Classic French Potato Salad

I don’t know how I know this but today is Vinegar Day in South Dakota.

I’ve never been to South Dakota and don’t really know anything about it, except that it’s where Mount Rushmore is and I want to see that.

Vinegar is another story. I know about vinegar because I use it a lot. Plain old white (actually clear) vinegar is good for cleaning toys that my grandchildren have chewed on and also for stuck-on stuff on cabinet doors (dilute with water in both cases). 

But mostly I use vinegar for cooking. I find the tart taste compelling and when you use vinegar, even in small quantities, it reduces the need for added salt. 

I used to think I hated vinegar. That it made everything taste sour. My Mom told me that because she hated vinegar. It’s amazing, all the stuff you pass down to your children, even unknowingly.

But because she wasn’t a fan of vinegar we didn’t have vinaigrette dressing or sweet-and-sour-anything when I was a kid.

Somewhere along the line I tasted both. and realized what I had been missing.

Not all vinegars are the same of course. I use different ones for different purposes: red wine vinegar for a marinade for beef, for example. Sherry vinegar (vinaigre de Jerez) for roasted asparagus, cooked carrots and other vegetables. Balsamic vinegar for salads that include cheese and/or nuts. And so on. But, like wine, I always try to buy a good brand; not necessarily one that’s the most expensive or that comes in a fancy bottle. Just something of quality.

In the summer I use a lot of white wine vinegar — for fish marinades and fish salads, summer vegetable salads and especially for potato salad. Here’s a recipe for a classic French Potato Salad. It calls for just a bit of vinegar. But it’s enough to give it some real vitality.

French Potato Salad

2 pounds new potatoes or small red Bliss potatoes

6 tablespoons white wine (or vegetable or chicken stock)

1 large shallot, chopped

1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs such as savory, oregano, thyme, rosemary 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. When they are cool enough to handle but still warm, peel the potatoes and cut them into bite sized pieces. Place the potatoes in a bowl. Pour in the wine, shallot, herbs and parsley and toss ingredients together. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, white wine vinegar and mustard. Pour over the potatoes and toss the ingredients. Sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper. Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving. Best at room temperature. Makes 6 servings