I make this salad a lot in the summer, mainly when I know I need some kind of starchy side to a grilling session or a summer meal but I can’t come up with anything else. Not that it’s a lesser form of potato salad (its actually my favorite) but because it is sort of a back pocket recipe for me. I just know how to do it and it doesn’t take a lot of faffing about. I kind of think of this as the Coco Chanel of side dishes. Less is more. The Chanel maxim than you should look in the mirror right before you go out and take off one accessory. This salad has all the gorgeous simplicity of French style. A handful of ingredients, simple arranged to wondrous results. Don’t get me wrong, I love the creamy potato salads of my people, and I often make Mom’s Dilled Potato Salad or my honey mustard version, and of course I have a pimento cheese potato salad in my repertoire. But this simple, vinaigrette dressed dish, livened up with herbs, has that rustic elegance I love. No unnecessary embellishment, no frills and extras. Just deliciously simple.
I am sure this is not my recipe, but that I have made my own tweaks over the years. Whether this comes from Escoffier, Child or the internet I cannot say, but I have been doing it for years. So much so that I only now have thought to post it as a recipe. My universal tip for potato salad is vinegar. It is almost impossible to get cooked potatoes, especially cold, salty enough after the fact without absolutely drowning them. So a dose of vinegar in the water, with a generous amount of salt, and a dousing right after they have cooked adds that zing. Add salt to the dressing to flavor the cooked potatoes. Tossing the just cooked potatoes with their vinegar spritz over the heat for a few minutes helps evaporate some moisture, so they take the dressing really well. And pour that dressing right over the hot potatoes so it soaks right in. You can make these potatoes up to three days ahead and keep them in the fridge, but you can also make them the day you’re serving them and serve them only slightly chilled or at room temperature. To be perfectly honest, these are delicious hot right after dressing, so it makes a good last minute dish as well.
French Potato Salad
3 pounds baby gold potatoes (Dutch creamers, Yukon gold)
6 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided
Plenty of sea salt
1 large or 2 medium shallots
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3 small cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 Tablespoons snipped chives
1 teaspoon dried lavender
- Fill a large pot with ¾ full with water and add 4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar and a couple of Tablespoons of salt. Bring to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, cut the potatoes into quarters – or more if needed. You want pieces that can easily be speared with a fork but not so small they disintegrate while boiling. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook for 12 – 15 minutes, until they are cooked through, but tender with just a little bite and still hold their shape. Drain in a colander and return immediately to the pot. Pour over the remaining 2 Tablespoons of cider vinegar. Put the pot back on the heat for 3 – 4 minutes and stir the potatoes gently. This will help any extra moisture evaporate while the vinegar soaks in.
- While the potatoes are boiling, finely dice the shallot and chop the herbs. Put the lemon juice, pressed garlic and Dijon in a jar with a tight lid. Add several grinds of black pepper and at least a teaspoon of salt. Add the olive oil, then screw on the top and shale to completely combine.
- As soon as you have had the drained potatoes on the heat to dry out, add the shallot, herbs and lavender. Gently stir to distribute, then pour over the dressing and stir until all the potatoes are coated and the herbs and shallot are re well distributed. Cool completely, then refrigerate for up to three days. You can serve this cold, at room temperature and frankly even hot.