La Salade de Pommes de Terre

Seems I’ve been on a French kick the last few blogs, so I thought I’d follow up with yet another one, this time with French Potato Salad with Fennel, Tomato and Olives adapted from Cooks Illustrated.

Barb, Lynn and Fran pose by the flowering mandeville.

Grant, Russ and Brad are enjoying the evening and the fact that Hurricane Hermine was a bust for us.

We were invited to a weekend BBQ, and offered to bring a side dish—but the main course had not yet been decided. What goes with just about everything that might be grilled? One answer to that is potato salad. To be perfectly honest, we are not huge fans of mayo-based potato salads, so Russ mentioned a French recipe he recently found that was vinegar and mustard-based. C’est génial!

Of course we often find ourselves altering a recipe, and this was no exception. Instead of all small red potatoes, we used the red, white and blue variety (after all, it was patriotic Labor Day weekend.) And because we thought the coloring might bleed while boiling, producing an unappealing muddy-gray color, they were boiled whole and sliced afterward.

A couple of other tweaks were eliminating the tomato altogether, and using only about a quarter of the fennel bulb, sliced wafer-thin. Fennel can be overwhelming if used with a heavy hand, and we wanted the potatoes and other ingredients to “have their say” as well. Oh, and I completely forgot to save a 1/4 cup of the potato water, even though I put a measuring cup right next to the boiling pot (I cashed in a “senior moment” card), so I added about an 1/8 cup hot water to the dressing to thin it slightly.




  • pounds small red potatoes (about 2-inch diameter), unpeeled, scrubbed, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
  • tablespoons table salt
  • medium clove garlic, peeled and threaded on skewer
  • 1 ½ tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
  • bulb fennel, sliced very, very thin
  • medium tomato (about 6 ounces), peeled, seeded, and diced medium (optional)
  • ¼ cup black olives (oil-cured), pitted and quartered

A clove of garlic is skewered and partially blanched in the hot water.

I parboiled the potatoes first before slicing them so the colors wouldn’t bleed.

The mustard vinaigrette is drizzled over the warm slices.


  1. Place potatoes, 6 cups cold tap water, and salt in large saucepan; bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Lower skewered garlic into simmering water and partially blanch, about 45 seconds. Immediately run garlic under cold tap water to stop cooking; remove garlic from skewer and set aside.
  2. Continue to simmer potatoes, uncovered, until tender but still firm (thin-bladed paring knife can be slipped into and out of center of potato slice with no resistance), about 5 minutes. Drain potatoes, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water. Arrange hot potatoes close together in single layer on rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Press garlic through garlic press or mince by hand. Whisk garlic, reserved potato cooking water, vinegar, mustard, oil, and pepper in small bowl until combined. Drizzle dressing evenly over warm potatoes; let stand 10 minutes.
  4. While potatoes are standing, trim fennel bulb of stalks and fronds; roughly chop fronds (you should have about 1/4 cup). Halve bulb lengthwise; using paring knife, core one half of bulb, reserving second half for another use. Cut half crosswise into very thin slices.
  5. Toss shallot and parsley in small bowl. Transfer potatoes to large serving bowl; add shallot/parsley mixture, fennel, tomato, and olives; mix gently with rubber spatula to combine. Serve immediately

For best flavor, serve the salad warm, but to make ahead, follow the recipe through step 2, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Before serving, bring the salad to room temperature, then add the shallots and other ingredients. When chopping the fennel fronds, use only the delicate wispy leaves, not the tough, fibrous stems to which they are attached.



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