Friday I had a craving for French potato salad–the kind with a mustardy vinaigrette instead of a mayo-based dressing. I also wanted something smoked. I hedged and bought both smoked mackerel and some Polish smoked sausage. The sausage won.
I boiled a kilo of small waxy potatoes in salted water with a couple bay leaves until they were almost tender, about 10 minutes. It’s important to start potatoes in cold water and bring them up to a boil rather than starting with boiling water. Potatoes contain an enzyme that will firm up the flesh but it is deactivated above 70C. So, if you put your potatoes into boiling water the outside will fall apart before the inside is done. Thanks, Harold McGee! I drained them and let them finish cooking in their residual heat and cool down a bit while I prepped the rest of the ingredients. I sautéed three minced shallots and two minced cloves of garlic in some olive oil for a few minutes, just until tender, and set it aside. Then I diced a stalk of celery, snipped some chives, chopped some flat-leaf parsley and diced some smoked sausage and comtè cheese. By this time the potatoes were cool enough to slice. No need to peel them. To the bowl of sliced potatoes I added a few tablespoons of white wine vinegar and folded it in. This helps the flavor of potato salads immensely. I then added the shallot/garlic mixture and the veg, meat and cheese. Finally, I made a vinaigrette with both regular and grainy Dijon mustard and folded it in. The key to an unbroken vinaigrette (and mayonnaise) is whisking the oil into the mustard and vinegar a few drops at a time. After the emulsion starts forming you can add the oil faster.
I served it over French salad greens tossed with the remaining vinaigrette. Tesco sells a mix with very pretty lettuces that is my favorite bagged salad. The sausage added a faint smokiness to the entire salad and the little bites of comtè were nutty surprises. It brought back great memories of our trip to Provence last year.