Classic Potato Salad and Coleslaw Make the Cook Out Perfect

by Jeff Berkowitz on May 28, 2010 · 0 comments

in cabbage,Salad

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No matter how many fancy or crazy salads I make I always return to these two classics. I make mine the way I like them and you can believe no matter how you make them, fresh is always going to be better than the store-bought versions. At this point I have discussed several interesting salads to make your Memorial Day festivities festive and colorful, but we are going to need to discuss the staples. No matter what the main course is going to be; hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, ribs, London broil, skirt steak, or Delmonico steaks…potato salad and coleslaw will make the meal complete. I don’t really have a basic recipe for either in mind but you will be able to get the idea of what to do if you want to improvise a little. Don’t be afraid, these are easy and they taste great.


I think I got the basic idea for this coleslaw from James Beards American Cookery or from the Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. I don’t really remember, but I give him the credit…of course I have taken some liberties, but this slaw has a classic flavor that you will keep coming back to. Remember; if there are any ingredients you don’t want to use or can’t find either omit them or substitute something you like and see what happens. This recipe is written for 1 pound of vegetables so scaling it up is easy if you need to make more…figure 1 pound will feed about 8 people if there are a lot of other things.

1 pound of green cabbage or a combination of green cabbage, red cabbage and carrot shredded or chopped (you can even use the  bagged kind if you like, it saves time but the cabbage won’t be as sweet. Choose a head of cabbage with vibrant light green color, without blemishes and feels heavy for its size.

  • ½ tsp kosher or sea salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp whole mustard seed
  • ½ tsp celery seeds
  • ½ tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (remember you can use any vinegar you like)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream

Make this salad a few hours before you want to consume it, the salt needs time to wilt the cabbage a little. Combine vinegar with the salt and sugar first then add all of the other seasonings. Stir them until the sugar is dissolved then whisk in the mayo and the sour cream. Toss the shredded or chopped cabbage with the dressing and let the salad mellow, covered in the refrigerator. It is as simple as that.

This is what I think of when I think of coleslaw. It is not too sweet, not too salty and the celery seed and mustard seed add a really nice touch. You can make a nice slaw dressing with just sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise, but this adds a certain something…

Dijon Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds of red skin potatoes cooked and quartered hot
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup dijon mustard (good mustard here makes a big difference, I like Maille…Grey Poupon will do)
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard (again the best quality you can get, look for nice whole mustard seeds in it)
  • 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (or any oil that you like)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise or sour cream
  • 3 scallions sliced right before service
  • ¼ bunch of chives cut 1 inch long garnish right before service

I suggest cooking the potatoes the day before the event. Start them in cold water covered by 1½ inches of cold water. Cook them over medium high heat for about 35 minutes and test for doneness, a knife inserted will come out easily but not too easily. Turn off the heat and let them rest in the hot water for about 10 minutes. In the meantime mix vinegar, both mustards, salt, pepper, and sugar until well combined. Drizzle in the oil while whisking to form an emulsion. Drain the potatoes and cut them into quarter placing hot cut potatoes into the vinaigrette. When all of the potatoes are in give them a good toss. The potatoes should be cooked but still firm enough so that they hold their shape well. Refrigerate them like this overnight tossing them a bit every once in a while when you think of it. This will allow the potatoes to absorb all of this flavor. The next day toss the flavored potatoes with the mayonnaise or sour cream. Just before service, slice the scallions and toss them in the potato salad. Garnish with the cut chives and enjoy. This is also good with dill and again do not be afraid to experiment with different ingredients.

I hope you relish these as much as I have over the years. You will definitely never want to go back to store bought salads again. Over the next couple of weeks I promise to do some variations on this theme to give you some more confidence in playing with the basic ingredients to achieve unique and magical renditions.  Have a great cookout!

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