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An easy flavor-packed potato salad with creamy new potatoes, tangy lemon aioli and tarragon.
Love it or hate it, potato salad is key to any BBQ spread, potluck or summer get-together.
But are you in the hate-it camp? I used to be too, but you’ll have to trust me that this smashed potato salad dressed in a tangy, herby mayo with sweet summery snap peas will change your mind.
The thing that’s least likable about ho-hum potato salad (for me, anyway) is when it’s drenched in mediocre mayo — and once you swim through that to get to the main attraction, the actual potatoes are pasty and flavorless.
How do you fix that problem?Turns out it’s pretty easy, after I learned about Syracuse potatoes.
While I was poking around the produce section of a grocery store near Lake Ontario in upstate New York, I found a display of old-fashioned paper sacks filled with small potatoes, packaged together with a large bag of salt.
Why had I never heard of this? Salt potatoes are a micro-regional dish specific to that area of New York.
Starting in the late 19th century, Irish immigrants working in the local salt mines cooked their daily portion of plain, unpeeled potatoes in the brine from salt production.
Potatoes cooked in a saturated salt solution turn out incredibly creamy inside, because the salty water boils at a higher temperature.
Plus they’re basically seasoned from the inside out, which is the theory behind boiling many foods (like pasta) in water that “tastes like the sea.”
Add acid to the mix and you have a perfect recipe for delectable spuds — hello salt and vinegar fries and chips!
I riffed on the idea for making salt potatoes for this recipe, adding a bit less salt than traditionally used for salt potatoes, which are usually just served plain with melted butter.
Potato salad without mayonnaise?
While some people believe that the perfect potato salad doesn’t involve mayonnaise at all, I’d argue that homemade garlicky lemon mayo (or aioli) is another story.
Good homemade aioli delivers a nice balance of tangy richness to just about anything, and tender new potatoes suck the flavors right up.
If you haven’t tried making your own mayo, today is the day! I’ve perfected an easy, foolproof recipe for Blender Lemon Aioli that literally takes seconds to make.
Otherwise, please try this potato salad with your favorite prepared mayonnaise.
The best type of potatoes to use in potato salad
- Low-starch, waxy types, also called “boiling” potatoes and yellow all-purpose potatoes are the best potatoes to use for potato salad.
- Red potatoes are the most commonly available boiling potato, and Yukon Gold is the most common all-purpose.
- These two types of potatoes work best in a salad because they have tight-grained flesh, which helps them hold their shape when boiled. Fluffy-textured potatoes such as the Burbank Russet tend to become mushy when boiled.
To make a shortcut aioli, stir 1 cup of prepared mayo with the juice and zest of a lemon, a small crushed garlic clove and chopped fresh tarragon (or sub chives, basil or other tasty fresh herb).
Potato Salad with Herbed Lemon Aioli
- 2 pounds (900 g) small yellow potatoes, preferably golf-ball size
- ¾ cup (220 g) kosher salt, or plain table salt
- 2 cups sugar snap peas or thawed frozen sweet peas
- 1 cup Lemon Aioli or your favorite prepared mayonnaise blended with 1 tablespoon each fresh lemon zest, lemon juice and 1 small pressed garlic clove
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
- Black peppercorns in a grinder
- Put the potatoes and salt in a large pot (at least 5 quarts). Cover with water and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and partially cover the pot. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 20-25 minutes. Throw the peas into the pot for the last 15 seconds of cooking. Drain and cool the potatoes 15 minutes.
- Stir together the aioli, tarragon and a good 15-20 grinds of pepper.
- Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl. Using the back of a large wooden spoon, press down on the potatoes to lightly smoosh and crack them. Add 3/4 cup of the aioli to the potatoes and toss gently to coat. Taste and add more aioli if you like.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Aioli will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
- Mix the salad just before serving.