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Potato Salad: Texture and Absorption

Q:

When making potato salad the outer layer of my potato often flakes. I’ve tried different types of potatoes but usually end up with chunks that are “tight”.  Also, do I cool the potatoes before dressing them?When making potato salad the outer layer of my potato often flakes. I’ve tried different types of potatoes but usually end up with chunks that are “tight”.  Also, do I cool the potatoes before dressing them?  If I dress them when they are warm they tend to absorb the dressing. Tastes ok but looks dry. Any suggestions? If I dress them when they are warm they tend to absorb the dressing. Tastes ok but looks dry. Any suggestions?

A:

You did not mention cooking procedures, but I usually recommend peeling the potato and cutting into large chunks when using a russet, as it has high solids (starch) and will tend to overcook the outside before the inside is done when left whole and boiled. Leaving smaller reds whole seems to work fine (they are more waxy potatoes and a Yukon Gold is about somewhere in between, so it also benefits from being cut into chunks and then boiled). If you add the dressing when the potato is warm it will absorb more liquid and may become soggy as the expanded warm potato cells absorb the liquid. As you suggested, it may turn out better to let the potatoes cool and then add the dressing.

I used to own a fresh pasta restaurant and for salads we often found that we had to re-add dressing as the pasta would absorb the liquids overnight and become dry. So we always made a little extra of the dressing and did a test before sending a salad out to a customer. Often we had to add some liquid to make the salad creamy enough to be able to actually taste the spices and flavors properly. Hope these suggestions help.