Perfect Potato Salads
Baseball, and Summer, and...Potato Salad?
Today is the opening day of baseball season. And if baseball is here, can Summer be far behind? With that happy thought, allow me to extrapolate. If Summer is near, we must have potato salad. Perfect potato salad.
But what is the “perfect potato salad”? Is it tangy with vinegar, or bright with yellow mustard? Perhaps the contrast of textures is what you love—creamy potatoes and crunchy vegetables. Or do your thoughts go to something even more exotic?
I can and will help you find your perfect potato salad Muse.
The Key Players
What are the components of a basic potato salad? Well, potatoes of course (duh!), a dressing, and flavorings.
Sounds simple enough. So let’s look at each of the components.
Gertrude Stein said that “a rose is a rose is a rose”, but a potato is not always a potato. They are not all the same. Allow me to explain:
Starchy—these are the the bakers, the ones that are are high in starch and low in moisture. When cooked they become fluffy, creamy, and absorbent. They are great for boiling, baking, and frying, but they don’t hold their shape when cooked and diced. However, that absorbent aspect makes them a possible candidate if you want a potato salad that is creamy and full of flavor.
All-Purpose—On a scale of 1 to 10, with ten being the potato with the most starch (this means sticky), starchy bakers are 10, all-purpose are a 5 (medium starch). In the words of Martin Luther “What Does This Mean?” Well, it means that like starchy potatoes they cook up tender, but they also hold their shape. The all-purpose potato is your perfect choice for preparing just about any potato dish. However, the skins can be a bit tough, so if you use them for potato salad, you might want to remove the skins.
Waxy Potatoes—They have a low starch content, so they cook up firm and moist. If you remove the skin they will absorb more dressing, but leaving the skin on adds a nice color to what might be an otherwise monochromatic salad.
How to Cook Potatoes...Perfectly
- Place your potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water—the water should be one inch (more more) above the potatoes.
- Add a liberal amount of salt (about 2 teaspoons). This won’t make your potatoes taste “salty”, it will just make them taste like amazing potatoes.
- Bring the potatoes covered in water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer. (Don’t boil them—if they bang and crash into each other they can break).
- Use a sharp paring knife (not a fork) to test for doneness. Use the tip of the knife to poke the potato—if it pierces easily and does NOT cling to the knife when you lift upward, the potato is done.
Types of Potatoes
Rose Finn Apple
Dressing is the glue that binds together your potato salad. Mayonnaise, sour cream (or yogurt), and vinaigrette all impart special flavors to your salad. I like to use a combination of all three. Mayonnaise lends a silky creaminess, sour cream is tangy, and the vinaigrette reduces or eliminates the need for additional salt. (OK, I know that potato salad isn't meant to be a health food, but reducing sodium is never a bad thing).
Using a Vinaigrette?
Hot potatoes absorb liquid, so add your vinaigrette while the potatoes are still warm. The flavor will penetrate deep into your potatoes, making every bite tangy and tasty.
There are so many options. My mother always added finely diced dill pickle and red radish, chopped hard-cooked eggs, and a dash of dried dill weed (or fresh dill weed when available). In the recipes that follow I will provide suggestions for using those and other additions.
Basic Potato Salad
This recipe is adapted from the “Classic Potato Salad” by Betty Crocker. I have included the sour cream, dill pickles, and minced radishes that my mom always used in her potato salad.
- 1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 medium stalk celery, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely minced (about ½ cup)
- ¼ cup finely diced dill pickle
- 2 tablespoons finely minced red radish
- 4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
- Cook potatoes according to directions given above.
- Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in large mixing bowl.
- Add potatoes, celery, onion, pickles, and radish. Toss to combine and coat evenly with mayonnaise mixture. Stir in eggs and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours for flavors to blend.
Carb Diva’s Light Lemon/Herb Potato Salad
Here we abandon mayonnaise and sour cream, but gain tons of bright flavor from lemon and fresh parsley.
- 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
- 4 scallions, sliced
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
- Place potatoes in large pot with lid. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender (a sharp knife inserted in the middle of a potato will enter easily).
- Drain the potatoes and place on chopping board. Let sit a few minutes until cool enough to handle.
- Remove the skins from the potatoes. They should slip off easily with the tip of a knife. Chop the potatoes and place in a large bowl.
- Whisk together the lemon zest, dry mustard, olive oil, and lemon juice. Drizzle over the still warm potatoes. Toss to coat. Add salt and pepper and toss again.
- Just before serving stir in chopped parsley. Salad can be served chilled or at room temperature.
Loaded Baked Potato Salad
This recipe contains all of the ingredients we love in a fully-loaded baked potato—bacon, sour cream, and chives. Despite my warning that russet potatoes are not the best choice for potato salad, you really need them for this recipe. Russets have a unique flavor that is unmatched by other potatoes.
- 4 pounds russet (baking) potatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound bacon, cooked, cooled and chopped
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup sour cream
- freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup chopped chives or minced green onion
- 1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush then pierce each several times with a fork or sharp knife. Coat each potato with olive oil. Place on foil-lined baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour or until tender. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- While the potatoes are baking, cook the bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove from skillet, drain, allow to cool, and then crumble.
- Remove the skins from the potatoes and then chop into 1-inch size chunks. Place in large mixing bowl and sprinkle with vinegar.
- Combine the mayonnaise and sour cream in a small bowl, season with the black pepper, and then add to the potatoes, tossing gently to coat. Stir in bacon, chives, and cheese. Stir again to combine. Cover and refrigerate.
Italian Pesto and Potato Salad
This next recipe is an homage to the pasta/potato/pesto dish my family and I enjoyed on the western coast of Italy. I wrote of that amazing meal in my hub "Northern Italian Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans". Yes, this is a bit out of the ordinary, but the combination of soft potatoes, crisp green beans, and garlicky basil pesto is a perfect side dish for a warm summer evening with chicken or seafood from the grill and a bottle of crisp white wine.
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cooked, peeled and diced
- ½ pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths (about 1 cup)
- ½ cup basil pesto (deli purchase or homemade)
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional garnish)
- Cook potatoes according to directions above. Two minutes before potatoes are done, add green beans—you want them to be crisp-tender.
- Drain potatoes and green beans and place in large mixing bowl. While still warm, add pesto and stir gently to coat.
- Serve potato salad warm or at room temperature. Top with grated cheese (if desired) just before serving.
Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts
Please don’t leave! I recognize that unconventional doesn’t begin to describe this “salad” but I make it every year for my family at Thanksgiving.
- 3 cups Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and cut in half (see note below)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 cups peeled, diced sweet potato
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ pound bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
- 2 cups pecan halves
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2 teaspoons fresh finely minced rosemary (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Place Brussels sprouts in medium bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss to coat. Spread out in a single layer on baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes. Stir and then return to oven. Continue to bake about another 5 to 10 minutes or until sprouts are tender and slightly browned on the edges. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same mixing bowl combine diced sweet potato, remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the maple syrup. Reline the baking sheet with a clean sheet of parchment paper. Spread the diced potato out in a single layer; bake for about 20 minutes, stirring once, until tender and caramelized. Remove from pan.
- In a large bowl combine Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, bacon, pecan halves, and dried cranberries. Add rosemary (if desired) and gently toss to combine. Add salt and pepper as needed.
NOTE: When selecting Brussels sprouts, be sure to select sprouts that are all about the same size so that they will cook evenly.
Which of these recipes might you use?
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Linda Lum