Le Best French Potato Salad.

In my ode to picnic cuisine, I neglected to mention how much I love potato salad. Truth be told, I love all kinds of potato salads, including the classic, mayonnaise-based American style I grew up with (“Miracle Whip only,” my mom insists) and the tangy variations that tend to accompany good Carolina-style BBQ, leaving my lips puckered with pickle brine.

But I love French potato salad — the kind laced with vinegar and hints of garlic and, if I am lucky, minced cornichons — best of all.

Mr. Magpie introduced me to this style of potato salad after college and it quickly became a staple in our lives, especially in the summer, where it tends to find its home handily alongside BBQ chicken, hot dogs, and hamburgers hot off the grill. There is something about the preparation of this dish that is appealingly in keeping with the open-windows-bare-feet-laziness-of-summer milieu in which it tends to find itself: I love that you leave the potatoes sprawled out in a single layer across a couple of baking sheets to relax in the vinaigrette. This is the kind of dish that improves with afternoon lethargy. Leave the potatoes out on the counter for an hour or two, at room temperature, and I promise you won’t be able to resist sneaking a couple of rounds right off the pan before dinner.

Mr. Magpie’s French Potato Salad.

A caveat: I am horrific at boiling potatoes. I am attentive and passable as a cook, but I always horribly over- or under-cook potatoes. Keep a close eye on them, spearing them regularly to test for done-ness, to ensure you do not follow suit.

Place two pounds red potatoes, cut into ¼-inch thick slices, six cups of cold water (enough to cover the potatoes by at least an inch of water), and two tablespoons kosher salt (yes, two whole tablespoons) in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Lower 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and skewered (I usually lazily use a fork), into the boiling water and blanch for 45 seconds.  Immediately remove and rinse with cold water. 

Once garlic has been blanched, lower the heat to medium.  Simmer for five minutes, or until fork slides in/out with no resistance. 

Drain but reserve ¼ c cooking water. I’m bolding that instruction as it is easy to forget. I like to set a measuring cup right next to the stovetop so I don’t forget to scoop some out before draining. 

Arrange potatoes in a single layer on baking sheets. 

Whisk minced garlic, reserved water, 1.5 tablespoons champagne vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, ¼ cup olive oil, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.  Drizzle over potatoes.  Let stand 10 minutes.  (Or, you know, an hour or two — this is summer!)

Toss with 2 tablespoons minced red onion, 2 thinly sliced radishes, ¼ cup capers (rinsed and dried), and ¼ cup diced cornichons. If you’re not into those accoutrements, you can also swap in a handful of minced, fresh herbs — we love tarragon in this!

Post Scripts: Kitchen Finds.

WE ARE TOTALLY OBSESSED WITH OUR NEWEST GADGET: A TOP-OF-THE-LINE CUCKOO RICE COOKER — MAKES FANTASTIC RICE AND HAS CHARMING CHIMES AND SOUNDS TO BOOT

LOVE THIS CHEERY TRIVET

THE BEST CAKE TINS FOR SERIOUS BAKING PROJECTS

I FIND WE USE OUR MINI BAKING SHEETS ALMOST AS OFTEN AS OUR FULL-SIZED ONES

THESE CUTE CONDIMENT BOWLS ARE ON SALE NOW (ALSO IDEAL FOR SNACKS FOR LITTLE ONES)

PERFECT BAKEWEAR FOR SHOWCASING SUMMER BERRY CRUMBLES AND LEMON POUND CAKES — FUNCTIONAL BUT ELEGANT ENOUGH TO SERVE FROM

AN ELEGANT PERSONALIZED TAG FOR DRESSING UP BAKED GOODS DELIVERED TO A FRIEND (THESE ARE PRECIOUS IF COMING FROM CHILDREN)

THESE ARE JUST THE PRETTIEST CAKE DOMES

LOVE THIS BLUE GINGHAM TABLE THROW (AND CORRESPONDING NAPKINS) — ON SALE!

THESE ETCHED FISH OLD-FASHIONED GLASSES ARE MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE

CHEERIEST COCKTAIL NAPKINS

A TOTALLY UNNECESSARY DISH THAT I ABSOLUTELY LOVE (AND OWN)

THESE ARE JUST ABOUT THE CUTEST NAPKINS EVER (MACHINE WASHABLE!) — JUST BOUGHT A FEW SETS TO HAVE ON HAND AS A HOSTESS GIFT

MORE THINGS YOU NEED IN YOUR KITCHEN

YES, THE VITAMIX IS WORTH IT (WE LOVE OURS)

THESE MELAMINE PLATES ARE BACK IN STOCK!!!

LOVE THESE SALAD SERVERS, THOUGH WE OWN THIS FRENCH SET AND IT’D BE THE PERFECT PAIR FOR SERVING UP FRENCH POTATO SALAD

I FIND MYSELF REACHING FOR THESE MATTE BOWLS ALL THE TIME

THE BEST HOME AND KITCHEN PRODUCTS

WRITING ABOUT FRENCH POTATO SALAD REMINDS ME OF SEEING MY MOM IN DIJON, FRANCE

MORE HOME FINDS

DYING TO TRY PUR HOME PRODUCTS, WHENEVER THEY ARE RESTOCKED!

CHIC PANTRY STORAGE

P.S. Schleich brand figurines are absolutely amazing — so detailed and realistic! Bought a few for my children.

P.P.S. My sneakers are on sale (reviewed here!) and yet another dress I think I need now that it’s marked down to 50% off!

P.P.P.S. These Hazel Village dolls are absolutely precious for a little one.

6 Comments

  1. Jen, I wanted to come back here and say that I just made this potato salad and it is SO GOOD! I will admit to adding another half tablespoon of vinegar 😉 I had been using a Food Network recipe in the past and had to keep tweaking so many things to get it right (I find that recipes there are hit or miss). This recipe is a keeper! Thank you!!

  2. Yes to vinegary potato salads! Like MK, I dislike the mayonnaise-based one too. I grew up in the Philippines and we put vinegar in everything, haha. The starchy/carby potatoes really need that “pucker” from the acidity (also why Cape Cod salt and vinegar kettle chips are my weakness). And I totally agree with heavily salting the water for boiling potatoes (or green beans, etc.). I remember Ina Garten always used to say to season at every step and this was such a helpful tip! Also reinforced by Samin Nosrat in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat — seasoning any vegetable “from the inside” when boiling makes all the difference. I do like to salt my raw onions/shallots before adding it to the salad, to tame it a little bit. Mmm now I want to make this salad this weekend!

  3. I must say, traditional mayonnaise-based potato salad has to be among my least favorite dishes (!! I know, sacrilege) — I am not such a fan of boiled potatoes and dislike mayo-based dressings — but you have my attention with mustard & cornichons. Going to give this a whirl this summer!

    That Rixo dress is a beauty!

    xx

  4. I make a very similar potato salad (definitely calling it French potato salad in the future, so much fancier), but with scallions and dill. Mustard based potato salad is so light and perfect for summer. It also keeps great and I think tastes better after a day in the fridge. I love the idea of the cornichons and radishes though- will have to try those next time!

    1. YES – exactly. Light and perfect. I like the mustard-based German potato salads they had in a lot of the Chicago butcher shops back when we lived out by you guys, too — yum. (Maybe that’s a version similar to yours, too?).

      xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *