Sunday, August 7, 2011

Potato Salad Three Ways

Red Potatoes with Garlic Scapes in Chinese Bowl by Judith Lamb

I don't own a grill, so my dinner table has seemed bereft of summer-type foods this season. To remedy the situation without investing in an outdoor cooking device that would only end up getting stolen, I decided to make potato salad, a quintessential summer dish if ever there was one.   

I was going to make Russian potato salad today, to go along with the ribeyes I bought yesterday at the Farmer’s Market.  I learned about Russian potato salad from a former co-worker, Tanya, who was from Georgia (not the one on Ray Charles' mind) and made the most delicious potato salad with fresh green peas, minced onion, diced carrots and lots of dill mixed in. It was so much better than “American" potato salad, I added it to my culinary repertoire. But my daughter doesn’t like mayonnaise, and the Bubbaville Food Lion doesn’t sell my preferred substitute -- fat-free sour cream  -- (since losing 30 pounds earlier this year I didn't want to use the full-fat sour cream --and besides, I might need those calories for a margarita later), so I made French potato salad instead.

This is the potato salad I grew up eating. My father -- a Paris-born Norwegian with a disdain for the sort of culinary horrors that were foisted upon the American public during the 1960s -- would make "French" potato salad. For years that was the ur-potato salad as far as I was concerned. Creamy redskin potatoes tossed with a vinagery-garlicky dresssing and sprinkled with parsley -- I would have happily skipped hotdogs and corn-on-the-cob and all the other cookout standards if I could fill my plate with Daddy's potato salad.

I  remember the first time I prepared what I thought was a faithful interpretation of my dad's recipe and served it to him, anticipating great praise. As it turned out, I actually had to solicit my father's feedback, and was told that I didn't get it quite right. At least I think that's what he actually said, but I heard, "it's not good enough," and so years went by before I attempted to make potato salad again. 

Today's effort is good enough, in spite of not adhering 100% faithfully to the recipe I remember Dad using. And damn the olive oil in the dressing, I'm going to have that margarita, too! I have a lot of summering to catch up on....

(Oh, the third tao of the potato salad is my step-father's mother's version, a Pennsylvania Dutch interpretation with a hot, spicy, mustard-y dressing. I don't think it would pair well with my margarita, but maybe next week, with a beer and something sausage-y....)

French Potato Salad
- Boil 2 pounds redskin or other "waxy" potatoes, unpeeled, until just fork-tender. Drain.
- When cool enough to handle, skin the potatoes and slice. Place in large bowl.

- Whisk together:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbs. wine vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
fresh ground black pepper
1-2 cloves minced garlic
    (Dip a potato slice in the dressing and taste, adjusting seasonings as necessary.)

- Pour dressing over warm potatoes. Toss with 2 Tbs. chopped parsley. Serve room temperature or chilled, but try not to eat your share right away!


  1. Sense (sic) you have accused me be not reading the post before commenting I will read and write my comment at the same time.
    A. You are following a Commie for potato salad. That makes you a fellow traveler.
    B. You seem to be one of the parents that are pushed around by your spoiled brats. Mayonnaise is one of the foods of Patriots. (See A)
    C. See this is the trait of an Intelligent Wench, trading calories from mayo for a Margarita Caloric bus ride.
    D. FREnCh??? Salad????
    E. Wait a minute!! “a Paris-born Norwegian” yo girl you need to check back with Uncle Lester. Or was it Lars.
    F. “RedSkin Potatoes” for god’s sake how did they get involved?
    G. Your dad sounds like a loving man.
    H. Spoke too soon your dad was a chump! But honest.
    I. Ok you got me. I’m agonna make me a batch of Inelliwenche’s redskin dad’s potato salad.

  2. Try to ignore unredpotatosalad believers, or non-believers. That is almost my identical (I thought made up) red po salad. 'Ceptin', I put a hint of lemon juice in there...and I keep the skins on, that's where the nutrients are, you know.

    Gott in Himmel this is making me hungry...not to mention thirsty.

    A suggestion...have the Margarita FIRST, then you won't have to nix the won't matter. In fact, there will be whole bunches of things that won't matter if you make it a double.

    Btw, you are back on your groove, kiddo ;-).

  3. I wondered what potato salad has to do with a three way. My bad.

    I don't eat potato salad because mayo on potatoes sounds awful, but this sounds tasty. I might have to try my hand at this.

  4. I like the idea of the "Russian potato salad" with peas, onion, carrots and dill. I would try making some but it's 01.00 over here and I should be in bed...

  5. Punch, have I really accused you of that?? Really?? Well, in any event, I hope you enjoyed your potato salad.

    Jaded - I imagine that lemons were rather hard to come by in France & Norway back in Dad's day, otherwise he may have included that.

    Doug, if you use your imagination...

    Mick, you can add hard-boiled eggs to the Russian potato salad and have yourself a complete meal! Good night.

  6. there is no such yummy legacy of potato salad in my family and i'm not much for potato salads, anyway. although the russian one sounds ... intriguing. my favourite as a kid was beet and apple.. which sounds gross but is a decent mix of sweet and sour, which was a good metaphor for my life as a kid, come to think of it.

    thanks for this i oh so deserve a summer post (and, i could not agree more!!).

  7. Doug - I'm assuming you mean 3 way as in MMF, FFM or any combination thereof. I'd never heard it called that until a few days ago when I was casually introduced to "3-Way by Justin Timberlake & Lady Gaga" by my tres modern son. Call me old fashioned, but I'm more accustomed to the term "threesome". Just to clarify - is the potato salad part of the 3 way or to be used as a prop? :P

  8. harlequin - the beet & apple combo sounds good to me - but then I like beets!

  9. @ Mick - You've got it. And...use your imagination!

  10. my imagination knows no bounds ;)


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