Make Ahead

My Mother's Potato Salad

June 17, 2014
Photo by Eric Moran
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

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

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Kenzi Wilbur

Recipe by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.