Sunday, July 19, 2020

Mom’s Potato Salad

Bowl of potato salad

Recipe by Mom

It’s been more years than I’ll admit since I helped my mom make potato salad. And yet, I’ve never made it at all since I left home decades ago—until now. The secret of Mom’s potato salad is that the potatoes themselves are highly flavored. This eliminates the need to flavor-compensate with seasonings like mustard, dill seed, and pickle relish.  The potatoes themselves are the stars of the salad, complimented by a large quantity of eggs, a variety of finely chopped crunchy veggies, and of course mayo.

Serving bowl of mom's potato salad
The first secret to the potatoes’ yumminess is simmering them in their skins. Not only are the potatoes easier to peel, they also gain extra flavor from the skin while cooking. Scrub them thoroughly beforehand, and cut the larger ones in half or quarters. Second potato flavor secret: salt the simmering water heartily. The potatoes will absorb just the right amount. Third secret: after peeling and cutting the potatoes, splash them with apple cider vinegar while they’re still warm. Give them a toss and you’ve got a tasty batch of potatoes to start your salad.

Feel free to change up the quantities, depending on what’s on hand. Crunchy veggies can vary in quantity, proportion, and type. Celery is classic, but Mom always added green bell pepper for some bittersweet snap. Green or red onions work great, and are my preference, though Mom used white. Carrot curls add color and sweetness and are decidedly kid friendly—judging from my own youthful experiences. Add as many of these ingredients as you like. 

Finally, the mayo. We always said that it has to be Hellman’s (east coast) or Best Foods (west coast) to really recreate Mom’s salads. But oddly enough, Trader Joe’s makes a fine substitute. Times have changed since the 1960s. Add comfort and liveliness to your shelter-in-place summer by putting Mom’s potato salad on your next family BBQ menu. 

mom's potato salad served on romaine
Serve on Lettuce for More Veggie Power
Mom’s Potato Salad
serves ~8-10

2.5 lbs. potatoes
1 tbsp. salt
5 eggs
3 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 cup thinly sliced celery
½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped green onions
½ cup packed carrot curls
1 small white or red onion
1¼ - 1½ cup Hellman’s mayo
Lettuce leaves, optional for serving
Parsley leaves, optional for garnish
Fresh ground black pepper

Scrub potatoes and cut large ones in half or quarters. Don’t peel. Place in pot and cover with about 1.5 inches of water. Bring to boil. Add salt. Turn down to simmer. Cook until soft but not squishy, about 15 – 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, hard-cook the eggs for 10 - 12 minutes. Drain and plunge eggs into cold water and crack the shells. Peel as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. Refrigerate till cool.
When potatoes are done, drain and plunge into cold water. Peel as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. Then cut into approximately ¾ inch chunks and put in large mixing bowl. While still warm, toss potato chunks thoroughly with cider vinegar. Refrigerate till cool. 

Thinly slice ½ - 1 small onion, and cut slices in half. 

Chop the eggs coarsely and add to the potatoes. Add the celery, bell pepper, green onions, and carrot curls, reserving a few carrots for the top. You can add the sliced onion or serve it on the side. Toss salad thoroughly.

Add the mayonnaise and toss until everything looks uniformly coated.
Turn out salad into serving bowl, or onto a platter lined with lettuce leaves. Top with reserved carrot curls and fresh ground black pepper, and parsley leaves if desired.

Boiled potatoes in colander
It's All About Potatoes
Cut up potatoes in bowl
Cut Potatoes into Substantial Chunks
Potatoes in bowl with carrots, eggs, bell pepper, celery, onion
Next, Add Crunchy Veg
Mixing mayonnaise into salad
Then Add the Mayo
Serving bowl of potato salad with parsley garnish
Voila! A Bit of Black Pepper, and It's Summer Perfection

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