Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad
This potato salad is like a collection of all of the foods I used to hate.
Key words: used to!
Mustard, pickled red onions, and even capers have all grown on me in recent years. (Capers, most recently — they used to be the bane of my bagels & lox experiences.)
So the other day when I picked up a little container of this vinegary, mustardy red potato salad from a sandwich shop, I enjoyed it immensely. Possibly because it was the first thing I ate after I defended my dissertation…
But don’t get me wrong, it tasted good for other reasons, too!
After my defense a few weeks ago, I (skipped my friend Brendan’s defense and) went home to take a nap. On the way home, I stopped at a little sandwich shop, which I love for its abundance of ‘homemade’ pickled-things and its reliance on local farms for nearly all of the ingredients.
I ordered my favorite sandwich there — a lemony, avocado-y, hummus concoction — but was so hungry, so tired, and so elated that I realized just a small sandwich wasn’t going to cut it.
So I also asked for a little container of the potato salad on their counter — the potatoes seemed impossibly perfect (for cooked potatoes), still in little cubes, not disintegrating around the edges at all, and there was whole-grain mustard slathered over the potato cubes — no mayo in sight.
To fill the few seconds of silence while she was scooping up the potatoes, the woman behind the counter asked me how my day was going so far. I couldn’t help but answer with more than she probably wanted to hear: “pretty good — I just defended my dissertation, 30 minutes ago!” Rather than taking my TMI bragging as obnoxious, she started congratulating me and gave me a free container of farm-fresh ripe strawberries!
If finishing my PhD after 7 years hadn’t already made my day, then that would have.
It was also pretty wonderful getting to go home, eat this salad, and take a pre-celebration nap.
This is no ordinary (i.e., mayo-y) potato salad. The whole-grain Dijon mustard wakes up the vinegary potatoes in ways that mayonnaise never could. The entire salad is tangy and bright — the tang comes from a vinegar triple threat: vinegar in the potato-cooking water (for flavor that seeps into the potatoes), vinegar to season the potatoes while they’re still hot from being simmered, and the vinegared crunch of the homemade pickled red onions (recipe below!). The capers add a briny salty seasoning and the pungent mustard holds it all together.
I don’t think I noticed the capers dotted among the potato cubes in the sandwich shop’s version until I got home. Capers are easily pick-out-able, so I wouldn’t have minded anyway, but as I ate the salad, I realized that I was actually kind of enjoying the little bursts of salt and vinegar they added.
The salad also had bright pink specks of pickled red cabbage or pickled red onions — really, either one would be nice. I’ve included a recipe for quick-pickled red onions below. I made a big batch of them over the weekend (1 red onion, 1 pint jar), to last me for multiple batches of this potato salad!
It feels so summery to be snacking on little tidbits of vinegary pickled-things plucked out of jars in the fridge. I also like these pickled red onions on salads. Next up, I want to pickle cucumbers and jalapeños and so many other things… (The past two years, I’ve been far more ambitions than actually productive in terms of pickling things, but maybe this summer will be the one — I even made a DIY canning rack to gear up for this season, although these red onions are just quick-pickled, not canned.)
In re-creating this recipe, I realized that the secret to the perfect little non-disintegrating potato cubes is not to let the potatoes come to a rolling boil, but just to keep them at a strong simmer, for a slightly longer cooking time than if they were boiling. So the recipe is a little bit high maintenance in that sense. But if you don’t mind your potato salads on the mushy side, then by all means, boil away!
I hope everyone who enjoys the tang of mustard and vinegar will give this dish a try. I think it’s going to be a summer staple around here. …although it might never taste quite as delicious to me as it did on the day of my dissertation defense. That day it tasted like freedom and victory!
p.s. Happy summer solstice!
Print these recipes. (PDF)
Quick Pickled Red Onion
(Makes 2 cups)
Active time: 10 minutes; Total time: at least 1-2 hours, or overnight.
~ 1 medium red onion
~ ½ cup white wine vinegar (or substitute rice vinegar or red wine vinegar)
~ ½ cup apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ ½ tsp. sugar
~ ½ tsp. yellow(/white) mustard seeds (optional)
~ ¼ tsp. whole black peppercorns
~ ½-1 cup water (½ cup if storing onions in tall, narrow jar, 1 cup for wider bowl)
How to make it:
1. Remove the outermost layers of the red onion, and thinly slice it. Place sliced onion into a glass, heatproof bowl and set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Then pour the boiling mixture over the sliced onions and let it cool. (Or if you prefer your onions to be slightly softer/more cooked, and slightly less firm/crunchy, then add the onions to the boiling mixture in the saucepan for a few seconds, remove from the heat, and let it cool in the saucepan.)
3. Once cooled completely, transfer the onions to an airtight container — along with enough of the pickling liquid to cover them — and refrigerate. You can start snacking on them after an hour or two, but they’ll be even better after a night in the fridge, and good for a week or two after that.
Print both recipes! (PDF)
Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Potato Salad
Active & Total time: 40 minutes (includes ingredient prep time).
~ 2 lbs. new red potatoes, rinsed and bad spots removed with peeler
~ 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar), to add to potato cooking water
~ 2 Tbsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
~ 1½ – 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (or rice vinegar)
~ sea salt, to taste
~ 3 Tbsp. diced pickled red onion, or more, to taste
~ 2 Tbsp. capers (drained), or more, to taste
~ 2 scallions, diced
How to make it:
1. Cut the potatoes into small, evenly-sized cubes. As you chop them, add the potato cubes to a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Once all of the potatoes are in the pot, add more water to cover them if necessary, then add the 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, and bring to a strong simmer. (Use a lid on the saucepan to speed this along, but then uncover once it’s started simmering.) Keep at a strong simmer — without allowing it to come to a rolling boil — for 15-20 minutes. Test the potato cubes for doneness by piercing and lifting one out of the water with a fork — fully cooked potatoes should easily slide off the fork tines. (You can also run a piece of potato under cold water, then taste test it.)
2. While the potatoes are simmering, stir together the whole-grain mustard and the 1½ – 2 Tbsp. vinegar in a medium bowl.
3. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them in a colander, but do not rinse them with water. While the potatoes are still hot, pour them into the bowl with the mustard and vinegar, and gently stir to coat them. Season with salt, and add pickled red onion, capers, and scallions. Taste to see if you’d prefer to add more salt or more of any of the other ingredients, then cover and chill in the fridge.
Print these recipes! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Pasta Genovese with Pesto, Potatoes, and Green Beans||Asparagus Potato Salad with Preserved Lemon Dressing||Chilled Japanese Tofu with Ginger and Scallions (Hiyayakko)||Canning 101: Pickled Green Beans|
(This recipe was submitted to the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.)