In the French version of potato salad, you carefully fold oil and vinegar into extremely hot potatoes so the potatoes absorb the vinaigrette into their very pores and become one with each other. It’s a sublime potato salad unlike any combination of dressing and spuds I’ve ever tasted.
Yes, you can use a spoon for the stirring, so that’s not where the masochism comes in.
First, you boil potatoes with the skins on until they’re slightly tender (I think that would be the French version of al dente.). Next remove the potatoes from the pan, peel them immediately and slice them carefully. If any of you have done this, you understand how blazing hot just-boiled potatoes are! How long it can take to peel and slice one potato that’s burning your hands. And how sensitive to heat your fingers are!
Is the pain necessary? Or possibly only an old tradition you do because it’s always been done that way? I’m not sure, although I happen to believe the burned fingers are worth it. It’s a heavenly salad, especially when made with new potatoes and your oil is extra virgin olive oil. Be sure to get the children out of the house so they don’t hear you swearing as you peel and slice. They’ll thank you later.
Potato Salad (from Gourmet’s Basic French Cookbook, 1961)
Boil 5 or 6 medium potatoes, unpeeled, in salted water to cover until they are tender. Drain, peel, and cut them into thin slices. While the potatoes are still hot, season them with 1 teaspoon salt and a little pepper and sprinkle them with 2 or 3 tablespoons vinegar and 6 to 7 tablespoons olive oil. Add 4 tablespoons [chicken] stock or hot water and chopped parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon to taste. Chopped spring onions may also be added. Let the salad stand at room temperature until most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve it without chilling.