Essential Potato Salad

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Giveaway: Autumn with Matthew Mead

Potato Salad

Labor Day weekend is bittersweet, like the end of an affair. Three days of sunshine, of flip-flops, of beaches and barbecue. But Tuesday lurks around the corner, like a raincloud with the smell of ozone to the air. There’s almost a sense of desperation — just one more cookout! — before fall settles in, with its dark evenings, the smell of cinnamon and freshly-sharpened pencils, and its long march to winter.

I’ve been busy collecting summer, whether it’s making just one more fresh fruit pie, canning a batch of tomato jam, downing bottles of rose, or just sneaking outside to enjoy the sunset. I keep getting ideas and checking them off the list: Hollywood Bowl tickets, picnics, Lemonade! And one of my favorite summer foods is potato salad. I wanted to get in one more potato salad before roast potatoes become de rigueur.

Farewell to summer, or should I say, au revoir?

Essential Potato Salad
Serves: 6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Adapted from Canal House Cooking This recipe is wonderful in that it can be scaled up or down to feed however many people you want. If you're making a big batch, you might want to get some help "buttering" the potatoes.
  • Thin skinned red potatoes
  • salt
  • red wine vinegar
  • mayonnaise (I like Best Foods, Hellman's or Trader joe's Real Mayonnaise.)
  • chives
  • juice and zest from lemon
  1. Boil the potatoes, skin on, in salted water, until tender when pierced with a fork.
  2. While the potatoes are still warm, but cool enough to handle, thickly slice them and sprinkle the slices with vinegar.
  3. Spread both cut sides of each potato slice with some mayonnaise -- you don't want it an inch thick, but don't skimp either. Go by feel, and think "casual abundance." Arranged the "buttered" sliced potatoes on a plate. Salt to taste.
  4. Sprinkle the sliced potatoes with chopped chives, and lemon zest. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the potatoes.

I love old fashioned potato salad made by my grandmother, but this isn’t that. I also love newfangled potato salads, but this isn’t that, either. This is potato salad reduced to its essentials — a little mayonnaise, a sprinkle of tart vinegar, the oniony breath of chives, and at the end, a dusting of lemon, to add aroma and color, to wake the tastebuds and make the salad sing. It’s hardly a recipe at all, but it’s well worth making all the same, in this last weekend of summer.


  1. Maureen September 3, 2011
  2. sippitysup September 3, 2011
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