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New York Deli-Style Horseradish Potato Salad

By Heidi Allison

I first had a taste of this extraordinary potato salad as a child in an iconic New York Deli— I still crave that dish (and, the pastrami sandwich it came with). This simple, old-school recipe is different from most other potato salads in that the flavor of the chopped, buttery potatoes is complemented by a rich mayo dressing with a grace note of freshly-grated horseradish, lemon and black pepper—that’s it! No sugar, hard-boiled eggs, pickle relish, bacon, pimentos, garlic salt, vinegar, mustard or onion is used. By editing the ingredient list, the flavor of the main—corned beef or pastrami sandwich, burgers, barbecued ribs or grilled fish—takes center stage, rather than being overpowered by the side.

While this is an easy recipe, there are a few culinary tricks that ensure you get the right texture and flavor profile. The Horseradish Dressing should be prepared at least one hour before it’s folded into the cooked potatoes, or its flavor will be diluted—this dressing needs time to fully develop. Fresh horseradish must be used, (do not even think about substituting prepared horseradish from a jar), and, it needs to be micro-planed— not grated. Hunks of tough, raw pungent horseradish on your tongue does not work. Micro-planed horseradish is a whole different ballgame—it melts into the mayo, creating a creamy, thick texture and more tempered pungency. Horseradish can have different “heat” levels, so add a little at a time to the mayo to achieve the perfect balance. What you are looking for is a back note of horseradish—not a wallop of heat.

Cook the potatoes properly: the tubers should be steamed (or boiled) until you can insert the tip of a knife into a potato chunk and its exterior is soft but you can still feel a bit of resistance in the center. Resist the temptation to continue to cook the potatoes at this point because they will finish off with residual heat. Rinse and cool to room temperature before folding in the dressing, or you’ll have mashed potatoes. But, if you want a melt-in-your-mouth vs. soft chunks textured potato salad, fold in the dressing while potatoes are warm.

A hint of lemon is also a key flavor in this dish: seasoning with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and lemon pepper hits just the right note. Smoked salt \ is a nice touch. Play with different fresh, minced, herb garnishes—dill complements grilled fish, and chopped flat-leaf parsley pairs well with poultry or meat.


Ingredients for New York Deli-Style Horseradish Potato Salad

1.5 pounds organic gold, thin-skinned potatoes

1 cup good-quality mayo (I like Best Foods)
3-inch piece of fresh horseradish, peeled and micro-planed (should be around 4 Tbs.)
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked flake salt
juice of 1 fresh lemon


1 Tbs. minced flat-leaf parsley or dill

Horseradish Dressing:

1 cup mayo
4 Tbs. micro-planed horseradish
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked flake salt


Place mayo in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoon of horseradish and remainder of the spices and stir with a fork to create a sauce. Taste dressing and see if it needs more horseradish, and add to taste. Cover and place in refrigerator for one or more hours.

Cut potatoes into quarters (about 1/2-inch pieces) and place in a large bowl.

Cut potatoes into quarters (about 1/2-inch pieces) and place in a large bowl. Place potatoes on a steamer rack in a large stock pot filled with water to level of steamer basket, and heat on medium-high heat until gently boiling, Cover with a lid and steam for about 14-15 minutes, or until a knife tip inserted into soft potato and a bit of resistance is still felt in the center. Remove from heat and place in a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

Gently fold Horseradish Dressing into room temp potatoes and top with a minced fresh herb garnish, and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.
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