I did not grow up in a plentiful potato salad household.
With some families, summer is just not summer without a big bowl of potato salad chilling on a shelf in the fridge week in and week out for barbecue get-togethers or sleepy Sunday lunches on the patio.
Growing up, potato salad was a rarity for me, though. My Chinese-American parents never made it. But now and then, my Dad would pick up a plastic pint container of potato salad from the local grocery store to eat on weekends with sandwiches at lunch time.
I remember snapping off the plastic lid to find soft, diced potatoes smothered in mayo with a tiny bit of crunchy celery and piquant minced pickles mixed in. I’d scoop out a tablespoon or two to enjoy, savoring its creamy coldness as it hit my tongue.
Nowadays, I do make my own potato salad. But not very often.
It’s still a once-in-awhile summer treat to me. When you don’t prepare it all the time, you want the one you do make to be something special. This one definitely is.
It used to be served at Gordon’s cafe in Yountville, a family-owned joint that was a favorite of locals and tourists for its generous sandwiches and comforting entrees — all made from topnotch ingredients.
“Gordon’s Red Potato Salad with Whole Grain Mustard Dressing” had quite the following at the cafe. Gordon’s is no more, but you can still enjoy its potato salad with this recipe from “Williams-Sonoma San Francisco” (Oxmoor House) with recipes and text by Bay Area food writer Janet Fletcher.
What I love about this potato salad is its assertiveness from capers, red onion and both Dijon and whole-grain mustards. Mayo, thinned with a little water, plus fresh parsley and tarragon round out the flavor. It’s not a mild-mannered, wallflower of a potato salad. No, this is a potato salad that really perks up the table with its presence.
Whether potato salad is an every week staple or a an occasional indulgence, you’re sure to welcome making the acquaintance of this one.
Gordon’s Red Potato Salad with Whole-Grain Mustard Dressing
(Makes 6 servings)
2 pounds small, round, red-skinned potatoes, quartered
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup homemade or store-bought mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped capers
1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
In a large pot, combine potatoes with water to cover by 1 inch. Salt the water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently, uncovered until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 10 minutes. Test the potatoes often and be careful not to overcook them.
While the potatoes are cooking, in a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, parsley, tarragon, capers, onion, whole-grain and Dijon mustards, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2-3 tablespoons water. Whisk to blend, then season to taste with pepper.
Drain potatoes and immediately add them to the dressing. Toss well to coat evenly, then let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Thin the dressing at serving time with a little more water if needed.
Adapted from “Williams-Sonoma San Francisco”
More Summer Sides: Corn, Tomato and Scallion Salad
The Perfect Main for Potato Salad: Lucques’ Grilled Pork Burger