If your idea of potato salad is limited to the typical mayonnaise based recipes, it’s time to think again and experiment with farm fresh potatoes, new mix-ins, and alternate dressings.
This potato and egg salad with a vinaigrette is made creamy by the mixing of the eggs and dressing. A few scallions add flavor and color.
The great American writer Laurie Colwin devoted a chapter to potato salad in her book “Home Cooking.” She began with her belief that there is no such thing as a bad potato salad, “So long as the potatoes are not undercooked ...” From there, she described the many versions she has tried and loved over the years.
She had a favorite for this time of year. “If you can find them, the tiny potatoes of early autumn are delicious. They are the size of quail eggs and are wonderful steamed and eaten with a French olive oil, salt, pepper and a drop of lemon juice.”
Colwin also gave good advice on selecting potatoes for salads. She found that waxy potatoes like our popular red skinned varieties don’t absorb as much dressing and are best when you want a salad, “delicately coated.” And that mealier potatoes, like a russet, soak up dressing for a creamier result.
You'll find the recipe for this Summer Corn and Potato Salad in one of our posts from 2008. I still make it and we still love it.
Vinaigrette Potato Salads
Thinking vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise is very traditional. In Fannie Merritt Farmer's “The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book 1896,” there are five potato salad recipes, all sans mayonnaise.
One version is great for apple season – Potato and Celery Salad. She wrote, “To two cups boiled potatoes cut in one-half inch cubes add one-half cup finely cut celery and a medium-sized apple, pared, cut in eighths, then eighths cut in thin slices. Marinate with French Dressing. Arrange in a mound and garnish with celery tip and sections of bright red apple.” Her version of “French Dressing” was what we call vinaigrette: a mix of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
The potato and egg salad you see at the top was my father-in-law's recipe. Ed and I enjoy this as a quick meal some evenings. I use two pounds of red potatoes as the base. Rather than peel the potatoes, I scrub them, remove any eyes or bad spots, slice into wedges, and cook them in a steamer until tender. While still warm, I mix in a large stalk of diced celery, two thinly-sliced scallions, four sliced hard boiled eggs, two tablespoons of cider vinegar, and about half a cup of olive oil. You can serve this warm or cold.
Other additions to a salad like this might be capers, grated carrots, parsley, dill, or a bit of dry mustard. As with so many salads, I use what I have on hand when I begin to make it and change it up often enough to keep it fresh among the routine meals.
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Words: Penny Cherubino (Adapted for the web from one of her Fresh & Local newspaper columns)
Photos: ©2008- 2015 Penny Cherubino