My Mother's Potato Salad

By • June 17, 2014 17 Comments

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Author Notes: I asked her for her recipe recently, and because I’m her daughter, I subbed and swapped and tweaked (to do this to a mother’s idea is just short of genetic obligation), but it’s still her salad, in essence: burly and rich from olive oil and mayonnaise (make your own if you’re inclined; it’s not necessary); brisk from pickles; heady from tarragon. If you forgo the hard boiled egg you don’t know up from down. Well-chilled and left to meld, It bears a lot of flavor resemblance to Sauce Gribiche, which is likely why it tugs my heartstrings quite like it does.

I’d walk you through it, but you know how to make this: Boil the potatoes; toss; mix; do as you do. Potato salad’s beauty is not in its technique.

It’s my mother’s birthday soon, and I think I’ll make it for her, my way. You’d be smart to make it for the Fourth, and every week thereafter, until the temperatures drop and the sun shines shorter. Always make extra -- you’ll want the leftovers -- and then spend the rest of the day outside.
Kenzi Wilbur

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 pounds baby potatoes, scrubbed and the larger ones halved
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup best-quality mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped cornichons
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (I use tarragon and parsley)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • Chives and chive blossoms, for finishing, optional
  1. Boil the potatoes in a big pot of salted water until they're fork-tender. Drain, and shock in an ice bath if you want a potato salad that will maintain its shape. (If a few squished potatoes are okay with you, this step is not necessary.) While the potatoes cook, soak the red onion in a bit of water to soften its bite.
  2. Place drained potatoes in a large bowl, and sprinkle vinegar on them.
  3. Mix olive oil, mayonnaise, and mustard together to make your dressing, and set aside.
  4. To the large bowl, add the drained red onion, cornichon, hard-boiled egg, and herbs. Add the dressing -- starting with half, as you may not use it all -- and toss to coat. (You'll want enough dressing to slickly coat each potato, but you don't want a pool at the bottom of the bowl. If for some reason you find you need more dressing, add an extra splash of olive oil and a dollop of mayo to taste.) Add salt, and/or more vinegar to taste.
  5. When it's where you want it seasoning-wise, fold in the sliced radishes. Garnish with chives and/or chive blossoms if you like, and serve. It's even better after it's been in the fridge for a day.

More Great Recipes: Potato Salad|Potatoes|Vegetables|Appetizers|Salads

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Comments (17) Questions (0)


about 1 month ago Rochelle Bernold

Many thanks Kenzi, for this fabulous recipe. I made it for the 4th time yesterday, and it's the best potato salad i;ve ever eaten. Even better than MY mother's recipe :-)
I've been using chopped shallot instead of the red onion - no need to soak those little powerhouses of flavor.


4 months ago Mark

Made this last night. Wow. What a hit. Added a little extra mustard and vinegar just to let everyone know what's up.


4 months ago SBB



5 months ago Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

Crushing on this hard!!


about 1 year ago Miche

this is a winner


about 1 year ago jvcooks

This was great! I crowd pleaser at our family BBQ over the weekend.


about 1 year ago Lorraina Raccuia-Morrison

I made this potato salad last night, and it's fantastic! It's my new favorite. I will add a few more radishes next time.


about 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.



about 1 year ago Kristen

This was good. It's piquant, you need to like that flavor, but I'd make this again. I didn't notice the radishes, I'll cut them less thinly as another poster noted.


about 1 year ago Janene

This is outstanding! What a great change from the normal picnic potato salad.
I put the dressing on first while the potatoes were still warm because I believe it absorbs the flavor better. This will definitely be my go-to from now on.


about 1 year ago jane wells

just made. very easy. so good.


about 1 year ago CarlaCooks

I made this last night and absolutely loved it! It was easy to put together, including the dressing (I ended up using all of it). The only thing I'll do differently next time is to not cut the radishes too thinly. I couldn't really taste them over the dressing, so I think bigger slices will be better. Thanks to you and your Mother for a lovely recipe!


about 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

So glad to hear this!


about 1 year ago guatami

The pictures are so gorgeous… I can truly understand how hard it would be to stop making something so addictive. I think its setting off a chain reaction… I feel an overwhelming need to whip out some potatoes and make a batch of my own!


about 1 year ago ghainskom

Sounds like a contender to my current favorite potato salad:
Will post again when I've tried it!


about 1 year ago Henrik Söderlund

The recipe mentions cornichons, but they're not in the list of ingredients.


about 1 year ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Thanks for noting! It's been fixed.