An Ode to Potato Salad

My favorite potato salad recipe.

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

And: Chef Guillaume Bienaime’s Summer Corn “Polenta”

And: Honey-Glazed Spago Corn Bread

And: Long Bean Salad with Feta and Preserved Lemons

And: Romaine Hearts with Miso-Mustard Dressing

The Perfect Main for Potato Salad: Lucques’ Grilled Pork Burger

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  • What a splendid salad! That dressing is marvelous.



  • mustard seeds! yes why not. love it.
    i love a good potato salad when it has all kinds of stuff in it. this way you can NOT just taste the mayo.

  • I used to make a lot of potato salad growing up in Hawaii. Not too often now, I think because of all the carbs and mayo that comes with it. Hawaii has some unique twists to their food, and for the potato salad, one of the things people used to do was put imitation crab! Sounds weird but it actually works! This salad looks good but I have to say I’m going to skip on the red onions. 😉

  • What an awesome potato salad! Perfect for summer if we ever get past 60 degrees! My mom makes a really yummy potato salad too that has chunks of apples in it. It adds a really nice crunch and sweet flavor.

  • Yum! I LOVE potatoes so this will be bookmarked. 😉

  • Delish. And to be fair, we never had potato salad as a kid. Lots of Gumbo, but not potato salad:)

  • I did grow up in a potato salad home, but did not discover the world of potato salad until college when I dated someone from Ohio who made warm potato salad with vinegar that was awesome and had a roommate that made potato salad with mustard instead of mayo – it was exciting!

  • I’d never think to add capers but the briney bite sounds perfect for a potato salad. Saving this one. Thanks for the recipe!

  • I’m a huge fan of dill pickles in my potato salad. I’ll have to try capers next.

  • Your Food Gal page hits the spot thank you for sharing such wonderful and informative ideas … best to you in your endeavors.

  • I love potato salad and this one is wonderful…mustard and tarragon are both weaknesses 🙂

  • I didn’t grow up with potato salad either, but sometimes my mother would make the Korean style: with a lot more mayo and sugar and raisins and peanuts.

    The grains of mustard in your salad is so inviting….looks incredibly flavorful!

  • Wow… I love your blog! Your writing is great, the recipes sound yummy, and the photographs are gorgeous! Thank you for taking the time to stop by my blog & comment… I am now a subscriber! Looking forward to a lot more of foodgal 🙂

    Potato salad is not something I grew up with either, but now I make it pretty often… Your recipe sounds really yummy! Love the whole grain mustard in it… Thank you for this recipe!

  • Ym, this one went directly into my Try Me file. Mustard is a must-have in potato salad.

  • Oh mannnn~this is my kind of recipe!! potatoes and dijon??!! I just fainted. 0_0

  • that potato salad looks divine! And yes we really did grow up in similar households-we never had much potato salad either although I always wanted to try it! 😛

  • I have mixed feelings about potato salad but this looks like one I could really enjoy!

  • I actually love potato salad now and then haha it’s just something about the cold creaminess like what you said 😀 Love your version with mustard and capers!

  • I always loved potato salad but my parents never made it: it was bought at the grocery store with cold cuts or burgers for a special summer meal. My French husband adores it and loves eating it in the US. Maybe it’s time I make my own? Yours is the perfect recipe!

  • I can relate to growing up without potato salads on the menu of my Korean parents. I don’t go out of my way to eat potato salads these days, but I know I’d love this version with its many tangy splashes.

  • yes, yes, yes. my thoughts regarding potato salad are that if mustard isn’t heavily involved, it’s not worth eating.

  • Pingback: Potato sald | Cheapart

  • Love how versatile the potato is. If we were to take a random poll of cultures, I think we’d find a unique mashed potato recipe unique to every culture. Here’s one that I grew up with – was almost a sunday lunch ritual in my home in eastern India.

    It is essentially a mixture of mashed potatoes, cilantro, finely chopped onion, grated ginger, finely chopped green chillies and the secret ingredient – mustard oil! Add to it some salt and lemon juice to taste and it was a perfect side to a lunch of rice and lentil curry.

  • Like you, potato salad is not part of my Chinese family meal rituals. What is different…I can’t make a good potato salad till now :O I like the whole-grain mustard dressing you have used.

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