I’m not usually the type to make a recipe more than once or twice, even if it’s really great, because there are so many new things to try and I always have a backlog of recipes I want to make. It’s kind of like reading the same book twice… I’ve done it before, but I’d much rather take a chance and read something new!
This potato salad, however, is one of the few recipes which has made it into my permanent repertoire. I think every cook should have a good potato salad up their sleeve, and this is mine (well, one of the permutations of it, anyway). I originally got the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, and have only made a couple tiny modifications. This version calls for walnut oil and Sherry vinegar, mostly because I had recently bought some walnut oil and wanted to use it. Walnut oil is a real treat if you can find it, and pairs very nicely with Sherry vinegar. Once you have the basic method down, the recipe lends itself well to any flavors and variations you’d want to foist upon it. I often play around with the oil and vinegar combos- I’ve made this many times with olive oil & red wine vinegar (which is what the original recipe stipulates), but white wine or champagne vinegar would be good too. Or you could make an autumnal version using walnut oil and apple cider vinegar and put little bits of walnut and apple in the salad (maybe leave out the herbs for that version). I embellished this version of the salad with some walnut pieces, crumbled blue cheese, and bacon on top. It’s also great served on a bed of arugula. (Note: If you do use walnuts, don’t add them until just before serving- if they sit, their skins will stain the potatoes most unattractively.)
2 lbs small thin-skinned potatoes (redskin or yellow will both work), unpeeled, scrubbed, and cut into 1/4″ thick slices
2 tbs salt
1 medium garlic clove, peeled
1 1/2 tbs sherry vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup walnut oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbs minced fresh parsley
1 tbs minced fresh tarragon
1 tbs minced fresh chives (see notes)
1 tbs minced fresh chervil (see notes)
optional garnishes: walnut pieces, crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola, bacon…
Notes: When I made this, I only used the tarragon and parsley. For those of you who have herb gardens or unlimited grocery budgets, by all means use the chives and chervil; however, where I live, fresh herbs run at least $2 a package and I’m certainly not suggesting they’re crucial enough to justify that expense. If you’re leaving them out, I would up the parsley and tarragon to 1 1/2 tbs each, though. Spreading the potatoes on the baking sheet may seem like an extra unneccesary step, but it really helps get the dressing much more evenly distributed than just stirring, so you don’t get bland bites of potato with no sauce. Last but not least, in the photo, those are scallions you see… I couldn’t locate the shallot I *knew* was hanging out somewhere in the kitchen, so I improvised. But shallots would definitely be my preference.
Directons: Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with 6 cups cold tap water and the 2 tbs. salt; bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to medium. Lower garlic into the simmering water via a skewer or slotted spoon, and blanch for about 45 seconds. Run the garlic under cold tap water to stop the cooking, and set aside. Continue to simmer potatoes, uncovered, until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes, reserving 1/4 cup of their cooking water. Arrange hot potatoes on one or two rimmed baking sheets close together in a single layer.
Mince the garlic or put through a garlic press. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, reserved potato cooking water, garlic, and a few generous grinds of pepper. Taste both potatoes and dressing for salt, adding a little to the dressing if it seems bland. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the warm potatoes and let stand for 10 minutes. You can use this time to mince your shallots and herbs.
Sprinkle the shallots & herbs over the potatoes. Transfer to a serving dish. Mix gently with a rubber spatula to combine. Serve immediately. (The salad is best served slightly warm or at room temperature. If your schedule prohibits serving it right away, remove the salad from the fridge long enough in advance to allow it to come to room temp, and wait to add the herbs until just before serving.) According to Cook’s Illustrated, the salad is safe to sit out unrefrigerated for 2 hours.