Roasted Potato Salad with Tarragon and Walnuts


Sometime this holiday weekend, I bet you will need a potato salad. From time to time, I like a potato salad made the plain, old-fashioned way, with hardboiled eggs and a generous glob of mayo, salt and pepper, and maybe celery and a little minced onion. Surely, it is a non-challenging comfort food as just as mashed potatoes are when made without any modern addition like garlic, or horseradish, or anything else your grandmother would never have dreamed of putting in them. Then there are those times when zippier, jazzier potato salad seems like a really good idea.

I made this potato salad from scratch, prompted by one I saw on line. It occurs to me, though, that it could just as easily have been made from leftover roasted potatoes. And the original recipe called for basil, but tarragon is what I have a lot of in the garden right now. Tinker, tinker. Then I took it to a potluck.

Not every recipe I mess with on behalf of this column, ends up being one I make all the time. This is one that is probably worth remembering for when I get bored with the potato salads I usually make. I really enjoyed the tarragon and toasted walnuts I ran into as I ate it. You might like it a lot, but Toby’s comment was a bleating sound he makes when he thinks something is all right, but probably not worth repeating. What I ended up really liking was the vinaigrette I put on it, which was wonderful later on a green salad.

If there is any secret at all to making potato salad, I would say that adding vinegar to the potatoes when they are still warm is the one worth trying. I often use rice vinegar but also have used cider vinegar–just a sprinkle all over as they come out of the hot water, or in this case, the oven. This recipe called for having the dressing ready to add to the potatoes just as soon as they were roasted.

With many potato recipes, I calculate the quantity I need by counting out one potato per person. This salad was no exception. I added one medium onion and half a cup of walnuts for every three to four servings. The tarragon was fresh, and added to taste. The vinaigrette quantities below will cover four to six servings amply.

Roasted Potato Salad with Tarragon and Walnuts

1 medium potato per person

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Onion, to taste, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, pureed

2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice, or the juice of one small lemon

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons walnut oil

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh tarragon

Walnuts toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Scrub and cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces and put them on a roasting pan or baking sheet. Dribble olive oil on the potatoes and and toss to coat them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put into the oven and roast for thirty to forty minutes, turning them to brown on all sides. Add the onions for the last ten minutes. Remove from the oven, and put the roasted potatoes in a large bowl.

While the potatoes are roasting, whisk together the garlic, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and oils, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes as soon as they come out of the oven, and allow them to soak up dressing for about an hour before serving. Add the tarragon leaves and walnuts, toss and serve.

Makes variable number of servings. Dressing makes about three-quarters of a cup.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.