Make a mashed potato salad that combines the goodness of chunks with the comfort of puree

 This recipe is a little like the potato salad you get at a deli, but without the sweetness usually found in that dressing.PHOTO: NYTIMES
This recipe is a little like the potato salad you get at a deli, but without the sweetness usually found in that dressing.PHOTO: NYTIMES
Red-skinned potatoes for mashed potato salad with scallions and herbs. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Red-skinned potatoes for mashed potato salad with scallions and herbs. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Crisp scallions give textural crunch to the salad. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Crisp scallions give textural crunch to the salad. PHOTO: NYTIMES

(NYTIMES) - Mashed potato salad seems like the kind of thing a person might make by mistake.

Perhaps, say, a well-meaning spouse overcooked the potatoes while you were drinking rosé on the deck of someone else's summer house.

Then, maybe, you mixed together the salad ingredients a little too energetically, being overly animated from the conversation at hand.

By the time you looked into the bowl, the potato salad was, well, fluffier than intended.

What is a hungry cook to do?

Change the name, and pretend you meant it to be that way all along.

And that is the origin story of this mashed potato salad.

The happy ending is that, it turns out, mashed potato salad is a very good thing indeed - worth making on purpose, not just by mistake.

It is a little like the potato salad you get at a deli, without any of the sweetness usually found in that dressing. But it has that same creamy-chunky texture, with each piece of potato coated in a highly seasoned dressing that is thicker than usual. The starch in those overcooked tubers helps the dressing cling to the potato chunks, instead of falling off like so many vinaigrettes can.

Because the potato salad is so delightfully soft, the scallions here provide the only textural contrast. Make sure to get crisp ones, and use the full amount. Or substitute crunchy shallot, onion or even celery, if you are avoiding alliums.

You can play with the other ingredients, too. The beauty of this recipe lies more in the technique than in the seasonings, which are quite straightforward - mustard, mayonnaise, lemon and herbs. Take it in any other direction you like. (Goat cheese! Kimchi! Bacon!)

The key to achieving the right ratio of chunks-to-puree is mostly in the mixing. After adding the soft potatoes to the dressing, stir them vigorously with a spoon, but do not break out the masher (or a fork). You want the majority of potatoes in bite-size pieces for texture against the fleecy dressing.

Also, be sure to cook the potatoes just past when you would drain them for salad, about two minutes longer, until a fork plunged into the flesh is met with no resistance.

If your potatoes turn out a bit firmer than that, and do not begin to fall apart when you mix, fear not. You will just end up with a lovely bowl of regular potato salad. You could even say you planned it that way.

Mashed Potato Salad With Scallions and Herbs

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

900g red potatoes, cut into 4cm chunks

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus more lemon juice for serving

2 tsps minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp fine sea salt, more as needed

1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Dash or two of hot sauce, to taste

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling

2 Tbs mayonnaise, sour cream or creme fraiche

1 Tbs Dijon or whole-grain mustard

1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 Tbs chopped basil or dill

METHOD

1. Cook the potatoes in a pot of well-salted water until they are very tender but not mushy, 15 to 22 minutes. Drain well.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, rosemary, salt, pepper and hot sauce. When the salt is dissolved, whisk in the olive oil, mayonnaise and mustard.

3. Add potatoes to the bowl and mix them very well, until well coated with dressing. Then use the spoon to mash about a quarter of them. You want 2.5cm chunks of potatoes coated in some mashed potatoes. Add scallions and parsley and toss well. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice, hot sauce and olive oil, if needed. Scatter chopped basil or dill over dressed potatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature, but not cold.