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David Tanis’ French Potato Salad

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David Tanis’ French Potato Salad

These sophisticated vinegary potatoes from the former chef of Chez Panisse have little in common with the mayo-heavy potato salad of yesteryear.

Memorial Day, and we are entering the season of salads. Potato salad, pasta salad, “salad” salad – all the things that will be cool and easy sitting on your plate next to a burger or hot dog hot from the grill.

Today, I’m thinking about potato salad. When I was little and didn’t know better, I liked that goopy potato salad that came with barbecue – it actually reminds me of days sitting outside by the pool with my family. But tastes change, and if it’s up to me, goopy potato salad can sit outside by the pool all alone, never to be scooped up. Not so for David Tanis’ French Potato Salad.

The author (his cookbook A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes was named one of the 50 best cookbooks of all times by the Guardian/Observer), New York Times columnist, and chef (for many years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California) has given us a vinegary, herby, delicious recipe for potato salad that is wonderfully free of goop. Think of this as grown-up potato salad, and enjoy Memorial Day weekend with a tiny bit of French inspo.

David Tanis’ French Potato Salad
2 ½ to 3 pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
Salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Put the potatoes in a large pot, cover with water, salt generously and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a brisk simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, until cooked through but firm. (Test with a skewer or paring knife.) Drain.

When the potatoes have cooled enough to handle, but while they are still warm, cut them into thick slices (about ⅜ inch) and place in a large low bowl.

In a small bowl, add the vinegar and mustard, stirring to dissolve. Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the warm sliced potatoes and very gently and briefly toss with your hands, taking care not to break the slices. Sprinkle with a little salt and leave to cool at room temperature.

When the potatoes have cooled, add the tarragon leaves and chives (save some of the herbs for garnish) and very gently toss again. Taste, adjust for salt and toss one more time. The salad should be fairly oily; drizzle with a little more oil if necessary. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with reserved herbs.

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