In South Louisiana, you won’t find a fish fry, backyard barbecue, or even a steaming bowl of gumbo that doesn’t have a scoop of potato salad at the ready. It’s a Southern thing, and a familiar down-home southern Louisiana preparation is a mustard-infused potato salad. While this ubiquitous dish is expected and accepted, it is seldom respected. So with the upcoming Labor Day weekend, I set out to elevate the dish to star status for any backyard get together. My aim is that simple potatoes in a salad preparation should be and could be the main attraction at the dinner table–just as exalted and praise-worthy as a center of the plate protein dish.
Like many, my go-to potato salad recipe has always been heavy on the mustard and hard-boiled egg giving it a rich taste and creamy texture—the two hallmarks of a memorable potato salad. And while this version is rooted in the flavor fundamentals of most Cajun country preparations, the uniqueness of adding pickled quail eggs explodes with new tastes.
Here in Acadiana, pickling quail eggs is an old-school artisan craft that has been around for generations. In the rural area (some city supermarkets, too) you’ll see shelves stacked with jars of pickled quail eggs. The two most-in-demand brands are Gueydan-based Darrell’s and Nonc’s (French for “uncle”) located in Church Point, Louisiana. They are both excellent products, but one taste of the mustard quail eggs from Nonc’s sealed the deal on this recipe.
At the Venable family’s quail farm in Acadia Parish, they breed both the Manchurian and the Pharaoh Coturnix quail that are fast growing birds laying over 300 eggs per year. Their pickling formula ups the spice profile with a vinegary base awash in yellow mustard and infused with just the right spike of fresh jalapeño. It is a pungent mix that delivers a punch of flavor to the eggy richness of quail eggs. The texture of these eggs is soft and smooth with a ratio of white to yolk that balances out the contrast.
In my recipe, I use creamy Yukon Gold potatoes and boil them until completely soft. Some like their potatoes chunky, but in my book the creaminess of the potato is what defines this dish. That said, I do like the one/two crunch of celery and onion in my mixture, and while I mash half the quail eggs, I prefer to leave the remaining eggs sliced in half as a defining element of this unique Cajun take on a traditional dish. And a little sweet pickle relish rounds out the recipe–it’s just that simple.
Try this Mustard Quail Egg Potato Salad for a change, and taste this familiar dish in a whole new way.
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 (16-ounce) jar mustard quail eggs with jalapeño, such as Nonc’s
- ½ cup finely diced celery
- ½ cup finely diced yellow onion
- 3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup finely diced green onion tops
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the potatoes. Cook until tender and drain. Keep the potatoes warm for later use.
- In a strainer over a bowl, empty the jar of quail eggs retaining the mustard pickling liquid. Retrieve the jalapeño pieces and chop for later use. Divide the quail eggs and mash half of them. Slice the remaining eggs in half, and reserve for later use.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the potatoes and mashed eggs. Add the celery, onion, relish, and mayonnaise, and mix the ingredients. Add ¾ cup of the reserved mustard pickling liquid and continue mashing. You are looking for a smooth, creamy consistency, so if the mixture is too dry, add more of the pickling liquid. Season lightly with salt and pepper to your taste.
- Add the sliced quail eggs along with the chopped jalapeño and green onion, and gently fold it into the potato mixture without completely breaking up the eggs. Chill and serve.
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