Recipe Review

Julia Child Has a Clever Trick for Making the Creamiest Potato Salad Ever

updated Aug 18, 2020
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Credit: Image: Amelia Rampe; Design: The Kitchn

Author of one of the most beloved cookbooks of all time, host of a wildly popular cooking show, and BFFs with some of the best in the food business, Julia Child needs no introduction. Although we often look to Julia for classic French techniques, it was actually her American-style potato salad, originally published in Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, that most recently caught our eye. Packed with bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and crunchy bits of celery and pickles, it certainly sounded like a showdown winner.

Of the four recipes selected for our potato salad showdown, Julia’s is the only one that calls for reserving some of the potato cooking liquid and adding it back into the salad. Would this simple step prove to be a game-changer? I took to the kitchen to find out.

Credit: Image: Amelia Rampe; Design: The Kitchn

Julia has you start by peeling two pounds of large Yukon gold (or other waxy) potatoes. Cut them in half or quarter lengthwise, then slice them crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a saucepan, cover with water, and add salt using the ratio of 1 1/2 teaspoons salt per one quart of water. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are just cooked through. Remove one cup cooking liquid, drain the potatoes, then transfer to a large bowl. Stir together cider vinegar and 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, drizzle over the potatoes, and toss to coat evenly. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes. 

Next come the mix-ins. Add onion, celery, cooked and crumbled bacon, dill pickle, hard-boiled eggs, and chives. Then, stir in mayo or a mayo-sour cream mixture. (I chose the latter.) Fold the mixture together and season to taste. Chill the salad for at least one hour — any longer, and you’ll want to give it some time to return to room temperature before serving.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

My Honest Review of Julia Child’s Potato Salad

While the other potato salad recipes I tested called for boiling the potatoes whole, halved, or in chunks, Julia’s recipe calls for sliced potatoes, which significantly cut down on cook time. I love that Julia seasons her cooking liquid, which flavors the potatoes from the get-go, and that she continues to impart more flavor during every step of the recipe.

What intrigued me the most, however, was her use of the potato cooking liquid — she reserves some and adds it back into the potatoes when they marinate in vinegar. This simple trick made for the creamiest salad of the bunch — when combined with the mayo, the salty, starchy water creates a silky-smooth sauce that clings to the potatoes. It’s similar to how pasta water is often added to pasta sauces.

As for the mix-ins, I thoroughly enjoyed Julia’s “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. They each contributed flavor without taking away from the salad’s ultra-luxurious texture.

Credit: Amelia Rampe

If You’re Making Julia Child’s Potato Salad, Try This Tip

  1. Try out some different herbs. Julia uses chives, but dill, tarragon, or parsley can also be invited to the party.

Rating: 9.5/10

Have you ever tried Julia Child’s potato salad? Tell us what you thought in the comments.

Credit: Image: Amelia Rampe; Design: The Kitchn