Gretchen's table: A trio of potato salads for July 4

Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Entertaining

Holiday get-togethers tend to draw lots of people, especially when they're held outside. That's why at a July 4 cookout you'll often find multiple side dishes alongside the burgers, hot dogs and barbecued chicken on the hosts' picnic table.

Whether you're preparing them yourself or a guest is the contributor, salads and other cold sides are an easy and inexpensive way to round out a menu for a hungry crowd.

Some of the potluck dishes that inevitably end up on the buffet are as all-American as the holiday itself — Boston baked beans and macaroni salad quickly come to mind — but when it comes to actual numbers, turns out potato salad is the runaway favorite party food on America's birthday.

After analyzing Google search volume trends of over 100 types of food leading up to the Fourth of July, the betting website time2play.com has declared potato salad the No. 1 favorite side dish in 10 states on Independence Day, including Pennsylvania.

Of course, different people like different kinds of potatoes, and also have definite opinions on the best way to dress their favorite spuds. (I, for instance, think the only potato worth eating is an orange-fleshed sweet potato.)

With that in mind, we offer three easy potato salad recipes for your holiday cookout for varying tastes: a traditional mayonnaise-based salad made with Yukon Gold potatoes, a roasted sweet potato salad that gets an extra punch of flavor from chorizo sausage and a tangy lemon dressing, and a vegan pesto potato salad in which multi-colored baby potatoes are the star.

All three can be served warm, cold or at room temperature. But keep in mind, all should be consumed within an hour of being placed on the table outside (or two hours inside) to avoid food poisoning.

Happy Fourth!

Old-fashioned Potato Salad

PG tested

I prefer sweet pickles in this recipe, but you can easily substitute chopped dill pickles. When choosing potatoes for salad, look for waxy varieties such as the red, Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold that are well-shaped and of uniform size.

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

Kosher salt

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 red onion, finely minced

1/4 cup chopped sweet gherkin pickles

Juice 1/2 lemon

Pinch or two smoked paprika

Fresh ground black pepper

3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

Handful chives, finely sliced

Place potatoes in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with water. Season generously with salt, then bring water to a boil over high heat. Cook until potatoes can be easily pierced with a knife or fork, around 15 minutes. Drain, and let them cool while you prepare dressing.

In large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, onion, pickles, lemon juice, paprika and a generous pinch of black pepper until well combined. Gently fold in cooked potatoes, chopped eggs and sliced chives. Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate until ready to use, or serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6.

— Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette

Sweet Potato Salad with Chorizo

PG tested

This slightly spicy recipe hangs its hat on sweet potatoes, which are packed with fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium. I used Johnsonville chorizo sausage, which you can find in most larger grocery stores.

4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into wedges

Olive oil, for brushing

Kosher salt

2 fresh chorizo sausages (around 4 ounces), sliced into coins


1/2 cup sour cream

1 garlic clove, minced

Juice 1 small lemon

Fresh ground black pepper

2 ounces toasted slivered almonds

Watercress leaves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place sweet potato wedges on a parchment-lined baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt on top, and then roast for 20 minutes.

Add chorizo coins and roast for another 30-35 minutes, or until potatoes are soft and sausage is crisp. Remove from oven and transfer to a platter.

Make dressing by combining sour cream, garlic, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir well to combine.

To serve, drizzle potatoes and chorizo with the lemon dressing and garnish with toasted almonds and watercress leaves.

Serves 4-6.

— adapted from delicious.com.au

Pesto Baby Potato Salad

PG tested

24-ounce bag mixed baby potatoes

Kosher salt

2 cups fresh basil

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup good-quality olive oil

Zest and juice 1 large lemon

Pinch or two red pepper flakes

Place potatoes in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and place in a bowl to cool while you make the pesto. Depending on size, you can either leave the potatoes whole or cut then in half or quarters. (I did a mix of both.)

Place basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, until mixture is well chopped.

Add grated Parmesan cheese and pulse several times more, then scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady, small stream, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor, until you get a smooth consistency. You may want to add a little more oil if it's not smooth enough.

Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt and red pepper to your liking.

While the potatoes are still warm, pour half the pesto over the top. Toss gently to combine, being careful to break up the potatoes as little as possible. Add more pesto if it's not saucy enough; reserve leftovers for another use.

Serve potato salad warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Serves 4-6.

— Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette



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