It’s Smashed Potato Salad, Watson

20140703-233026-84626038.jpgBon Appetit has been working with Watson for a 4th of July menu. Not Sherlock’s Watson, but the IBM supercomputer who pretty much turned Jeopardy into Candyland. The computer can’t cook, but is using over 9,000 Bon Appetit recipes and models of tastes that pair well together. Watson provides the ingredients and the chef has to come up with the recipe.

Well, this week on Facebook, Bon Appetit threw out a challenge to their readers:

Below is Chef Watson’s suggested ingredients for a potato salad—take them into the kitchen and do with them what you will! Create your own original recipe using every ingredient (the proportions are up to you, but no additional ingredients except water) and submit your finished recipe to

Challenge Accepted

Ok, so here are the ingredients:
potato, watercress, scallion, ginger, black peppercorns, vegetable oil, canola oil, oregano, thyme, buttermilk, dark brown sugar, mayonnaise

Are you kidding me?! What is this, Chopped?! Two types of oil?! Ginger? Oy, this might be hard. Well, 4th of July…..must use red potatoes. Plus I love red potatoes. Did I mention I have never made potato salad? Ok, no panic, just think it through. I gathered my ingredients and got the potatoes boiling.


Next, I wash the watercress and chop it.


This is about the time I got a brilliant idea. Because I’m brilliant at 9pm after a full day of work and wrangling children to put on shoes, eat dinner, grocery shop, and bathe.

One of my husband’s favorite way to have potatoes is smash and roast boiled red potatoes tossed with sea salt and olive oil. At a high temp, the skin gets crispy but the inside is even softer and full of flavor. So, I can use the oil to finish off the potatoes in the oven AND I can incorporate the ginger during this process so the ginger isn’t raw (too harsh!). Oh goody!


Ok, so while those cook, time to mix the dressing. I admit I did some research here. I hardly ever use buttermilk and wasn’t sure how much to use with the mayonnaise. Thankfully, I found more than a few high rated recipes with a 1 cup to 1/4 cup ratio of mayo to buttermilk. I figured if I needed more, I could always add in that ratio, though math this late at night is dangerous.

On to the herbs. 1/2 tsp of both the dried oregano and thyme seemed fair. I had to use dry, but I would recommend fresh and put that in my recipe. You need less with dry because it’s more pungent. So up it to a tsp each of fresh.

The brown sugar was stumping me. Dark brown sugar? Should I have let that caramelize on the potatoes? Maybe. But instead I decided to just only add a tiny bit into the dressing. It’s not perfect, but it works for now. Not sure it adds anything but grit, because I prefer the buttermilk tang over sweet, but it certainly isn’t bad.


Out came the potatoes! Yum!


Time to mix it all up!


Below is the final recipe. No testing, just a one time chance to work with Watson. It’s coming to the BBQ tomorrow night, so reviews to come! If you want to read more about Bon Appetit’s work with Watson, click here.

3lbs baby red potatoes
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1.5 cups watercress
3 tbsps scallions
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1.5 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
1 tsp fresh chopped oregano

Boil 3 lbs of baby red potatoes 15 mins on high in salted water
Place potatoes on cookie sheet and smash each one with the bottom of a bowl or glass
Drizzle 2 tsps olive oil and 2 tsp of canola oil over top
Sprinkle 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger on potatoes
Sprinkle about 1 tsp of sea salt on potatoes.
Mix and bake at 400 for 15 mins until crisp and sizzling

Meanwhile, make dressing.
Mix 1 cup of mayonnaise with 1/4 cup buttermilk
Whisk in 1.5 tsp of dark brown sugar
Add 1tsp of fresh ground thyme, 1tsp of fresh chopped oregano, salt and pepper, mix well
Remove potatoes from oven and put into a large mixing bowl. (Do not pour in excess oil)
Add 1.5 cups fresh chopped watercress and 3 tbsps freshly chopped scallions and mix
Pour dressing into potato mixture while potatoes are still warm and toss until thoroughly incorporated
Salt and pepper to taste

4 thoughts on “It’s Smashed Potato Salad, Watson

  1. The buttermilk was good! I loved it while it was still warm. Something, I don’t know exactly what, caused more of a bitter taste by the time the bbq came around. Some like it, others, including me, did not. I would definitely use buttermilk and watercress again!

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