Recipe--World's Best Potato SaladWell, I see it's been more than 6 months since I posted on this here blog, so I guess it is safe to say that I've been ignoring it! Sorry, blog. I'll try not to do that again.
My daughter (who is in college and comes home on the weekends) asked me if I would make a batch of potato salad. She loves my potato salad and has been craving it lately. I told her I would make it if she would help, and she did! (Well, she left when it was time to clean up, but she had a dinner date.)
I've been making potato salad so long, that I can make it without a written recipe. I've refined the recipe through years of trial and error. While it was fresh on my mind after just making a batch, I thought I would write it all down and share it with you.
As soon as it was done, my daughter ate a few bites and waxed rhapsodic about it (yes, rhapsodic is a word--look it up). Then she said, "I may be biased because I'm your offspring, but I think you make the best potato salad in the world." So that is what I named this recipe--World's Best Potato Salad. Your mileage may vary, but let me know what you think.
World’s Best Potato Salad
This is a southern potato salad. It’s chunky and not very mustard-y. It is served cold or at room temperature. I grew up eating potato salad and learned to make it from both my mom and my dad. Their potato salads were great, but I think mine is the best! I’ve refined my recipe over the years, and there is a little flexibility in the recipe, too, if you want to vary the taste a little.
When I write down a recipe, I always go into lots of detail about technique and specific ingredients. That way, you can duplicate my results. So much of becoming a good cook is learning through trial and error and finding what works best, so I’ll just save you a little trial and error!
This recipe makes about 2 quarts of potato salad. You can halve the recipe, double it, or even quadruple it. It comes out great any way.
2 ½ pounds of russet or Idaho potatoes. (You can use golden potatoes, or red potatoes, or any other kind you like. I like the texture of these potatoes, but your dish will be good with any kind.)
6 eggs (If you are vegan, you can omit the eggs and it will still be good.)
½ yellow onion (You can use red or purple onion if you like—I don’t like white onions for this because they are a little to onion-y, if you know what I mean.)
1 large stalk of celery (or 2 small stalks) (Whatever you do, do not cut off and throw away the celery leaves! Those things are delicious and add extra flavor. Chop them up fine when you chop up the celery.)
About 3 tablespoons of either dill pickle relish or chopped dill pickles. (Some people like sweet relish or pickles in their potato salad—you can substitute that if you like.)
¾ cup of mayonnaise (I use plain-old Helmann’s mayo. You can use Miracle Whip if you prefer that taste. Using low fat mayo or olive oil mayo will change the taste, but, hey, go ahead and experiment! Vegan’s can substitute vegan mayo for this ingredient and leave out the next one.)
½ cup of sour cream (You can use low fat sour cream—you will never taste the difference. This is one of my secret ingredients. I think it adds just a little tartness and lightens up the dish.)
2-3 tablespoons of mustard (I use Dijon mustard. You can use whatever kind you like or have on hand—yellow mustard, spicy mustard, brown mustard—it’s all good.)
Zest from ½ lemon (Another secret ingredient! Lemon zest adds brightness to the flavors without giving it a distinctly lemony taste. I use a micro-planer to zest my lemon. The fine side of the cheese grater works okay, but the zest all seems to stick to the grater and you have to scrape it off. )
1 tsp salt (I usually use Seasoned Salt, but regular salt is fine.)
½ tsp pepper (black or white)
½ tsp celery salt (Another of my secret ingredients—try not to leave this out, it really punches up the flavor.)
½ tsp paprika and more for garnish if you like
1 tsp dill weed (Fresh chopped dill is best, but if you don’t have it, you can leave it out.)
Optional Ingredients: ¼ tsp garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of chopped pimentos for color
Scrub the potatoes and put them in a big pot, cover with water and put them on to boil. I don’t time the boiling. I just keep checking the potatoes with a knife or fork every few minutes to see when they are tender. When a knife or fork goes in to the center of the potato without much resistance, they are done. Immediately drain them and leave them in the colander or sink to cool a little. (Some people peel and chop their potatoes before boiling. They will cook much faster this way, but I find that they tend to become overcooked too easily. You want your chunks of potato to hold together when mixed into the salad, not to turn into mush. If you like your potato salad with the potatoes mashed, then go ahead and peel and chop before you boil.)
At the same time, put the eggs in a separate pot from the potatoes and cover them with cold water. Put them on the burner on high heat and watch closely. When the eggs just barely come to a boil, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the eggs sit in the hot water until the potatoes are done (or about 15 minutes). (I also put about 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the water at the start—it supposedly helps make them easier to peel. I’m not really sure if that is true.) Drain the eggs and return them to the pot with some ice and cold water the help them cool down.
While your potatoes and eggs are cooking, dice the onion, celery and pickles into a fine dice. You could use the food processor for the onions and celery if you like, but don’t process them too much. I prefer just to chop with a knife. It doesn’t take that long. Put the chopped veggies in a medium sized bowl. Add to the bowl all the rest of the ingredients. Mix the veggies, condiments and spices well. At this point, I always taste the mixture to see if it needs something else (like more salt or pickles or fairy dust).
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them. You can scrape the peels off easily with a paring knife—no need to use a potato peeler. Don’t worry if there are few scraps of peel still on the potatoes. (Some people leave the peels on. I do that if I’m using a potato with a very thin skin, like red or golden potatoes. I don’t like the texture of the thicker skins, so I take them off—again, do what you like.)
Dice the potatoes into about ½ inch dice. This give you a nice chunk of potato that you can tell you are biting into. Too large and the flavors of the dressing don’t permeate the potato. Too small and you’re back to the mashed potato salad (which is fine if that is what you like).
When the eggs are cool, peel them and dice them into about ¼ inch dice. The small dice allows the eggs to be incorporated throughout the salad so you get some in every bite.
Place the diced potatoes and eggs in a very large bowl and toss them together. Then pour the dressing mixture over all and stir gently with a large spoon until everything is mixed evenly. I find it is much easier to mix the potato salad and not break up the potatoes and eggs too much if you mix all the veggies, condiments and spices together first like I described here.
If you want a pretty presentation, press the potato salad into a nice dish and top with sliced boiled eggs (you will need to boil a few extra if you do this) and sprinkle with paprika. This is how my mom always made it!