02 August 2012

Perfect Potato Salad - The Summer Classic Comfort Food


My potato salad recipe is one I can brag about and say it's the best because it isn't my own; it's my mother's. It wasn't just my opinion. All my life, everyone who tasted my mother's potato salad declared it the best they'd ever had and wanted to know the secret. She always said "There's no secret. It's just the typical potato salad ingredients."

Of course, she had no recipe. So one day when I was a teenager I grabbed pen and paper and settled in to watch her make it. As she finished chopping each ingredient, I measured it and wrote it down. Later I compared it to recipes in her vast collection of cookbooks that she read like novels and noted the differences.

The main differences were that she: 1) cooked the potatoes whole and unpeeled, 2) created layers of flavor as she went along rather than making a dressing and 3) used only Hellmann's/Best Foods real mayonnaise, never Miracle Whip or sour cream.

If you've been reading Delightful Repast for any length of time, you know I'm all about organic; still, I buy that mayo! Let's all write to the company and tell them to go organic! And do leave a comment and tell me what you like in your potato salad.

Perfect Potato Salad

(Makes 12 very generous servings)

5 pounds russet potatoes
6 large eggs
5 tablespoons sweet pickle juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet pickles
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper, patted dry
1/4 cup very finely chopped onion, rinsed and patted dry
2 cups real mayonnaise
3 teaspoons coarse "country" Dijon mustard

1 Cook potatoes whole with skins on in boiling, salted (1 tablespoon) water in covered 5-quart Dutch oven for about 40 minutes; drain immediately. Cool for about 45 minutes, then peel and cube. Put back in pan to mix.

2 Meanwhile, to hard-cook eggs, place eggs in 3-quart saucepan and cover with cold water to at least one inch above eggs. Bring to a rapid boil; remove from heat and cover tightly with lid. Let stand for 18 minutes. Cool at once in cold water.

3 Sprinkle sweet pickle juice over the cubed potatoes; stir. Add salt, pepper and parsley flakes (or parsley); stir. Add celery, pickles, bell pepper and onion; stir. Add mayonnaise and mustard, and sort of stir them together on top of everything else to mix well before stirring the combination into the other ingredients. (Note: Rinsing the onion takes a bit of the "bite" out of it and makes it edible to some people who normally can't eat raw onion.)  

4 Use egg slicer to slice eggs. Reserve 7 slices for garnish, then roughly chop remaining slices and add to salad. Taste and adjust seasoning. Transfer salad to 3-quart serving dish, garnish, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (I prefer to make it the day before).

18 comments:

Eileen said...

I do like potato salad and agree, so much nicer with the skin left on, and boiled just enough so that the potatoes are firm and not too mushy.

Jean said...

Thanks, Eileen. Too often when I've had potato salad made with potatoes that have been cubed before cooking the potatoes are not cooked all the way through - probably because the cook was trying to keep the neat little cubes looking perfect - and raw potato is not a good flavor!

Angie's Recipes said...

Although I am not really a fan of mayo, but I would give it a 2nd thought as this potato salad looks really tempting!

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

“One potato, two potato, three potato, four…” That's how many potatoes I've eaten in the last 10 years. But I'm fascinated by your journalistic endeavors, Re: your mother's recipes. Had thought to do the same with my mother's off-the-cuff methods, but never followed through. Maybe you should write a book in which your mother emerges as a fully fleshed out character through her culinary pursuits, and you the Observer, distilling life through metaphorical recipes. It could be a genuine cookbook, but with the added slant of presenting a character. Think about it.

Jean said...

Angie, thank you. I hope you'll try it soon. And do let me know how you fared with the mayo!

Jean said...

Sully, how can a lad named Sullivan not like potatoes?! You are so right - my mother would make a wonderful character in a book - she was definitely a character!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

This sounds exactly like my mother's potato salad from cooking with potatoes with the skins on to the eggs. The only difference is that she used dill pickles and their juice.

Jean said...

Karen, that sounds good too! I love a good dill pickle.

Charles said...

"everyone who tasted my mother's potato salad declared it the best they'd ever had"

Uh-oh - we're gonna have a problem here. I've had people say similar things about mine! My "secret" is capers and half-half of yoghurt and mayo for a more saucey, but not so unhealthy consistency. We're going to need to do a taste-off I think Jean :D

They add dill to all the potato salad in Sweden... it's nice enough but it can get a bit overwhelming after too much of it.

Jean said...

Charles, that would be too fun! I'm sure I'd like your recipe too! I sometimes throw in a little dill or capers. Usually not, though, because I love dill and capers and put them in plenty of other things. And isn't plain yogurt one of the most versatile foods in the world!

chocolat lover said...

I have never made my own potato salad...

...and if I do then I would leave the skin on - mainly because I cant be bothered to peel them ;o)

Jean said...

I boil them in their skins, but then I peel them - the skins slip right off the cooked potatoes. But "back in the day" when I was perhaps a bit *too* interested in nutrition, I left the peels on. And it's actually quite tasty, so give it go!

Ruth Schiffmann said...

I don't like mayo, so for most of my life, I would not try potato salad. But last year, at a friends I broke tradition and had some of hers. It was delicious - with not much mayo at all. I've been wishing I had asked for her recipe. But now I don't have to. I'm going to make yours - because everything I've made from your recipes so far has been A+. Thanks, Jean =)

Jean said...

Ruth, that is so sweet, thank you! I hope you'll like the potato salad just as much.

Brooks at Cakewalker said...

Jean, I've just popped over from Twitter for a closer look at this delightful potato salad. Visually glorious it is, through and through. I wish I was enjoying some now! Like you, my favorite potato salads are based with mayonnaise, and in my neck of the woods it's Best Foods (the same maker as Hellmann's). Loved seeing that your Mother's recipe utilizes the pickle juice for it makes all the difference. Brava!

Jean said...

Brooks, thank you so much! Means a lot, coming from a food professional like you.

Debra said...

This looks amazing! I love potato salad and I am going to have to try this delicious looking version!

Jean said...

Debra, thanks! I hope you'll try it soon.

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