February 7, 2011

Potato Salad

Today's post is about the humble potato salad. There are probably more ways to make potato salad than there are varieties of potato, which is saying something, as, according to Wikipedia, there are close to 4000 varieties of spuds.

This post is not for those of you who like an elegant salad, made of new potatoes boiled in their skins until just tender and then lightly dressed and gently tossed, sophisticated enough to sit alongside some cold poached salmon at a luncheon. I know there's a time and place for that kind of potato salad, but since I never serve cold poached salmon, I don't serve that kind of potato salad, either.

I really only serve one kind of potato salad. (Or maybe two, if you count the maharashtrian style potatoes with tomatoes and coconut that I sometimes serve room temperature on Indian buffets. But it's not really a salad, just a cold potato dish. There's a difference. I think.)

I serve a classic style, down home, southern potato salad, chock full of eggs, mustard, and mayo, with a little chopped pickle and some parsley thrown in. And some celery. Or celery seed if you prefer.

The potatoes can be any kind, but I actually like it best with regular whites or russets (though yukons do a fine job, too) because as you toss the salad the potatoes get smushed and their starch bonds with the egg yolk and mayo and mustard and forms this delicious creamy dressing that is close to heaven. This is the potato salad for those who secretly want to eat egg salad by the spoonful, but don't.

It's great at a barbecue, next to hamburgers, on a picnic. Last night I served it alongside NC style chopped barbecue sandwiches with coleslaw. It was perfect.

You can alter this potato salad to suit your tastes. My mother adds sour cream to hers. (You can take the lady out of Hungary, but you can't take the Hungary out of the lady.) I, being from the south, like a little sweetness in mine, so I add half bread and butter pickles and half regular dill pickles. But some people like all sweet pickles and some like all dill. Just don't use relish—it's not as good, unless you're in a total hurry and then it's an acceptable substitute. Also, a little minced sweet onion is a fine addition, but often I'm just too lazy busy to do all that chopping.

Try it. Even if you're not Southern, it will bring you down home.

Potato Salad
3 pounds potatoes, boiled whole in their skins
2 sticks celery, diced, or 1 tsp celery seed
about 1/2 cup sliced pickled, diced
1/4 cup minced parsley
6 diced hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup mayo
1/8 cup mustard
vinegar (any kind but red wine or balsamic)

Boil potatoes until done. Cool slightly, then peel off skins and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss in a large bowl with a couple of tablespoons vinegar and about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Add in celery (or celery seed), pickles, and parlsey and mix. Then mix in mayo and mustard. Mix well, then add diced eggs and mix well again. Egg yolks should sort of mix with the dressing and potatoes should be getting a little smushed.
Now taste. Add more vinegar, salt, pepper, mayo, or mustard as needed. If you like it on the sweet side, you could also add a little sugar. Mix again and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. But don't serve it too cold straight from the fridge. It's best just slightly cooler than room temp.