I actually have two potato salad recipes. One is my pride and joy, the one I’ve been specifically asked to bring to potlucks, the complex recipe with many ingredients that everyone asks me about. This isn’t that one.
That one has mayonnaise…
See, there is a place for mayonnaise in salad, but its place is not stashed in a tupperware in my bag so I’ll have a reliably gluten free complex carb at the barbecue (when everyone else is eating the macaroni salad and burger buns) or something to eat if I can’t get home in time for dinner. Or just as part of the lunch I’ll have in a park between gigs after my bag has been sitting behind a counter for three hours. Or simply because half the dishes on the picnic table have mayonnaise – and I want to serve something different. (And vegan, when that’s an issue…)
I’ve always known that potato salad did not need mayo – in fact, I grew up eating it without. I don’t remember my mother ever making potato salad – but it was one of the things she’d occasionally buy at the deli across the street. Every once in a while – if she was particularly busy, or we planned to go somewhere, or it was just too hot to want a hot dinner, she’d send one of us across the street to buy salad, and perhaps sandwiches. Corned beef on rye, more than an inch thick, or ham and Swiss with mustard. Or maybe a pound each of chicken salad, and a superb shrimp salad. A big sour dill pickle. And always, coleslaw, and potato salad without mayonnaise… (They sold it with, as well – she preferred it without.)
It’s sometimes called German potato salad – and in fact the deli was owned by an older German couple, which might be why they made it that way. (Yes, they made all their salads, which were excellent.) But that name is more specifically used for a salad made with bacon, and often served hot, so I don’t use it for this. This is just potato salad with an oil and vinegar dressing, and maybe herbs, if I have some.
Right now, I’m still cooking with some of the herbs I froze last summer. I’ve long finished the basil and oregano, but I still have some parsley, and some mint (which will go into iced tea any day now, if it keeps warming up!) So I ended up with the measurements and pictures being a bit off… Tell you what I’m going to do – I’ll describe this the way I made it this time, with notes about changes you would make with fresh herbs, but then I’ll write up the proper Recipe the way I make it with fresh herbs, since most people are more likely to do it that way.
My parsley had been pureed with olive oil and frozen in ice cubes – roughly two tablespoon amounts. I poured a quarter of a cup of olive oil into a measuring cup and added a cube of parsley to thaw – this was more than I would need for the amount of salad I made, but I will use the rest for Herb Salad Dressing. Another time I might cut the cube in half…
For this purpose, I cooked my potatoes whole. I used white potatoes – the ones you usually get in a big bag that just says Potatoes, as if there were no other kind… Yukon Gold would be lovely, russets not as good for this use. I scrubbed and trimmed two pounds (and, this time of year, they’re starting to need a good bit of trimming… watch out for soft spots and sprouting eyes) covered them with water, and brought to a boil, then simmered. Depending on their size, they’ll probably take between ten and twenty minutes – check after 10, make sure they are tender to a sharp knife. Then drain, and let them begin to cool.
Now, this is an extra, purely optional step, but I think it makes a great difference. When they are just cool enough to handle, cut them in big rough chunks – I usually just quarter them. Then sprinkle them with a little vinegar – a tablespoon for this amount. Toss them gently (you don’t want to mush them) to distribute the vinegar and then let them cool completely. The vinegar soaks into the potato, and gives it more flavor. This time I used cider vinegar, another time I might use wine vinegar.
Now, the normal process, with fresh herbs, would go like this – cook your potatoes, quarter, sprinkle with vinegar, cool. Mince parsley, mix it with two tablespoons of olive oil and one of vinegar. Cut the potatoes in bite sized pieces, toss with the dressing, let rest to marinate, serve. (This sounds like too much vinegar – it isn’t. And the amount of oil potatoes absorb can vary – add a drizzle more, if you need to.)
What I in fact did was to sprinkle the second tablespoon of vinegar over the quartered potatoes, then pour about half the oil and parsley mixture over them. Which at this point looked much too oily… Then I took this food chopper. I’ve had it for many years, I have no idea now where I got it, it doesn’t seem to be a tool other people have, but I find it very useful for tasks like this – because it both roughly chopped the potatoes and, in the process, mixed the dressing in quite well. (It may be intended for meat? But I use it for potatoes, and vegetables, and I used it as a pastry cutter for years…) Anyhow, it made quick work of the potatoes.
I rather like the variation in size of the pieces, with the interesting texture. If you’re going to use a nice normal knife, though, make sure you cut the potatoes before adding the oil (and making them all slippery…) and then toss them well. Refrigerate the salad a few hours to let the flavor soak into the potatoes. It’s better the next day (which makes it a very useful recipe to make in advance, or make for a week of lunches…)
Somehow the simple recipes seem to take the longest to explain… This really takes almost none of your time at all – the longest step is cooling and marinating. For variety, instead of parsley try dill or chives. If you have to use dried herbs, just use one teaspoon, and mix them with the vinegar, instead of the oil, while the potatoes cook, to refresh them. Or use spice – mustard is classic – instead of herbs.
And so, now I have a nice big bowl of potato salad in the fridge, ready to be packed for my first salad lunch of the season!
Potato salad made with an herbed oil and vinegar dressing - excellent for lunch boxes, picnics, and anyplace you want a lighter salad - and no mayo!
1 hrPrep Time
20 minCook Time
1 hr, 20 Total Time
- 2 pounds white potatoes
- 2 T cider vinegar, divided
- 2-3 T olive oil
- 2 T finely minced parsley
- Cook potatoes in their skins.
- When cool enough to handle, quarter. Sprinkle 1 T vinegar over them, stir gently to distribute. Let cool completely, marinating in the vinegar.
- Mix remaining vinegar, 2 T oil, and parsley, let sit to meld.
- Cut potatoes into bite sized pieces. Toss with the dressing, adding up to another T of oil if you find it is needed. Chill before serving.