Ah, potato salad. Not, perhaps, iconically Jewish, but an indispensable part of a delicatessen menu. When did delicatessen and Judaism become inexorably linked? The history of Jewish delis goes back as far as the late 1800s, in New York; becoming quite common in the 1920s and 1930s. Some iconic delis like Katz’s in New York and Cantor’s in Los Angeles have been around since the very beginning; now they share space with many newer, but no less delicious, delis. Most are centered in New York and Los Angeles, but you can find Jewish-style deli all over the United States. Heck, I’ve even eaten at a Jewish-style deli in Texas. (They served fried pickles).
I have fond memories of eating deli food when I was young. I always got the PB&J, which featured a good 1/2 inch spread of peanut butter and jelly, and came with crunchy kettle-style potato chips. And for desert? A black-and-white cookie. (I’m hoping to bring you a recipe for those soon.) But there were many other choices, from flaky knish to tart new pickles to fluffy matzoh balls floating in broth. And of course, potato salad.
Deli potato salad of course varies from place to place. This recipe is for a classic light New York potato salad – potatoes, chopped onions, and a vinegar-mayo dressing. I dressed it up a little by using unpeeled waxy potatoes and adding a little bit of tarragon for flavor. The result is creamy, tangy, and sweet. This may be my new go-to potato salad!
Some tricks: Add the dressing when the potatoes are still a bit warm. This helps the potatoes absorb the dressing so they are more flavorful. And use a waxy potato, they hold their shape better than mealy potatoes like russets.
- 2 lbs waxy potatoes (eg, red, fingerling) cut into small cubes
- ¼ of a small onion, minced
- ½ c mayo
- ¼ c white vinegar
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ c sugar
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
- 2 tbsp grated carrot
- Add potatoes to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 15 minutes, or until just fork tender. Drain potatoes and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, mix the sugar and vinegar together until sugar is dissolved. It may help to heat the vinegar slightly in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. Add mayo, mustard powder, and pepper and whisk together until smooth.
- Pour the prepared dressing over the warm potatoes. Add the chopped onion and tarragon and mix well. Refrigerate.
- Serve topped with shredded carrots.