Why It Works
- Adding salt and vinegar to the potato cooking water not only seasons the potatoes deeply, but the vinegar also prevents them from falling apart as they cook.
- Seasoning the potatoes with more vinegar while they're still hot is key to deep flavor penetration and a light texture on the palate.
Dill, potatoes, and sour cream go hand in hand. Just ask any Scandinavian and they'll tell you. That said, most Scandinavian-style potato salads tend to be extraordinarily creamy. This version uses only the barest touch of sour cream, instead relying on good technique to pack the potatoes with plenty of flavor and brightness.
Back when I used to work at a hotel restaurant, it was part of my job to prepare all of the food for the overnight cooks to serve on the late-night room service menus. This means lots of pre-formed turkey club sandwiches, a big pot of lobster bisque, a few dozen dumplings, and lots and lots of potato salad. The bad news? I spent a good year and a half of my life making potato salad nearly every single day. The good news? There was no set recipe, which meant that I was allowed to exercise a good degree of poor judgment when preparing it.
Most nights, it was good stuff—in fact, it was during this time that I experimented and perfected most of the techniques I employ in my classic potato salad. But I also had my share of failures. The time I decided to blend cilantro into the mayonnaise as I emulsified it in the Robot Coupe and the salad ended up a delicate shade of pastel green. The time I tried substituting wasabi for my normal choice of whole grain mustard and the salad ended up a completely different but equally delicate shade of pastel green (and I'm sure the hotel patron's faces probably matched the salad once they had a taste).
Point is, I've made hundreds of potato salads in my life, and it's not always that I make one so good that it's worth repeating, and even more rare that it's worth writing down and sharing. This version is one of those.
At its base, it's not dissimilar from my classic potato salad recipe. The key steps are still there: adding the sliced potatoes (creamy fingerlings in this case, though Yukon golds will do) to cold salted water then bringing them to a boil helps them cook evenly and become seasoned throughout. A dash of vinegar ensures that they soften while still retaining their shape (vinegar slows the breakdown of pectin, the organic glue that holds potato cells together).
As soon as the potatoes are tender, I take them out of the pot, drain them well, and transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet, which helps them cool quickly and promotes evaporation of excess liquid. You want to get rid of as much moisture as possible so that your dressing won't get watered down. At the same time, you want your potatoes to be deeply seasoned. Sprinkling them with vinegar while they're still hot allows that vinegar to soak deeply into their core. This is the real trick to getting those potatoes to taste great without having to rely on too much gloppy cream or mayonnaise.
To finish off the salad, I dress the potatoes in a mixture of sour cream, olive oil (the good stuff!), a little more vinegar, some chopped red onion and scallion, and a big ol' pinch of fresh dill.
How good is this potato salad? Let me put it this way: It's the kind of potato salad that it's worth paying a 70% premium plus mandatory $10 tip to have delivered to your door at 3 a.m.
This recipe originally appeared as part of the column "The Food Lab Turbo."
1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes (such as La Ratte or Russian Banana), cut into 1/2-inch disks
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
2 scallions, finely sliced (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
Place potatoes, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, and 3 cups tepid water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally until salt is dissolved. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook until potatoes are completely tender and show no resistance when poked with a paring knife or cake tester, about 17 minutes. Drain potatoes. Immediately toss potato pieces with 1 tablespoon vinegar, spread in a single layer in a rimmed baking sheet, and allow to cool to warm room temperature, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine mustard, sour cream, olive oil, red onions, scallions, dill, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon vinegar in a large bowl and whisk together. Add potatoes and toss thoroughly to combine. Season to taste with more salt and pepper as necessary. Serve.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Potato salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 3g||3%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||3%|
|Total Carbohydrate 25g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||9%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 16mg||81%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|