The potato salad I grew up on was “creamy”, that is, dressed with mayonnaise. While I remember that dish fondly, I now make a very different type of potato salad, one closer to those I ate in Austria.
The single biggest challenge in making potato salad is having well-cooked potatoes that still hold their shape, and the most important factor in this regard is the variety of potato used. It must be a waxy, yellow-fleshed variety. North American varieties like Yukon Gold are okay, but there are some European varieties, like Linzer Delikatess, that are quite simply made for German potato salad. They have the proper smooth, creamy mouthfeel, and a roughly cylindrical shape that means they slice into very consistent rounds. Seed potatoes of this type are available from Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes.
True Kartoffelsalat using Linzer Delikatess Potatoes. To make the real deal German/Austrian potato salad, you must simmer the potatoes whole, in their jackets, until tender. Remove the tubers from the water, and while they are still warm use a paring knife to remove the skin (see picture at left), which should come away easily and cleanly. Slice the potatoes into rounds.
At this point the potatoes are still warm, and they should be immediately mixed with a bit of finely diced onion and dressing. Most traditional dressings are made from cider vinegar, sugar, mustard, and vegetable oil.
Really Good Potato Salad using Yukon Gold Potatoes. The more common North American yellow potatoes are girthy and don’t lend themselves to quick peeling and slicing. I prefer to cube the raw potatoes and simmer them very gently until tender, then let them cool before tossing with the dressing and garnishes. As the potatoes cool, they firm up by a process called starch retrogradation, so they hold their shape very well.
It takes quite a bit of salt to properly season a potato salad. I flavour my salad with a bit of onion, both red and green, and some of the honey mustard dressing described here. To really make the salad pop it should then be garnished liberally with dill, or chive blossoms, or something else striking and flavourful.
It’s incredible to me how many folks scorn potato salad because of memories of the bland mayo-dressed version. This punchy incarnation will cure them of their mistrust.
- 2 kg Yukon gold, or other creamy, yellow-fleshed potatoes, skin on, scrubbed, cut into 3/4″ cubes
- 1 1/2 cups honey mustard dressing
- 100 g red onion, fine dice
- 60 g chopped green onion
- 10 g fresh dill
- 14 g kosher salt
- 1 g coarsely ground black pepper
- Cover the potatoes with cold water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer very gently until the potatoes are cooked. Do not overcook the potatoes!
- Drain the potatoes and let cool.
- Combine all ingredients and let stand one hour. Taste and adjust salt and vinegar as necessary.
1. A common misnomer for for dishes with mayonnaise in them. Mayo is cream-free. Actually, it’s entirely dairy-free…