A Picnic Classic: French Potato Salad

Picnic-perfect potato salad.

It’s the time of the year to dust off those wicker baskets and head to the great outdoors for our eats! It’s picnic season and today’s lesson will be on that picnic classic: potato salad.

As always, there are a variety of ways to prepare this traditional picnic food, but before we roll up our shirtsleeves and get cooking, let’s talk spuds!

Credit: UnitedSoybeanBoard
The basics: all- purpose, red and Russet. Credit: UnitedSoybeanBoard, Flickr.

There are virtually thousands of varieties of potatoes, but they all fit into just two categories: starchy or waxy. Russets, Idaho and all-purpose “white” potatoes fall into the first category and are generally best for baking, mashing and roasting. Red skinned, golden and fingerling fall into the latter and hold their shape when boiled, thus making them an excellent choice for potato salad.

I like the “slice first” method when boiling potatoes to be used in salad for a couple of reasons. It ensures each potato will be cooked to the same consistency (since rarely are the potatoes found in a 5-pound bag similar in size) and it also allows for easy handling. Skins can be left on if preferred, however, some can be tough.

French Potato Salad

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Cook time: 

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Serves: 4-6

Salade de pommes de terre française – oh, la la! French makes everything sound so fancy!
  • 2 pounds potatoes (choose red, golden, new, fingerling)
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper or to taste
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 4-5 sliced scallions (white and green parts)
  • Fresh chopped basil and parsley to taste
  1. Fill a large pan half full with cold salted water.
  2. Scrub and peel potatoes.
  3. Slice into ¼ inch thick slices and add to water as you cut.
  4. Heat pan over medium high heat and bring to a low boil.
  5. Gently boil for 5 minutes or until just tender.
  6. Drain and return potatoes to pan off of the heat.
  7. Cover and let steam for 5 minutes.
  8. Add chicken stock and white wine to warm potatoes. Toss gently.
  9. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper.
  10. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  11. Gently toss vinaigrette, scallions and herbs with potatoes.
  12. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Slice large potatoes in half to keep sizes fairly uniform.

Steaming the potatoes allows them to stay firm – don’t skip this step.

Hot potatoes absorb liquid. By tossing first with white wine and chicken stock the flavor will penetrate. You can also do this when making American potato salad so that you can use less mayo once the potatoes have cooled.

Make ahead and refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.

Do you have a favorite picnic food? I’m partial to chicken salad croissants — here’s why. —Karen


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