I love asking my sister what I should bring to big family meals, because she’s so magnificently specific. Last summer, I asked her what kind of cake she wanted me to make for her baby shower. She wanted a very tall layer cake that would look like yellow cake with vanilla buttercream but taste like sunshine. Not a lemon cake. Not too citrusy. A sunshine-flavored cake.
See? Very specific. But her ideas are always good. She’s the Recipe Whisperer.
So, when I asked her what side she wanted me to bring to our last family cookout, I was not prepared for her answer.
Potato salad? Not corn that should taste like each kernel has been kissed by a fairy? Or baked beans slow-cooked with applewood smoked bacon and a tinge of regret?
I was disappointed. It was like visiting a psychic and having her hand you a fortune cookie.
And then she said, “It should be creamy. Definitely not yellow. Maybe like a really good egg salad but full of potatoes that you crumble with your hands. And it should be complicated. Like, with some taste you can’t figure out at first. Ooh, and Dijon mustard.”
Now, this I could work with.
I’d seen Tyler Florence make a creamy potato salad on “Tyler’s Ultimate,” and when I looked up his recipe, it fit the bill. Creamy? Check. Not yellow? Check. Hard-boiled eggs, potatoes you break apart with your hands and Dijon mustard? Check, check and check.
And there are some complex flavors going on in this bowl of potatoes. They’re tossed in a mayonnaise-based dressing spiked with scallions, capers, Dijon mustard, finely chopped dill pickles, red onion, parsley, lemon juice and that something-something you can’t quite put your finger on: pickle juice. A full quarter-cup of pickle juice poured straight out of the pickle jar. It’s the secret ingredient that gives this potato salad its bite, something completely unexpected in a dressing this creamy and seemingly innocent.
Oh God. She’s got me doing it.
Ultimate Potato Salad
Adapted from Tyler Florence (via “Tyler’s Ultimate,” FoodNetwork.com)
Serves 4 to 6
This recipe is dressing-heavy, so if you’re not feeling 100 percent committed, keep your potatoes in a separate bowl, and add the dressing in spoonfuls, until you find the right balance for you.
- 2 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 bunch sliced scallions, white and green parts
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles with 1/4 cup juice, about 2 pickles
- 1/2 small red onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 bunch dill, chopped
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Put the potatoes and eggs into a big saucepan of cold salted water. Bring to a simmer. After 12 minutes remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and let cool. Continue cooking the potatoes until a paring knife poked into them goes in without resistance, about 3 minutes longer. Drain the potatoes in a colander, and let them cool.
- Reserve some scallion greens and capers for garnish. Meanwhile, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, pickles and their juice, onion, remaining scallions and capers, parsley, and lemon juice in a bowl large enough to hold the potatoes.
- Peel the cool eggs, and grate them into the bowl.
- Stick a fork into the potatoes and lift them 1 at a time out of the colander. Break up the potatoes by hand into rough chunks, add them to the bowl, and toss to coat with the dressing. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.