I am against mayonnaise. My objection is 95% intellectual (egg sauce? really?), and for inexplicable reasons, does not apply to homemade aioli. I have no justification for this, but it’s true, and therefore most potato salad is just not my kind of thing. But then I learned about French potato salad.
Look, ma, no mayo!
The best part of this salad is the onions and garlic, which caramelize gently in the oil as you make the dressing. Don’t skip the sugar in the dressing; it is that magic ingredient that makes the whole thing more than the sum of its parts. I like the salad best at room temperature, but I’m like that.
A word about potatoes: I’ve made this with several kinds, and all of them taste fine, but waxier varieties (like the red-skinned ones you see in the spring) hold their shape the best.
French potato salad
2 lbs. potatoes
1/4 c. olive oil (I like to be generous with this pour)
2 cloves of garlic (or roughly 2 t. minced garlic or 1 t. garlic paste)
1 small onion
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Pinch dried oregano (or thyme)
salt to taste
Wash the potatoes and cut them into one- or two-bite pieces. Put the pieces in a pot of cold water with a generous pinch of salt and put the whole thing on a burner over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the pieces are easily pierced by a fork. Drain in a colander.
Meanwhile, dice the onion and garlic, and heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until they are very soft, five or seven minutes. Then add the balsamic and oregano, remove from the heat, and stir in the sugar and a generous pinch of salt.
Pour the dressing over the potatoes while they’re still hot. (Because the oil in the dressing is very hot, don’t use a plastic bowl for this!) I think this tastes best if you let it sit for a few hours; it will keep in the fridge for a handful of days.