leaves, roughly chopped
2 T basil, roughly chopped
Bring a large pot of cold water with potatoes, bay leaf and thyme sprig to a boil and salt generously. Reduced heat and cook at a brisk simmer until the potatoes are firm but easily pierced with a paring knife, about 30 minutes. Remove, drain and let cool some.
Bring another large pot of cold water with turnips, bay leaf and thyme sprig to a boil and salt generously. Reduce heat and cook at a brisk simmer until the turnips are firm but easily pierced with a paring knife, about 15-20 minutes. Remove, drain and let cool some.
While the potatoes and turnips are cooking, prepare a vinaigrette. In a medium glass bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy, capers, mustard and wine vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and whisk again before dressing.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and gently slice into pieces about 1/3″ thick. Likewise, peel and gently cut the turnips into 1/3″ slices. Put the slices in a large glass bowl, season lightly with salt and pepper and add half the vinaigrette. Using your hands, gently coat the potatoes and turnips with the vinaigrette, taking care not to break them. Set aside.
Put the green beans in a pot of boiling, salted water and simmer until just tender and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Drain in a colander, then cool under running cold water and pat dry. Promptly plunge into ice cold water for a brief moment to halt cooking and retain the green hue. Promptly drain and dry on cloth or paper towel or the beans will become soggy. Set aside.
Gently place the eggs in a saucepan and add enough cold water to liberally cover the eggs. Bring to a boil over high and then immediately remove from heat and cover until done, about 12 minutes. Uncover and flush with cool running water and then briefly place in an ice bath to cease cooking. Dry promptly on paper towels and peel. Set aside.
To assemble: season the beans with salt and pepper, then dress lightly with with vinaigrette. Combine the dressed beans, potatoes and turnips, using hands to toss, and arrange on a platter or large flat bowl. Cut the eggs lengthwise, drizzle lightly with vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange eggs over the top and sprinkle with chopped parsley and basil.
Serve standing alone or with grilled, sautéed, or roasted meat, poultry or fish.