I didn't start out as a potato salad fan.
In fact if you told my younger self that I would one day be waxing poetic about potato salad, I would have laughed you out of the room. I don't think I actually touched my lips to potato salad until my early twenties. It's not the potatoes – those close to me can attest that my love for potatoes runs DEEP. It was the mayo. And the mayo was just the tip of the iceberg. For most of my life, I was repulsed by pretty much all condiments. Ketchup on fries? Nope. Dill pickles? No thank you. Mustard would be tolerated if it was whole-grain, but mayo – mayo was never okay. So as you can imagine, growing up in the South, where most salads involved tossing something in mayo, I didn't eat a lot of salad.
I was in college when my friend Taeko cooked a German-style potato salad, something I had never heard of. Rather than slather their starches in mayo, they toss them in a dressing of olive oil, mustard, vinegar, and maybe even a little bacon. I gave it a tentative taste, and was shocked when I liked it. I mean, I REALLY liked it. After that I entered the world of a potato salad–eater with gusto, seeking out every alternative version available: pesto, yogurt, eventually sour cream (also on the no-fly list for far too long). I continued a happy mayo-free life for a few more years and then discovered homemade aioli. Apparently if I made it myself, added garlic, and called it something else, then mayo became acceptable. In modest amounts. Fast forward to now, and I've mostly recovered from my aversion to packaged condiments. You still couldn't pay me to eat Heinz ketchup, but I will tolerate the occasional bottled salad dressing (I know, first-world problems over here).
So when we were writing the menu for our June family dinner, a dinner celebrating the salmon season that is now in full swing, it took some mental gymnastics on my part to include potato salad:
Fried potato skins with fennel-cured salmon, creamy mustard, and baby radish greens
Baby carrots, radishes, and turnips with spring pea puree
Vadouvan-spiced crackers with homemade butter, shaved celery, and salmon roe
Chilled watercress and arugula soup
Fried squash blossom and goat cheese mousse
Melted leeks, sorrel, calvados cream, and buckwheat crepes
House-smoked salmon, braised artichoke hearts, and new potatoes
Sugar snaps and herbed mayo
Breton butter cake
Grand Marnier-marinated strawberries, creme fraiche, and fleur de sel
I mean, I wouldn't even call it potato salad! But somehow, having TWO dressings, with the mayo on the side, made it work. And work it did. I took home most of the leftovers, and they lasted about a minute in the fridge before being devoured. After every dinner we get the occasional email asking for recipes. It's always fun to see which dishes stood out to our guests, and lo and behold, for this dinner, it was ALL requests for this recipe. So there you are. Potato salad.
- Braised Artichokes:
- 2 quarts cold water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 pound baby artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/2 yellow onion, peeled, sliced thin
- 1 1/4 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 arbol chile
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Herbed Mayo:
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons Dijon
- 3/4 cup nuetral-flavored oil
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Mustard Vinaigrette:
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 12 ounces baby red potatoes
- 1 pound shelling peas
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 8 ounces asparagus
- 8 ounces sugar snap peas, sliced thinly
- 6 ounces smoked salmon, broken into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Braise artichoke hearts:
Place the water and vinegar in a container large enough to hold the artichokes. This acidulated water will help keep the cut artichokes from browning.
Peel off 3 to 4 layers of the outer leaves from each artichoke, just until the yellow leaves begin to show. Use a peeler to shave off the ends of the tough outer leaves and all dark green on the stem. Trim the stem, and cut off the leaves just above the heart of the artichoke. Use a small spoon to scoop out the fibrous choke and small, purple-tipped leaves. Rub each cut area with a cut lemon, then drop it into the acidulated water. Repeat until all the artichoke hearts have been trimmed.
Heat the oil in a sauce pot over medium heat. Cook the carrots and onions until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the drained artichoke hearts and lemon halves, and cook 3 more minutes. Add the wine, thyme, bay, black pepper, arbol chile, and stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat to very low, and cook at a low simmer until the artichokes are just barely tender, about 15 minutes. Gently remove the artichokes to a container where they are not stacked, pour the cooking liquid over them, and let cool. If your container is not large enough to hold the aromatics, you can strain the liquid before chilling the artichokes. Chill for at least one hour, and up to 2 days.
Make the herbed mayo:
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the egg yolk and mustard. Slowly, drop by drop, start adding the oil. As the emulsion forms, add a little vinegar if it starts to get too thick before you’ve added all the oil. It should eventually be thick, and you will have about 1 cup. If it is too thin, then add more oil until you get the thickness you’d like; if it’s too thick, then add more vinegar (up until it tastes acidic enough) or water. Stir in the herbs and capers. Season to taste and refrigerate until needed.
Make the mustard vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard and vinegar. While whisking quickly, slowly add the olive oil, to create an emulsified mixture. Season to taste and set aside.
Cook the potatoes and peas:
Place the clean potatoes in a large pot and cover with enough cold water to come 2 inches above the potatoes. Place the pot on high heat. When the water simmers, add the salt, and turn down the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender. Add the peas and cook until they float to the surface, about 30 seconds. Transfer the peas immediately to an ice bath. Drain the potatoes and the peas.
When cool enough to handle but still warm, cut the potatoes in half. Immediately dress the potatoes in some of the mustard vinaigrette.
Finish the salad:
Drain the artichokes from their braising liquid. Toss the potatoes, artichokes, peas, asparagus, and sugar snaps in the mustard vinaigrette. Season to taste. Mix in the smoked salmon and herbs, and serve with the herbed mayo on the side.