Potato salad is a quintessential mom food. Theoretically speaking, if your childhood version was halfway decent you’ll probably favor that one forever.
With mouth-watering potato salad memories, sure enough I’m smitten for life with the kind my mom and aunties made. Such loyalty may have prevailed even if it hadn’t been so good, but I doubt it. My mom and her four sisters, my Aunties, still make sure that we have that potato salad whenever we gather. Many eggs, potatoes cooked just so, sweet pickles, mayonnaisey dressing with a little mustard plus a few other things . . . so I thought I knew potato salad.
But, you know, you grow up, move on, have new experiences and meet a new potato salad. One batch lead to another and turns out this other potato salad is the one my daughter grew up loving - for her it’s become quintessential mom food. Heresy. I have to say, I love it too and make it far more often than my childhood version. I don’t like it better, it’s just easier and fabulous with fish, really fabulous with fish.
I’ve always loved the combination of mashed potatoes and dill pickle. I discovered this particular taste sensation when I was little and from then on I tried to have them in my mouth at the same time whenever possible. So, when my German friend, Connie, offered this potato salad with dills it was a no-brainer. After the potatoes are cooked it takes about fifteen minutes to put together. Potatoes, scallions/chives/leeks and local dills are available at Farmers Markets these days so it could be another mostly local/seasonal salad. And I get to have potatoes and dill pickles together in my mouth with every bite.
We had acres of potatoes on our farm when I was a kid. Wandering through the fields my dad would dig one up, brush it off, slice it and we’d eat a raw potato. My grandmother would lead my brother and me into the house mid-day with a potato in her apron, she’d peel and slice it into a bowl of apple cider vinegar. That was our snack and her way of slowing us down for a few minutes. Raw potatoes? Not so much anymore, but vinegar with cooked potatoes, definitely. Tarragon vinegar gives this salad its kick, but If you don’t happen to have it, use a little dill pickle juice instead. It’ll be just as good.
Tarragon/Dill Potato Salad Recipe
In a large bowl place 5 or 6 Yukon Gold potatoes that have been boiled to just tender and diced (peel on is fine)/ Add 1/2 cup chopped dill pickle, 1/3 cup chopped scallions, leek or 2 tablespoons chopped chives/ 1/4 cup each of chopped fresh dill and tarragon when in season. It’s too early for fresh dill so I used 2 teaspoons dried; and though tarragon is coming up in the garden mine’s pretty skimpy right now, so I used fresh from HerbCo farm (Duvall) along with some dried. And please, the amounts of this or that are flexible - add more or less of whatever fits. Taste it and adjust accordingly. Thinly sliced radishes are a good addition, for example.
Dressing: 1/3-1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 or 2 T tarragon vinegar (or dill pickle juice), a spoonful of sour cream if you have it/ Stir together, season to taste, add a little more or less of any ingredient to achieve the balance you like, for example a teaspoonful of additional dried dill or tarragon would be fine/ Add to the potatoes and mix gently/ Refrigerate until time to serve.
I don’t think you’ll miss the eggs, and do try this with a piece of fish, salmon or halibut.
The dills were a half-day project last fall, but the payoff lasts all year long.
So what’s your own ultimate potato salad?