Spring is finally here! Even though we are having our share of spring showers, the blue skies are showing up more and more. Hibernation is over! Time for barbecues and Mom’s Homestyle Potato Salad!
This past week we had a family gathering with lots of great food (too much indulgence), games and great new cocktails that my son created. He seriously could be a mixologist! My son and daughter-in-law had everyone over for a barbecue and one of the side dishes my daughter-in law made was potato salad from “Grammy’s recipe”. I laughed because I was right in the middle of writing this post about potato salad. Don’t they say great minds think alike? It was delicious.
My mom made the best potato salad. I’m sure many claim their mom’s cooking is best, but hers was pretty tasty old fashioned homemade goodness (what a mouthful of words). Unfortunately, mom never gave me her recipe so I spent years trying to re-create it. What made her potato salad so special? It was always served very cold and it was never runny or mushy. I will admit I will pass a potato salad by if it does not look appealing, and mom’s was always the first to be devoured at a gathering.
To be honest, I was guilty for years of not writing down a recipe for potato salad, until my son moved away to Toronto and phoned one day to ask for my recipe. Well, my brain did some scrambling to try to go through the ingredients and steps that were involved. The other day, I looked at the recipe I ended up sending him and realized I missed a couple of ingredients. Whoops! That’s why a recipe is a good thing!
When someone puts a plate or bowl of potato salad on the table you know things are going to be casual and relaxed. Potato salad is not snobby, has stood the test of time and is always popular at get-togethers. The fact that it actually tastes better when it’s made ahead is a bonus and allows more time for you to enjoy your family or friends.
So what does go into a potato salad? Potatoes are the star of course, along with crunchy celery and dill pickles, onions, hard boiled eggs, seasonings, and optional, but oh so worth it, bacon. Mom always sliced red radish thinly and included it, however when I made my salad I didn’t have the radishes on hand.
Something rather nice happens to the potatoes when combined with good quality mayonnaise. Silky smooth, a little tangy, and essential for this classic type of potato salad.
My mother always put celery seed into her potato salad, and when added with the dry mustard helps to keep the salad from becoming bland. Also, a little paprika sprinkled over the top of the salad adds a nice colour contrast. Its best to mix the seasonings into the mayonnaise mixture instead of separately into the salad or it could get a bit too mushy.
It is getting close to barbecue/picnic season, and having a really good potato salad recipe handy will help make planning that much easier. Trust me, your friends will be back for refills!
I can’t help thinking that if I were back in New Brunswick right now I would be serving my potato salad with fresh cooked lobster and homemade buns. Oh my, I’m drooling!
Potato salad has the best flavour if it is allowed to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving (even better if made the day before) because I think it tastes best when the potatoes have had time to get really cold. The best potatoes to use for potato salad should be waxy ones which means they are less likely to lose their shape when cooked. Red potatoes work, as well as yellow fleshed Yukon Gold, Russets or Yellow Nugget potatoes which I had on hand and used for mine. I love making potato salad with new potatoes in the summertime when you can leave the thin skins on the potatoes and the actual potato tastes amazing!
- 3 pounds medium sized potatoes (Yukon Gold, Russet,Red) unpeeled and left whole. Scrub the potatoes if necessary.
- 1/2 cup diced celery (about 1 celery rib)
- 1/3 cup chopped green onions, or chives
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle (optional)
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup mayonnaise depending on taste preference and how dry the salad is
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon celery seed (not celery salt)
- salt and black pepper to your taste
- 4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 4 strips cooked bacon, cut into small pieces (optional)
- paprika for presentation
- Place potatoes in salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
- Drain potatoes and let cool enough until they are easy to peel *(see note). Cut the peeled potatoes into 3/4 – 1 inch cubes. Cover and refrigerate potatoes for several hours before adding the other ingredients. This will keep the potatoes from going mushy.
- Boil the eggs and peel. Dice into small pieces. Place in the refrigerator until the potatoes are cool.
- Cook bacon and chop into small pieces. Set in refrigerator.
- In a small bowl, stir together the chopped celery, green onions, red onions, pickles, mayonnaise **(see note), vinegar, celery seed, dry mustard, pepper and salt. Gently mix together, then fold into potatoes that are cool. Do not over mix or the salad will be mushy. Taste the salad to see if a bit more mayonnaise or salt is needed, but don’t make it soupy.
- You can either add half of the chopped eggs and bacon to the salad and sprinkle the rest over the top, or add all of it to the salad and mix gently together.
- Sprinkle paprika over the top.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours for best flavour, or at least 1 hour before serving. This salad can be made the day before and kept refrigerated.
- * If using new potatoes the skins can be left on after cooking if desired)
- ** Start with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise first, taste, then increase the amount if needed.