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You don't need a single drop of mayo to make your best potato salad

Mustard and Dill Potato Salad. Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post. Food styling by The Washington Post's Amanda Soto.

There are plenty of things I would like to tell my younger self if I could dial her up and share my wisdom.

Sure there were some - okay, a lot of - unfortunate wardrobe decisions, but, really, most of my tips would be about food.

At the top of the list: Potato salad is wonderful.

I grew up exposed to mayo-based salads, where everything took on a sticky white slime that was immediately off-putting. While I've overcome an absolute mayo aversion, even now I prefer not to have my potato salad drowning in the stuff.

I only started to come around to potato salad once my family began to regularly eat at a local barbecue joint, where I became hooked on a zippy mustard version.

And that is the type I'm presenting to you. Dressed with a honey mustard vinaigrette, it is tangy and a little bit sweet with plenty of punch that keeps the salad light and bright. Mark Bittman's original recipe called for parsley and scallions, but even hard-earned time and wisdom has yet to win me over to the former.

Instead, I decided to channel another food I loathed as a kid but now love: pickles. A handful of finely chopped small, sweet pickles, such as cornichons, and an equal amount of dill proved the perfect counterpoint/complement to the vinaigrette. I ended up spiking the vinaigrette with the pickle brine, which is not just a clever way to use something that might otherwise get thrown out. It also added a less harsh, more well-rounded salty-sweet flavor that was lacking the first time I made the dressing with only wine vinegar.

I'm calling for Yukon Gold potatoes, which are my go-to potato. Not as starchy as Russet or as waxy as reds, they are a good all-purpose option, with a firm enough structure to hold together in potato salad while still boasting a creamy texture. Plus, their color and rich flavor are ideal in this dish. If you can't find or don't want Yukon Gold, I would lean toward something waxier such as red or fingerlings that will not fall apart when boiled and tossed.

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Mustard and Dill Potato Salad

8 servings; makes 4 cups

This mayonnaise-free version is zippy and flavorful. We amped up the zing by adding chopped cornichons and using their brine in the vinaigrette.

Yukon Gold potatoes are especially appealing here, but you can use red bliss or fingerling potatoes as well.

Make Ahead: The potato salad tastes even better after a day's refrigeration. You will have some mustard vinaigrette left over, which is great on salads and can be refrigerated for a few days (whisk briefly if it has separated).

Adapted from "How to Cook Everything," by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008), as posted on MarkBittman.com.

Ingredients

For the vinaigrette

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons brine from a jar of cornichons, gherkins or other small pickles, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon white or red wine vinegar, plus more as needed

1 heaping teaspoon mustard, such as Dijon

1 to 2 tablespoons honey

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For the salad

1 1/2 pounds skin-on Yukon Gold or other yellow-fleshed potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces

Kosher salt

8 cornichons, gherkins or other small pickles, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup minced fresh dill

Freshly ground black pepper

Steps

For the vinaigrette: Combine the oil, pickle brine, vinegar, mustard and 1 tablespoon of the honey in a blender, mini food processor or in a lidded jar you can shake. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Blend or seal and shake to form a creamy, emulsified vinaigrette. This should take a minute or less. Taste and add more brine, vinegar or honey, a teaspoon or two at a time, as needed. The yield is 3/4 cup.

For the salad: Put the potatoes in a pot with just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add a large pinch of salt and then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, so the water bubbles gently. Cook for about 15 minutes, until tender but still somewhat firm. Drain, rinse under cool water for a minute, then drain again.

Toss the still-warm potatoes with the chopped cornichons and dill in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette; let the salad sit for a few minutes, then taste. Add more of the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper, until you are happy with the flavor.

Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (to chill thoroughly) and up to 2 days.

Nutrition | Calories: 290; Total Fat: 19 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 460 mg; Carbohydrates: 31 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 2 g; Protein: 4 g.

 This article was written by Becky Krystal , a reporter for The Washington Post. 
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