In Time for Memorial Day

May 23, 2013

There are many things that I am but I am not the food blogger who posts holiday recipes in time for holidays.  I’m just not usually that organized.  I make a Christmas-worthy cake on Christmas, not days ahead so that I can share the recipe.  Maybe I share the recipe days after and tell you to make it next year.  I realize this is not all that helpful and I’m sorry.  I do get contacted by people like the Cream Cheese Commission reminding me that National Cream Cheese Day is coming up and might I want to create a recipe and tell my readers about it!  Except I don’t.  The food I share here is food I cook for myself, my family, or for clients.  It is food I make because I want to eat it.  And I like it enough to want to share it with you.

All this to say that I happened to make a potato salad last night that I really liked and hey! what do you know?, it’s Memorial Day weekend and you might need a good potato salad.  Because of my intense love of potatoes, I really like just about any potato salad.  I like them with a mayonnaise dressing and also with an olive oil one.  I like them with pickles, hard boiled egg, scallions, celery, and without any of those things.  I have even been known to eat those gloppy yellowing mayo soaked ones that you find in plastic tubs from a grocery store.  This potato salad is nothing like that kind.  I created this one as a way to highlight the flavor of the ingredients, not drown them in dressing.  And, as usual these days, I was inspired by the produce at the markets.

Boiling potatoes, especially lovely pink hued new potatoes from the Berkeley farmers’ market, is a cruel way to treat them.  It zaps all their flavor and tends to make them mushy.  Mushy potatoes don’t work well in potato salads because when you go mix everything together, they fall apart.  Their skins tend to peel off.  Much better to roast the potatoes in the oven, with a little olive oil and plenty of salt.  Then your prime ingredient tastes good on its own so it can’t help but be delicious in the finished product.  I sautéed purple spring onions and fennel with just a bit of parsley and mixed in thinly sliced celery.  I think mustard and potatoes are great friends so I made a dressing that is nice and creamy but with a lot of bite from two kinds of mustard and some horseradish. If you hate mayonnaise, and I know there are many of you out there, I imagine you could use all yogurt or sour cream instead.  I like my potato salads lightly dressed but this recipes makes plenty of it in case you want to add more or make the salad again.  It will keep for a week in the refrigerator and would be a great sandwich spread too.

Three Years Ago:  Mushrooms with White Wine
Four Years Ago:  Individual Vegetable Tarts
Five Years Ago:  Niçoise Tartines with Peperonata

Potato Salad with Fennel and Mustardy Dressing
Dana Treat Original
Serves 6-8

Spring onions look like giant scallions.  You will want to use the bulb part only (the part that looks like an onion) and discard the greens.  You could substitute a large sweet onion (like Walla Walla or Vidalia) instead.  Be sure to buy a fennel that has some of the fronds attached (the green dill like looking top) because you will stir some of the chopped fronds into the finished salad.  Make sure to dress the salad when the potatoes are warm.  They will absorb the dressing beautifully.  Finally, potato salads, like pasta salads, taste best room temperature.  You can store the salad for a day or so in the fridge but take it out about an hour before you want to serve it.

For the dressing:
2 tbsp. plain yogurt
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. whole grain mustard
2 tbsp. horseradish
Juice of ½ a lemon
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
2½ pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into large bite-size chunks
Olive oil
3 spring onions, bulb part only, chopped
1 large fennel, inner core removed, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
4 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds

Make the dressing:
Mix together the first six ingredients in a bowl.  Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Make the salad:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Lay the potato chunks on a large baking sheet and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Shower with salt and a few grinds of pepper.  (Potatoes need salt!)  Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes without disturbing them.  A paring knife should easily pierce them.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onions and fennel and a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, then add the parsley.  Continue to cook until the vegetables are very soft and brown in places, about 10 more minutes.  Scrape the contents of the pan into a large bowl.

Transfer the still quite warm potatoes to the bowl along with the celery.  Spoon out about five tablespoons of the dressing into the bowl and, using a spatula, mix together gently.  Add the fennel fronds and mix again.  Taste for salt and pepper and additional dressing if desired.



  1. I know you are not a mayo girl, but I am………..however, I will happily eat potato salad with mustard, vinegar, herbs or whatever!
    Looks delicious! xo

    Comment by stacey snacks — May 23, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

  2. Well I’m happy you posted this! It looks lovely!!

    Comment by Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — May 23, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

  3. I’m rarely ever ahead of the game either, but I do welcome a good potato salad any time of year! I’m a real mayo hater so I’ll definitely be subbing yogurt into this one. That dressing sounds so big on flavor!

    Comment by Joanne — May 23, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

  4. Once again, you read my mind! I just printed your potato salad with sugar snaps and tarragon dressing recipe. I was planning to make for a Memorial Day picnic. Hmmm, maybe I’ll try both!

    Comment by Diane — May 23, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

  5. I feel your pain. Sometimes I’m on the ball for holiday dishes. Other times…not so much. This potato salad looks like the perfect side dish for the holiday weekend.

    Comment by Cookin Canuck — May 23, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

  6. Your confession concerning tubbed grocery store potato salad brought to mind Laurie Colwin’s winning essay on the subject.
    Happy Memorial Day!

    Comment by cR — May 24, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

  7. I am exactly the same way… I simply never have anything on my blog for a particular upcoming event. Not only I would not make something days ahead just for the sake of blogging, but I figure that 99.999% of the food blogs will cover the subject anyway… :-)

    having said that, love your potato salad! Fennel and mustard turned it into something really tempting and special

    Comment by sallybr — May 24, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

  8. DId you ever post the recipe for the Strawberry rhubard galette (May 2012)?? I beg of you!! Recipe puhlease. Just the yummy filling- I’ll steal the dough recipe from Deborah Madison. Our strawberries are crazy good right now- Central Coast of California, Dana. You want to come here, too.

    Comment by Stella — May 25, 2013 @ 4:28 am

  9. Darn – I made potato salad a day before reading this and used blue cheese for oomph instead of that lovely mustard and horseradish combo. I did bake rather than boil the potatoes, so they were firm and tasty.

    Comment by Yafa — May 25, 2013 @ 6:21 am

  10. Stella, I don’t think I ever did post that recipe. Unfortunately, I have no memory of where I got it! I’m so sorry. Do you guys have rhubarb? I haven’t seen any yet in the Bay Area which is weird for me since it tends to be the first spring “fruit” that we get in Seattle. Way before strawberries. I’d love to check out the central coast!

    Comment by dana — May 25, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

  11. I can never have timely posts, it’s just not in me at all (and I’m okay with that). This potato salad looks amazing – I’m not one for mayo-y dressings and I’m intrigued by the roasted potatoes!

    Comment by kickpleat — May 26, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

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