Potato Salad with Wilted Romaine and Dijon Vinaigrette

Potato Salad with Wilted Lettuce and Dijon Vinaigrette-0625

Okay, time to pull out the summer standbys and give everything a  creative thwaking with the culinary carpet beater.  Potato Salad with Wilted Romaine and Dijon Vinaigrette is a way of shaking things up–just enough to keep things interesting.  I ought to know.  I’ve been eating this all week.

Where I grew up in the Midwest, a public park without a sprinkling of picnic tables and small iron grills mounted atop concrete pillars would have been as inconceivable as hamburgers and hot dogs without a mayonnaise potato salad.  Not even coleslaw was as ubiquitous.  Potato salad was an iconic 1950’s picnic food–something you could remove from a basket or cooler and serve with little fanfare or last minute prep.  I wouldn’t say that people loved it, but they expected it, even if it put their mouths to sleep.

Veal sausage and a warm potato salad with a sharp-elbowed vinaigrette, a regular pairing in the cafeteria of the Swiss university I attended for a year, awakened me to wilder possibilities.   Wake up, you dolt! the vinegar seemed to cry.  Suddenly I could taste the potatoes–and the sharp bits of shallot.  Contrast!  Texture!  Flavor!  I’ve been eating it with vinaigrette–warm or cool–ever since.

This particular iteration is the result of a serendipitous accident.  After returning late from a recent pot luck dinner party, tired and ready for bed, we just threw all the potato salad and its bed of romaine leaves together in a container in the refrigerator.  Overnight, the thin part of the leaves wilted, but the spines remained crunchy.  And Dijon vinaigrette–surprise!–goes well with both potatoes and leafy greens.

I experimented with microwaving leftovers for a minute to serve things warm.  I also splashed in a bit of red wine vinegar to sharpen the edge.  Both variations worked.  One night, our potatoes and wilted romaine shared a plate with grilled swordfish; another, with chicken thighs I’d cooked with harissa and preserved lemon.  A hard-boiled egg added a nice variation for lunch.  Finally, it was also great as picnic food–right out of the fridge–a late night treat with a beer and the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.  (Out of respect, I stopped eating when You-Know-Who died.)

Of course, the acid test still awaits.  What will it taste like with a hot dog?  I don’t yet know.  Maybe I’ll have to sit down with a bowl of it, carefully laid out on a checker cloth atop a picnic table while the red hots sizzle atop the grill nearby.  Enjoy.  Ken

Note: The New York Times published a video about Jody this week, one of series about successful women in business.  Take a look if you’d like to learn a bit about her and catch a glimpse of her Cambridge restaurant, Rialto.

Potato Salad with Wilted Lettuce and Dijon Vinaigrette-0638

Potato Salad with Wilted Romaine and Dijon Vinaigrette



  • 2 pounds small waxy potatoes, cut in half *
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup crème fraîche
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 4 teaspoons chopped tarragon
  • 1 cup red onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 cup celery, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice, about 2 stalks
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

*If using purple potatoes, leave whole.  They cook faster than the others and will hold their color better if you wait to cut them until after they cook.


  1. Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, add bay leaves and season with salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Strain the potatoes, discard bay leaves and drain for a few minutes to be they are dry.  Cut any whole purple potatoes in half.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, shallot and Dijon mustard. While continuing to whisk, add the olive oil in a steady stream, forming an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the crème fraîche and herbs.
  3. While the potatoes are still a little warm, transfer to the bowl with vinaigrette, add the onions and celery and toss well.
  4. Add the lettuce and toss for a final time.


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Potato Salad with Wilted Lettuce and Dijon Vinaigrette 2-2-2

Potato Salad with Wilted Lettuce and Dijon Vinaigrette 3-1-2

Potato Salad with Wilted Lettuce and Dijon Vinaigrette 3-2-2

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Potato Salad with Wilted Lettuce and Dijon Vinaigrette 2-3-2

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Potato Salad with Wilted Lettuce and Dijon Vinaigrette-0632

Jody Notes

The flavors of this warm potato salad with mustard vinaigrette and tarragon take me back to my first memories of France, picnicking in Burgundy.  

We made it 4 times over the past week.  First for a dinner with friends, then for the blog and finally for Roxanne’s h.s. graduation party.  I still love it.  

I’ve never been a big fan of “salade fatiguée,” but Ken and Roxanne convinced me that the wilted romaine on the second day works.  It gives a nice crunch.  My preference is to save half the lettuce so you can add some fresh later.  



54 thoughts

  1. Love this potato salad… After I tasted it at Roxanne’s celebration I made it this week ( I did the half fresh romaine option)… FYI.. It was perfect with burgers and hot dogs! Great photos as always. Also watch the ny times video of Jody.. It’s awesome and clearly captures her wonderful spirit!

  2. Interesting as I was just reading about the growing trend in Japanese potato salads today. It’s different from your version (which looks so yum) in that while not completely mashed, it has much less chunky pieces of potato and the important ingredient is mayonnaise. I understand that Kewpie, the mayonnaise company, had a lot to do with promoting potato salads.

  3. What beautiful colors in those potatoes. I like this riff on traditional potato salad. Your writing is hilarious. I love the use of crème fraîche here and fresh taragon and mustard. Wow. I’ll have to try this, although my husband is allergic to potatoes. I sometimes miss them when I read recipes like this. I like Jody’s suggestion of keeping lettuce to a minimum to add fresh the next day. I’m glad you stopped eating for that end scene in Game of Thrones. It was gross. Too bad. I like that character.

    That video in the Times was amazing! I loved it. Congratulations on being recognized for all the work you’ve both put in to keeping food fresh and alive and for growing such a successful business. I totally need to head back to Boston! I just finished Julia Child’s “My Life in France” and reading “Mastering I” How exciting to have had her for encouragement and criticism. I can relate to never having eaten out much except for special trips to NYC where my mom would bring a cookbook in to have the chef sign it. She too was always ahead of her time. Lovely photos, as always. Great color.

    • Thank you, Amanda. My parents weren’t big on eating out either when we were little — too many kids, not enough money. Your mom does sound ahead of her time – we lived by the word of Betty Crocker. I picked up a copy of Mastering I when I was in h.s. and slowly began cooking from it. The problem was that if you’ve never seen, let alone tasted the food you’re making it can be tough knowing whether you’re coloring inside the lines or not. Then I spent my sophomore year in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and felt like I’d discovered the mother ship. Suddenly it all made sense. Julia was a great friend, always solicitously asking how I was doing when she encountered Jody at work. Women were just starting to come up in the restaurant world and Julia was concerned about the effect of restaurant life on marriages. And yes, sorrow for Jon Snow. Ken

      • So interesting. She was such an insightful woman. Restaurant life is tough on all relationships, as anyone who’s worked in a kitchen knows. I love that Julia cared. How great that you lived in Switzerland. I agree with you. Sometimes you need to have tried the real McCoy before recreating. Which means…I have some more traveling to do. Sigh. I have Mastering I and Richard Olney’s Provence the Beautiful out of the library right now. I’m studying I guess, but here’s only so far a book will get you. Luckily in NYC, you can study a little further.

      • One final note about Richard Olney. About 15 years ago I tried cooking a recipe for pork chops in one of his early books. It involved searing the pork chops, then baking them in a mixture of cream and sautéed apples. Of course the recipe was a failure. In the time between the writing of the book (mid-70’s?) and my trying the recipe American pork had transformed itself into “the other white meat.” The chops were overcooked before the baking even began (in those days I followed directions first instead of just looking at what was happening in front of me and deciding, say, that it was time to kill the heat. Fortunately we now seem increasingly able to access fatty heritage breeds of pork instead of the lean mainstream ones. Ken

      • Interesting. I know he didn’t play well with others. I just wanted to see why. I rarely eat pork, but I can see the issue with the other dishes.

      • Just to be clear: that wasn’t a dig at Richard Olney (for the record, I don’t think I’ve ever met him), but at the state of American pork. I think Richard Olney takes great pains in his writing, which I like a lot. Ken

  4. I can’t believe I have never thought to use lettuce and potatoes together. I love vinaigrette with potatoes. My version of this salad that I started making when I was in school in Montreal and would go to the Marché Jean-Talon for my green beans and potatoes. I also have an aversion to tarragon so I use chives or oregano. I mix the green beans and potatoes, then toss with a little vinaigrette, sprinkle with toasted sunflower seeds and sprinkling of sharp Canadian cheddar. I can’t wait to try your version!

  5. Great recipe! I love potato all sorts of potato salads (not the mayo kind, I am more of a shallot, vinegar, and mustard dressing lover), and love how little details can make it an entirely different dish altogether; I like to add herring or mackerel to my potato salads, or radishes, or cucumbers; I also love adding tons of dill every now and then. But the “wilted” romaine and tarragon is so appealing and new to me. I love all those different colors and textures.

    • Herring! I had forgotten about that. I used to see herring with a warm potato salad in bistros. I absolutely agree about the dill. I would add cucumber too, but it’s generally already been committed to the tzatziki. :-)

  6. If you quit eating for all the deaths in GOT last week, there must have been plenty of that (very nice-looking, I must say) salad left over at the end of the hour. Never did I think I would miss King’s Landing so much.

    • I don’t know which is more loathsome–the off-the-cuff sadistry of Jeoffrey or the casual death-dealing of the Hound, or even the various marauders Arya encounters (many many more in the book, by the way). I’m reading Erik Larson’s IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS right now and I find little to make me think the Martin (or Bernard Cornwell, for that matter) are doing anything other than describing levels of violence and predation that have a sadly long tradition. One thing: Did you not rejoice at Jeoffrey’s demise? I may have treated myself to an extra pot de creme during that episode. Ken

  7. A beautiful salad. I was fortunately raised on “German” potato salad, and never had to endure a mayonnaise-soak version until I moved to the midwest. Although those can be made properly as well. My mother and I used to go to Marie Calendar’s for lunch occasionally, back in 1971 or 2, and I always got the wilted spinach salad. In this case, it was a hot bacon vinaigrette that was poured over the spinach leaves. Fabulous. Don’t hold that against me. This was in Salt Lake City, where there were no good restaurants back then. I love the lettuce potato combo. Great photos!!!

    • I don’t think we have Marie Callender’s in this part of the world (or none that I could find). The wilted spinach salad with the bacon vinaigrette is a class (and a version of it certainly exists in France too). I’m sure that people today are making more restrained versions of mayo potato salad. Funny how some things from your youth–no matter how junky–remain with you, and some you want to flee. I’d still eat Kraft Deluxe Mac ‘n Cheese (if it were served to me) because I have memories of eating it while watching THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL on Saturday Night at the Movies. To this day I remain a fan of mac ‘n cheese (especially homemade) and sci-fi. Ken

  8. We have potatoes in the fridge, and I’ve been told to use up fresh produce before I head overseas next weekend (to Burma/Myanmar!). And we have dijon mustard. This recipe was meant to be. (And if I stop haunting your blog for 2-3 weeks, it’s probably because of Myanmar’s notoriously slow or nonexistent internet..)

  9. If love is true product to taste then be from the simplest of ingredients, exquisite delicacies. Keep up your Matai;-)

  10. I made this last night with my potatoes from my CSA and it was delicious. My guests loved it so much they asked to take some home!

  11. I could not be happier to have found this blog. I’ve been having a field day trying these recipes over the last month. This one in particular – and several variations on it – are a new staple in my home. I tried this today with some powdered porcini mushroom mixed into the vinaigrette, and soon thereafter, I think, saw the face of god. Love your romesco recipes as well – I’d only ever made it with almond before. I’m converted now, however, and won’t be going back. Thanks!

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