Ina Garten's French Potato Salad Features A Splash Of Crisp Wine

Adding some wine to any occasion is always a great idea, and if you're Ina Garten, you know that rule can extend to mixing a French potato salad. It's no secret Garten is a big fan of potatoes (her cookbooks are overflowing with an abundance of special preparations and potato upgrades) so when she gives you a secret ingredient for them, you listen. Garten plusses up her potato dishes every which way, from goat cheese to truffles, but her French potato salad upgrade stays decidedly simple, with just a few tablespoons of white wine splashed in before the rest of the mixing begins. Like many of Garten's other secret ingredients, it's quick and easy, but transformative.

Garten's French potato salad is full of bright, French flavors like herbs, scallions, and Champagne vinegar, so white wine pairs perfectly with them. In an episode of "Barefoot Contessa," via YouTube, Garden said you want the potatoes to have "as much flavor as possible" as you start to build the salad, and the wine brings a big punch to the dish. You can even be flexible and use leftover wine that's still good. 

The white wine gets mixed into the cooked potatoes with chicken stock before any of the other ingredients when the potatoes are still warm, which helps them fully absorb the flavors. Once those wet ingredients are tossed with the potatoes, you are ready to move on and make a French vinaigrette to finish dressing the salad.

Wine brings extra flavor and complexity to Ina Garten's French potato salad

French potato salad is normally a very fresh version of the classic dish, but it's a highly acidic mix of vinegar and Dijon mustard that can be one-note, even with plenty of herbs. The depth of tastes in a good wine bring lots of complexity to the potato salad without overpowering it. Like other acidic ingredients, some wine can also bring out more flavors in the other ingredients, making the whole finished dish tastier. This effect is multiplied since Garten is using wine that hasn't been cooked down, which means the alcohol is still in it. The few tablespoons aren't enough to make the potatoes taste boozy, but alcohol further helps to break down other ingredients and release their flavor. Absorbed into the potatoes before other items are added, the wine mixture acts as a flavor base that permeates everything and elevates the salad.

Whether you are using Garten's recipe or want to use this trick in your own favorite potato salad, using a crisp, clean white wine will add the best flavor without being too distracting. Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are classic white wines for cooking that pair well with lots of flavors. Since you aren't cooking the wine, you also want to make sure you use wine good enough to drink, since its flavor will stand out more. Even with a light hand, they'll help make your normal potato salad into something special.