Have you noticed how emotionally attached you can become to certain foods? So many associations, memories, and flittering flashbacks!
Potato salad is one of those foods for me. When I think of potato salad I feel warm summer breezes and hear the bird songs associated with Price Park from my girlhood days. Picnics in the park almost always included potato salad. Childhood summers can be so magical!
Fast-forward a couple of decades and the memories center around road trips: trips to the coast with enough potato salad and meat loaf to last through the whole trip. The beach can be magical as well.
Does this make potato salad magical? In my family, it almost is.
Since we do not make potato salad often — it takes some time and is not diet food — the announcement of potato salad is followed by exclamations of delight.
By “potato salad” I mean the homemade type that has come down in the family at least three generations. You can pick some up at the deli or at Costco, but none of that salad comes close to what we look forward to when someone suggests it’s time to make potato salad.
In the recipe below I suggest amounts of ingredients, but roll out this salad to suit your own preferences. You may not like raw onion. Leave it out. No problem! Experiment a bit and you will develop your own “practically perfect” version.
When possible, make this salad a day ahead so the flavors have time to blend. Timing makes all the difference. That is not to say that the first day’s tasting will disappoint. In fact, make lots of potato salad so you will have enough for the second day. 😉
Another little tip is to cook the potatoes whole with their skins on. Doing so keeps the potatoes from absorbing as much water. The dressing then has more room to be absorbed.
Use either Russet potatoes or the waxy smaller potatoes (red or yellow). Russets will tend to break down in the salad for a creamier finish. Waxy potatoes keep their shape in the salad as long as you have not overcooked them.
Use these basic principles and ingredient ideas to turn out a salad that will make you a legend. Are you up for the challenge? Here it goes!
Potato Salad Ingredients
3 pounds red potatoes or Russets, close to the same size and scrubbed
5 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and diced
4 stalked celery, finely diced
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 large dill pickles, finely diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
1-2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Potato Salad Steps
Choose a pot large enough for the potatoes to fit in one layer. Having one layer and having the potatoes about the same size will result in the potatoes reaching the finish line at the same time. No overcooked potatoes.
Add just enough water to the pot to cover the potatoes. Turn the heat to high, bring the water to a boil, and then turn the heat to a low medium. Cook the potatoes until they are soft all the way through but not mushy. This takes a little watching. Use a small sharp knife to check for doneness. Timing on this will depend on the size of the potatoes.
When the potatoes are done, pour them out into a large strainer and douse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Spread out the potatoes on a tray to finish cooling.
You may or may not want to peel the potatoes. Satisfy yourself and your family on this issue.
Dice the cooled potatoes into small bite-size pieces and toss into a large mixing bowl. Having small pieces leaves more surface area for the potatoes to absorb the dressing.
Pile on the celery, onion, egg and dill pickle.
Gently toss the ingredients until evenly mixed in the bowl.
In a separate bowl mix the mayonnaise and yogurt. Thin down the dressing with the pickle juice, thin yogurt or kefir. Add about 2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper to the dressing. Mix well.
Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and toss gently. As the salad sits, juices from the celery and onion will mix with the dressing, melding flavors and thinning down the dressing.
Taste for salt and pepper, making necessary adjustments. Keep in mind what you will be serving with the salad. For instance, ham is a bit salty. It sits well beside a potato salad that is short on salt.
Refrigerate the salad in a container with a tight fitting lid. it will keep nicely for up to four days, if it lasts that long.