I first wrote about the gussied up version of this potato salad, french potato salad with baby greens, blue cheese, and walnuts late last spring. The nearly-vegetarian in me loves the idea of hearty summer salads, but I’ve always hated the usual mayo-drenched potato and pasta salads that often populate potluck picnics. So when Dylan and I discovered in The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition with 1,000 Recipes that apparently the French share this sentiment and prefer a light mustard-based dressing on their potato salad, it was something of a revelation. This summer I’ve already experimented with a couple of different potato salad variations for assorted potluck events, but this classic, basic recipe is the one I like best and the only one I’d want to make again. It’s lighter, fresher, and more well-balanced than the typical potato salad and at the last event I brought it to, I was asked for the recipe twice and overheard others discussing what subtle flavors they thought they detected.
Should you be cooking for a slightly more refined crowd with a taste for walnuts and blue cheese, by all means try the variation I made here last summer, which I like even better. Alas, there’s no blue cheese in the cards for me at the moment as chez Superspark we are expecting the arrival of a L’il Spark at the end of the summer and moldy cheeses are a no-no during pregnancy. Needless to say, the anticipation of our very first baby (a girl!) in only 6 weeks more than makes up for a few months without the wonders of gorgonzola. I can only hope that I don’t dissolve into writing about pureed baby food in the upcoming year…
French potato salad (serves 6)
2 lbs red potatoes (about 6 medium or 18 small), scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tbsp salt
1 medium garlic clove, peeled and threaded on a skewer
1 1/2 tbsp champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh chervil
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp minced chives
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
1. Place the potatoes, 6 cups cold water, and the salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Lower the skewered garlic into the simmering water and partially blanch, about 45 seconds. Immediately run the garlic under cold tap water to stop the cooking; remove the garlic from the skewer and set aside. Simmer the potatoes, uncovered, until tender but still firm (a thin-bladed paring knife can be slipped into and out of the center of a potato slice with no resistance), about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking water. Arrange the hot potatoes close together in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Press the garlic through a garlic press or mince by hand. Whisk the garlic, reserved potato cooking water, vinegar, mustard, oil, and pepper together in a small bowl until combined. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the warm potato slices; let stand 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, toss the shallot and herbs gently together in a small bowl. Transfer the potatoes to a large serving bowl. Add the shallot herb mixture and mix lightly to combine. Serve immediately.
[NB: if you can’t get fresh chervil, substitute an additional 1/2 tbsp minced parsley and an additional 1/2 tsp minced tarragon. For best flavor, serve the salad warm, but to make ahead, follow the recipe through step 2, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Before serving, bring it to room temperature, then add the shallot and herbs.]