When it comes to the Fourth of July, certain foods shout out the holiday more than others: Thick slices of tomatoes topped with chopped garlic and parsley, triangular wedges of cold watermelon, corn on the cob dripping with butter and potato salad. With the tomatoes, watermelon and corn, we’re jumping the gun a bit, as none of these have come into season yet locally.
But potato salad, ahh, potato salad. It is never out of season. The variations are endless or nearly so and as long as you use good ingredients and keep both Miracle Whip and sweet relish out of the mix, they are all pretty good.
Some of the very best potato salads are the simplest, such as one from France that is served warm or at room temperature and contains just potatoes and two vinaigrettes.
The first of the vinaigrettes, when it is applied to the potatoes, illustrates how to make even an ordinary potato salad soar: Add a vinaigrette, or even just olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, to the potatoes while they are still hot. I learned this when I was a very young cook, 15 or 16, and it has never failed me, though the few times I’ve failed to do it, the results have been disappointing. The warm potatoes absorb the flavors in a way that chilled potatoes don’t and that makes all the difference in the world. A second dressing, sometimes a vinaigrette, sometimes a mayonnaise-based sauce, is typically added shortly before serving.
Over the years, I have offered more than a dozen different potato salads in this column. For those recipes, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You’ll find the classic vintage dish, Marshall House Potato Salad, along with potato-mussel salad, potato salad with grilled skirt steak and radish vinaigrette, Russian Egg potato salad, Mexican-inspired potato salad, sweet potato salad with molasses vinaigrette and more.
In France, this traditional dish is called pommes a l’huile , or potatoes in oil. You can serve it just as it is or add other ingredients--sliced hard-boiled eggs, quartered cherry tomatoes, crumbled bacon, blanched green beans--before adding the final dressing.
French-Inspired Potato Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 pounds small new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons best-quality white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons dry white wine
— Kosher salt
— Black pepper in a mill
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
Fill the bottom half of a steamer about 1/4 full with water and set over high heat.
Add the sliced potatoes to the top part of the steamer and set over the bottom half. When steam begins to rise, cover the pot, and steam until the potatoes are just tender, about 15 to 17 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the steamer and tip them into a wide shallow bowl.
While the potatoes cook, put half a cup of the olive oil into a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the vinegar, the wine, and season with salt and pepper.
Season the potatoes with a little salt, pour the dressing over it, toss, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes.