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October 25, 2007 / Tony

Cold-Fashioned Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of those ubiquitous dishes that everyone probably likes.  Yet because it is everywhere and made by so many different cooks, everyone has had really bad potato salad.  It might have been underdone with crunchy potatoes, overdone with mushy potatoes, had too much mustard, had too much vinegar, had dressing that is too “loose”, been underseasoned, or just had some funky weird flavors.  To me, a perfect potato salad will have firm yet tender potatoes lightly dressed in a creamy, thick dressing that is tart enough to pucker the mouth ever so slightly.  This recipe, from Alton Brown, comes pretty close to being perfect:

Cold-Fashioned Potato Salad, by Alton Brown (click here for the original)

2 /12 pounds red potatoes, large diced

3 T cider vinegar

3/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade if possible)

1 tsp mustard powder

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 T chopped fresh tarragon (do not used dried!)

1/2 T very thinly sliced garlic

3 T finely chopped cornichons

1/2 cup small dice red onion

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes into a large heavy-bottomed pot.  Cover with cold water and place over medium heat. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce heat and remove lid. Gently simmer until potatoes are fork tender.  Drain and place into an ice bath to cool. Add the vinegar and toss to coat all of the potatoes.  Place the bag into the refrigerator overnight.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, tarragon, garlic, cornichons, onions, and celery.  Once evenly combined, add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Let the salad chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.This recipe produces a potato salad that is pleasantly tart with a little bit of heat from the garlic and a little crunch from the celery.  The cider vinegar adds a great deal of flavor to the mix (much more than the white vinegar used in so many other potato salad recipes) as do the cornichons (which are small French pickles).  But the “wow” ingredient in the dish is the fresh tarragon.  It’s anise flavor just seems to bring everything else in the salad together while being the diva of the whole dish.  It’s outstanding.  Here’s a picture:

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One Comment

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  1. Rochelle / Nov 4 2007 4:01 pm

    What a great discription of what can go wrong with potatoe salad. I have also had the too sweet, from too much sweet pickle relish.

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