Austrian Potato Salad

I’m not a big fan of potato salad.  However, I had a couple of good potato salad experiences in quick succession – one at a German restaurant in Houston, and the other at a German restaurant in Munich.  I don’t think they called the one in Munich a “German restaurant.” Ever since those experiences, I’ve been thinking about making a potato salad mimicking those wonderful concoctions. They were both served hot, and had dill as the predominant seasoning. Other than that, they were simple and tangy. No mayonnaise to be found in either (and the crowd goes wild).

Well, last month, I happened upon an article in Cook’s Illustrated that described the best way to make a perfect Austrian pottato salad. This has no fat in it – not bacon, pork, butter, or mayonnaise – yet it’s scrumptious.

Side note:  I don’t know if any of y’all read Cook’s Illustrated, but it’s fantastic.  Every article describes the science of what you’re doing, and the writer embarks on a mission – trying all sorts of variations of a recipe, based on the science – before getting it right. The following recipe is my interpretation of this wonderful article.

This article describes how to keep the cellular walls of the potatoes intact, yet melt-in-your-mouth soft, without releasing too much starch and turning the thing into a gooey mess.

  • Six golden potatoes (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds, bruised
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 tsp mustard powder

Peel and cube the potatoes. Put in a big ol’ iron skillet with 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar. Add salt and coriander. Bruising the coriander releases some of the oils, enhancing the overall flavor experience. I have a little mortar and pestle that I use for just this purpose. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. If you have some potatoes that have managed to keep their heads above the liquid, give the whole mess a stir halfway through this to ensure equal treatment. While that’s going on, get your dressing going. Put the remaining vinegar (that’s 1 1/2 tablespoons for the math-deprived), mustard, onion (chopped as finely as you can get it), and dill into a bowl large enough to receive all the potatoes and tolerate a bit of mixing. Stir that mess up and let the onions soak up the vinegar. They’ll do that without any coaching from you, but it is important to get that vinegar sweetening and softening the onions as quickly as possible so there’s a few minutes of that going on before everything is combined.

Once 15 minutes of potato simmering have elapsed, check their softness. They should be so soft that a toothpick or knife tip slides into one with no resistance. If they still have a little “al dente” texture to them, let them simmer another 2-5 minutes. Once you feel good about the potato situation, increase heat to high and boil off some liquid for 2 minutes, then dump this into a colander that is placed over a bowl. You want to preserve that liquid – put 3/4 cup of it into the bowl with the vinegar, onion, mustard, and dill. Scoop up about 1 cup of potatoes, as well, and add those to said bowl. Break out your potato masher and go to work on those bad boys. This should make the dressing nice and creamy from the potato starch.

Now, all you have to do is tenderly dump the potatoes from the colander into the bowl that’s been getting all this attention. Gently stir them into the dressing until everything has a little red onion or green dill on it. Here’s where you don’t want to overhandle the potatoes, as they are in a very vulnerable state, and one stern look could cause them to break down and release starch everywhere. A few gentle stirs with a rubber spatula should do the trick. Serve hot.

If you don’t like this dish, then I pity you.

One Response to “Austrian Potato Salad”

  1. Jean Hardy-Pittman says:

    Dear Dude,
    Sure liked your Austrian Potato Salad.

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