Salade de pommes de terre

French potato salad

This is the simplest of the many variations on French potato salad. The potatoes are boiled, sliced and added to a mustard vinaigrette while still warm. This helps them absorb the sauce, which needs to be a bit on the sharp side to liven up the potatoes.

For best results, choose a variety of potatoes that will not fall apart on cooking, for example russets in the States or roseval, amandine or charlotte in France. For the sauce, use French Dijon mustard if at all possible, and if not get the closest approximation, the important factor being that the mustard should contain no sugar.

Beyond those simple instructions, this recipe is infinitely variable. You can peel the potatoes, or not. For the dressing, you can choose between red wine vinegar and lemon juice, and you can use olive oil or a more neutral salad oil or both. You can also vary the herbs: chives, parsley or scallions are most traditional, but I sometimes innovate with dill, cilantro, tarragon, chervil, basil or whatever I have on hand.

Serve the potato salad warm or at room temperature. If you make it ahead of time, take it out of the fridge an hour before serving to allow it warm up. This will enhance the flavor.

Serve as part of a mixed salad plate (assiette de crudités), with cold cuts or alongside a main dish, for example grilled or barbecued meat or poultry, or an assiette anglaise. The quantities below will serve 2-3 people. For a larger crowd, double or triple the recipe.

1 pound (500 g) potatoes
1 tsp. sea salt or table salt
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. red wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp. olive oil, salad oil or a combination
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot
1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (see above)

Rinse the potatoes and scrub to clean if necessary. Place them in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil, add the teaspoon of salt and cook until the potatoes are tender. The cooking time depends on the size of the potatoes. Test by inserting a sharp knife.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the vinaigrette. In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the mustard and vinegar or lemon juice. Add the oil a little at a time, stirring to emulsify the sauce. Season to taste with salt and grind in some black pepper. Peel and mince the shallot finely. Add to the sauce. Stir.

When the potatoes are ready, drain through a colander. Immediately slice into rounds or bite-sized pieces. Transfer to the bowl with the sauce while still warm. Stir to coat well with the sauce. Add the fresh herbs and stir again. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.

When ready to serve, transfer the salad to a clean dish, on its own or set on a bed of tender leaves. Top with extra fresh herbs if desired. Serves 2-3.

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