A few weeks ago, I made this Cobb Salad and couldn’t get the buttermilk-dressing-and-grilled-potato combination out of my head. I woke up thinking about it the next morning, and the one after that. There was something special about the way the dressing clung to the potatoes, invading every salty, craggy corner with creamy, tangy flavor. I stopped short of buying a bag of (my all-time favorite) sour cream and onion potato chips, and created this potato salad version instead; an entire dish devoted to potatoes and buttermilk dressing, kicked up with dill, chives, and some crunchy celery.
It takes as long to make it for four as forty, and goes with anything, so I’ve been bringing it along whenever I need a big batch of side dish. I served it to some lady friends for dinner with poached salmon. The leftovers framed a vegetarian dinner of salads with roasted beets, lentils and arugula for our family of four. Next week I’ll plop it down right in the middle of the Pyrex train at my family’s annual burgers-and-dogs summer barbeque.
So far, it’s been a hit in that I expected this to be a typical dull potato salad but now I’m going back for seconds sort of way. The key is starting with a pot of cold water, salted so it tastes like a mouthful of Atlantic Ocean. It seems absurd, but boiled potatoes are sort of like chicken breast. They’re a vehicle for just about anything, but if you don’t season the heck out of them, they’ll be bland no matter what’s on top.
Once the potatoes come to a boil, throw the dressing together, find a nice big serving bowl and spend some time crossing items off your to-do list. Set the table. Do some laundry. Read a book. Cook. Drain. And let cool.
At this point, you can leave them in the refrigerator overnight, or plow right on through to the busy work.
Chop the potatoes and separate the sticky, starchy pieces with a combination of finger work and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Throw in chopped celery, drizzle on the dressing and fold it all together gently with a spatula so the potatoes keep their shape.
It’s too fussy to be a weeknight side dish, but if you swoop in and steal what’s left after your next party – or better yet, hide some of it before the party even starts! – you’ll have a delicious side dish for just about anything all week long.
- 3 pounds medium Red Bliss, Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes (about 10 potatoes), roughly the same size
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Several grinds black pepper
- 3 tablespoons dill, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 ribs celery, sliced about ¼-inch thick
- Scrub the potatoes and place in a large pot with 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons salt. Fill the pot with cold water to one inch above the potatoes. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes resist slightly when poked with a fork or metal skewer.
- In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Fold in the herbs and set aside.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. Chop into 1 to 2-inch pieces, place in a medium bowl, and toss gently with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, breaking up any potato pieces that have stuck together. Add the celery to the bowl and drizzle with the dressing. Fold gently to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately, at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to one day before serving.
- Chop the herbs small and put them in the dressing, not directly on the potatoes, so you don’t get a clumpy mouthful of medicinal dill that turns you off the rest of the meal.
- The dressing yields about 1 1/4 cups.
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