I have to admit something to you. I am a potato salad flunky. Yes, it’s true. I’ve only attempted to make potato salad a handful of times for good reason. My version always ends up more like mashed potatoes than anything close to traditional potato salad. Until now.
In my latest edition of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine (as you know my all time favorite publication) I came across an article on making Austrian Potato Salad. As is the case with Cook’s Illustrated, the author tested many versions of this recipe, using different types of potatoes, pickles, liquid and came up with this final and best version.
One of the discoveries that proved to be my saving grace and face in the world of potato salad is the addition of 1 Tablespoon of vinegar to the boiling liquid. Vinegar prevents the pectin in the potatoes from weakening, thus keeping the potatoes from falling apart. (My mashed potato issue, solved.)
Another bonus to this recipe is its creamy texture without the mayo. The sauce is created with the cooking liquid and mashing half a cup of the cooked potatoes into the liquid for thickening along with a few ingredients. It is a much lighter version and can stay at room temperature for hours. Another flavor booster is the addition of chicken broth to the cooking liquid. The potatoes soak up all the flavor of the vinegar and chicken broth while cooking. There’s very little to add in the end.
One last note, the recipe calls for cornichons which are crisp, tart pickles made from tiny gherkin cucumbers. I had sweet gherkins in the fridge so this is what I used. I actually think the sweet pickles gave the dish a nice contrast to all the sour vinegar and mustard flavors.
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (do not use any other kind. The golds contain just the right amount of starch to create the sauce.) Peel and quarter lengthwise, and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices.
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small red onion, chopped fine (about 3/4 cup)
6 cornichons, minced (about 2 Tablespoons)
2 Tablespoons minced fresh chives
ground black pepper to taste
1. Bring potatoes, broth, water, 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, and 1 Tbs. vinegar to boil in 12 inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until potatoes offer no resistance when pierced with paring knife, 15 to 17 minutes. Remove cover, increase heat to high (so cooking liquid will reduce), and cook 2 minutes.
2. Drain potatoes in colander set over large bowl, reserving cooking liquid. set drained potatoes aside. Pour off and discard all but 1/2 cup cooking liquid (if 1/2 cup liquid does not remain, add water to make 1/2 cup.) Whisk remaining tablespoon vinegar, mustard, and oil into cooking liquid.
3. Add 1/2 cup cooked potatoes to bowl with cooking liquid mixture and mash with potato masher or fork until thick sauce forms (mixture will be slightly chunky.) Add remaining potatoes, onion, cornichons, and chives, folding gently with rubber spatula to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.