I really should have called this accidental potato salad, because how I came to make it and have it come out almost as good as my mother’s was completely by accident. Potato salad had always been on the short list of foods I love to eat but was not so enthusiastic about making. The only explanation I have for not making potato salad as often as I should is because I never know which kind of potato to use. In a regular supermarket alone you can find five or six different varieties-red bliss, new, Yukon gold, russet, all-purpose. Complicating matters more is that not only are there different varieties but those varieties are categorized between waxy and starchy. That’s a lot to remember when all I want to do is make a simple side dish. Furthermore, I don’t ever remember my mom having this dilemma. I know for a fact that she never spent one second obsessing over whether she should use fingerlings or red bliss potatoes in her salad. She used whatever potato was in the local supermarket and her potato salad was always perfect.
When I made my first potato salad I became further confused by all the contradicting recipes; always use starchy potatoes: never use starchy potatoes only waxy will do; peel the potatoes before boiling; never peel the potatoes before boiling lest you desire water-logged potatoes and on and on. Let me explain something about myself. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and have a tendency to become overly involved in the simplest of tasks. Sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes it’s not so good.
Take for instance an obsession I have with trying to make the best ever bread pudding. I cannot make a decent bread pudding to this day. It will curdle and weep watery yucky stuff no matter what I do. So perplexed by this I began to research this phenomena (and research ) and today I can tell you all about the breakdown in protein from overcooking eggs and what eggs are composed of that makes them do this but I still cannot make a decent bread pudding. Or another time when I made what had to be the worlds most expensive tiramisu. I couldn’t understand why my mascarpone cheese kept getting lumpy. I had to keep throwing the lumpy mess in the garbage and going back to the store to purchase more cheese. Mascarpone cheese is (ahem) quite expensive and I made (ahem) many trips to the grocery store. Finally, after some (more) research I found out that mascarpone cheese becomes lumpy if stirred too much. Good to know. And now I make a pretty decent tiramisu.
You see, I just don’t know how to let things go and I did not want to become obsessed with another recipe and the reasons why it didn’t quite work out for me.
A few Sundays ago I made oven ribs and I wanted to serve a classic side dish to go along with them-potato salad. I went to the grocery store grabbed a bag of Yukon gold potatoes came home cooked them and threw things together for a dressing and amazingly enough I had a pretty decent potato salad. It’s only flaw was that I had cut the cubes of potato too big and because Yukon’s hold their shape pretty well the chunks were too large in the salad. So as I was folding the dressing into the potatoes I used the side of the spoon to break the larger chunks into smaller pieces. As I was doing this I realized I was crumbling and unintentionally mashing some of the potatoes. But I liked the way this looked and the mashed potatoes made the dressing even creamier. The result was a combination of chunky and mashed potatoes and a potato salad that had character and was quite good. The mashed portion of the potatoes incorporated in the dressing and flavored it nicely. This was an easy and delicious potato salad and best of all no obsessive researching was required.
I am very excited to have a potato salad recipe that I can throw together in a flash and look forward to making lots of this summer. Happy Memorial Day, Kat.
Recipe: just like moms potato salad
Note: I used Yukon gold potatoes. Russet potatoes can be found in every grocery store. You may use whichever of these you like.
2 pounds (3-4 medium-sized) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 medium celery stalk, chopped fine
2 tablespoons minced onion
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish ( I like Heinz in the squeeze bottle)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon yellow prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon or to taste ground black pepper
2 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled and finely chopped
Make the dressing by combining mayonnaise, celery, onion,pickle relish, mustard, black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and chopped eggs. Using a rubber spatula mix until ingredients well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and chill in refrigerator at least 1 hour.
Place potatoes in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon salt, reduce heat to medium and, simmer about 8 minutes, stirring once or twice.
When potatoes are done drain and transfer to large bowl. Let potatoes cool a bit and while still warm add dressing. Using a rubber spatula gently fold dressing into potatoes.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled about 1 hour. Serves 4-6