Potato salad is not something to be trifled with for some folks. It’s a classic dish. A cookout standard. Across Canada and the United States, potlucks and picnics are laden with them and most of us have eaten enough potato salads to have some sort of opinion on which versions we like and which we don’t. Everyone’s got their favorite way to make it, their favorite style, or even the ways they refuse to eat it (like when that mayo version has been sitting in the sun all day at the picnic…). I definitely grew up with the classic mayo and egg version, but recently made my first warm, German-styled potato salad with a Dijon dressing (after seeing one originally on Primal Gourmet’s site).
Growing up with Dutch grandparents, potatoes were a staple. Every dinner I can ever remember at my grandparents’ house consisted of meat, potatoes, and veggies. Potatoes were that cheap, filling starch you could grow yourself and store in the cellar all winter. You could boil them, roast them, mash them, scallop them. Served with butter, salt & pepper, gravy, or cheese. I don’t think there was a food that gave me more joy as a child than a heaping pile of mashed potatoes drowned in my mom’s gravy. Potatoes are an essential part of Dutch cuisine and, more specifically, it is in Groningen, where my grandparents were born, that the potato became a vital part of the Dutch economy as well.
But when you look at the history of the potato, while many places in Europe hold it in high regard and claim it as an essential part of their cuisine, potatoes arrived in Europe as a product of empire. They were originally cultivated in South America and a staple food of the Mapuches, a people in what is now Argentina and Chile. They were likely brought back to Europe by the early Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century, who in turn spread the tubers as they marauded and warred (as well as traded and travelled) around Europe. It was widely adopted by lower class folks who saw the benefit of the cheap, easy growing starch. Europeans in turn brought the potato back across the Atlantic to North America as they marauded and warred here. Which is, incredibly broadly speaking, how I come to be making this delicious version of a warm German potato salad here on Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe lands.
Some notes on the recipe: This recipe uses my Garlic Mustard Pesto which you can make ahead of time using my recipe here. Many versions of potato salad add some bacon and that’s kind of cheating – add bacon to anything and it tastes delicious. And to be honest, this salad is so packed with flavor it doesn’t need any meat. But, if you’re into that sort of thing, adding bacon to this recipe will… well, bacon makes everything delicious. I’ve also chosen to quick pickle the red onions, which mellows their flavor a bit. If you’re short on time, this step/ingredient could be omitted entirely or even substitute with fresh red onion for an extra kick. I do like the balance that the pickling gives though.
With the umami-laden hit of the pesto alongside the tang of the mustard and the pepperiness of the arugula and radish, this potato salad with change the way you think of potato salads if all you’re used to is the mayo version. It’s packed with different flavors, colors and textures. There’s so much going on here, but somehow it still finds a way to feel comforting and familiar. Our family has made this a bunch of times this summer already and it’s perfect for a summer lunch or dinner, just grill up some sausage or a hamburger and you’ve got yourself a complete meal.
Warm German Potato Salad with Dijon, Garlic Mustard Pesto, and Arugula
Using garlic mustard pesto in a flavor, color, and texture laden version of a classic cookout favorite.
- 1 red onion, quick pickled using this method (do ahead of time)
- 2.5 lbs potatoes
- 4 eggs
- 3 tbsp garlic mustard (recipe here)
- 3 tbsp grainy dijon mustard
- 1 bunch/package of arugula/rocket (use your judgement here, depending on how you buy your arugula)
- 1 small bunch of radishes, cut into wedges for more 'crunch' factor
Thinly slice the red onion and pickle, at least an hour ahead of time, using this method
Rinse potatoes, put into a pot and fill with water so that potatoes are covered. Bring to a boil and then simmer until they are 'fork soft' (you should be able to easily slide a fork into it, but it shouldn't crumble to pieces when you do so...), approximately 20 minutes.
While they're cooking, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Once boiling, gently add eggs and set a timer for 8 minutes. When time is done, drain water and cool eggs in cold water. When cool enough to handle you can peel (this is my tried & true method for that perfect jammy 'medium-boiled' egg, add 2 minutes if you prefer a hard boiled egg...). Set aside.
Drain water and roughly cut potatoes into cubes. Put into a large mixing bowl.
Gently toss potatoes with dijon and garlic mustard pesto.
Mix in arugula, and top with pickled red onions.
Slice boiled eggs in half, or chop into pieces and add.
Serve while warm.
While this salad is perhaps best warm, it's also totally delicious and amazing chilled as well. Serve warm and eat the leftovers cold, or make it ahead of time and pull it out of the fridge when you want it. Dead easy and jam packed with flavor. If you don't have garlic mustard, I think an arugula pesto would sub nicely here.