Everyone’s got a favorite potato salad, and this is ours.
I know most are aggressively forgettable, with so much slick and eerie uniformity in their texture that it almost seems that their creators knew people were never going to eat it anyway, so why bother? But if you do–bother, that is–you’re in for a whole other world of crunch, texture, tang, complexity and even, dare I say, flavor. I’ve made them with a slip of horseradish, with chopped hard-boiled eggs, celery and cornichon, I’ve tossed them in a mustard vinaigrette with red peppers, capers and olives, yet I haven’t done any of those things since I came across this one.
Admittedly, I was trying to impress The Russians, or Alex’s people. Looking for something to bring to a backyard barbeque a few summers ago–in those funny days before I knew which part of the kitchen counter to rest my sunglasses on when I came in and before my mother-in-law began casually passing me salads and asking if I could dress them so she could move onto her next dish– I knew this was it by the fact that Epicurious testers had ranked this one within the top three most worthy of their Fork Ratings. (On a site with hundreds of potato salad recipes, that ain’t nothing.) In addition seemed to have all the magical elements present in so many other zakuski–dill, radishes, something, anything brined, onions and potato, though they’re practically an afterthought in this great mass of ingredients–I knew it would not be tossed aside lightly.
Of course I was appalled that it was a two-day affair–“It expects me to MAKE pickles, Alex! Is this recipe insane?!” Now, as we well know, I barely bat an eyelash at this step anymore, but you shouldn’t either because it’s really not time-consuming, and if you make extra, as we always do, you’ll love their lightly-soused crunch in your salads all week. From the pickling on out, it’s cinch city and I promise, even if you’re not trying to win yourself a Russian For Life, it could make a potato salad lover out of you. There are worse things, right?
Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad
One of our favorite things about this salad is that it is as much vegetables — crunchy, delicious ones, half of which are lightly pickled — as it is potatoes, so it feels like something you might eat with dinner in warmer weather, and not only as a grilling side dish.
My preference is to assemble potato salads just an hour or two before eating it, so I mix everything and keep the mayo separate until needed. I actually found upon revisiting this recipe that I only needed half the mayo amount to get the salad as dressed as I want it (as dressed as you see here) but as this recipe has been on the site for 10 years and few have complained, I’m leaving it as written.
This makes a lot of salad. It absolutely feeds a crowd.
- 6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 2 1-pound English (also sold as hothouse or seedless) cucumbers, very thinly sliced
- A few branches plus 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 3 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 10 medium), unpeeled
- Additional coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup very thinly sliced white onion
- 8 radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
Cook your potatoes: Although you don’t have to, I also like to boil my potatoes the day before, because I like them very cold, and it seems easier to get it out of the way. Boil them in a large pot salted water until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain, then cool completely. I leave them in the fridge overnight.
The next day: Drain cucumber mixture in a colander; if you’ve got an hour, you can drain it that long, but I never do. Discard brine and dill.
Assemble your salad: The original directions called for peeling your cold potatoes but I never do. Cut potatoes crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place potatoes in large bowl; sprinkle generously with coarse salt and pepper. Add drained cucumbers, onion, sliced radishes, and remaining 3 tablespoons dill; toss to blend.
1 to 2 hours before serving: Stir mayonnaise into salad to taste. Season with additional salt and pepper. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Do ahead: Salad keeps dressed for a day. Salad keeps without mayo for a few days; I add mayo before serving. In both cases, keep it covered in the fridge.