Classic Potato Salad
If you have glanced at your calendar lately, you know that July 4th is right around the corner. But really, whether you are celebrating Independence Day with family and friends, or you have a slew of pot luck dinners and barbecues to attend, potato salad always seems to make its way into the line-up!
As well it should! With the exception of the fact that it has to be kept chilled, it is easily the most popular side with grilled food. It practically begs to be spooned onto a paper plate. I would like you to consider skipping the deli counter to pick up your vat-o-salad, and instead, make this!
I learned how to make potato salad from my parents and have made very few modifications to the recipe over the years. There was no pickle in their version, but my family and I kind of love it this way, so it stays. I was born in the 70’s so yes, my potato salad has the quintessential slices of hardboiled egg sprinkled with paprika. The pictures on this blog show us eating it with dinner (which we did, that wasn’t staged or anything…:) but if I was bringing it as a dish to pass, I would layer egg prettily over the top and dust the whole thing with red. And you know what? It is usually the first thing a guest dips a spoon into. And you know why? Because potato salad is safe. It is safe and expected. Like…Smurfs. Very safe. It rarely contains weird ingredients, and you know that it will at least be passable.
But the thing is…you see…is that I don’t really like passable potato salad. I have had it with hunks of onion in it that were the size of quarters, so dry it was hard to chew, and so bland I could have been eating cardboard salad and not known the difference. Potato salad with so much pickle relish in it that it should have topped a hot dog! And potato salad that was actually sweet! As in, with the addition of sugar! For shame! We’ve all been there and I know that you know what I mean!
Good potato salad is not hard, people! It isn’t complicated or tricky. It has few ingredients and should be straight up, classic, and American. If I could insert a little electronic image of a flag waving in the breeze here and a recording of me singing the National Anthem, I would. You can vary it a little, but potato salad shouldn’t be scary; nor should you have to play ‘guess the ingredient’ when eating it. Just simple. Just basic. Just good.
Classic Potato Salad
There are a few additions that I consider acceptable when making a classic potato salad. Finely diced sweet bell pepper, a small amount of minced onion, and/or a bit of finely diced celery. Anything more than that and you are too far out of ‘classic’ territory and you are into something else entirely. That is fine, just as long as you recognize it as such. This potato salad, for example, isn’t trying to be classic but instead is putting its differences front and center. Bottom line? Classics are that way for a reason, but don’t be afraid to try something new.
3-4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
2 T red wine or apple cider vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4-1 c good mayo
1 T yellow mustard
3 hardboiled eggs, diced, plus more for garnish, if desired
1 T snipped chives
1/4 c minced dill pickle
In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with an inch of water and simmer gently until cooked through and a fork pierces easily, but the potatoes do not fall apart. Drain them gently, splash the vinegar and olive oil evenly over the potatoes, season them with salt and pepper, stir gently, and chill. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! This is what gives all potato salad incredible flavor! You won’t taste the vinegar and oil specifically, but it means the difference between flat, bland potatoes, and a salad that is addictively good! Once chilled, add the rest of the ingredients, stirring carefully so as not to break up the potatoes. If your salad seems a bit dry, add a bit more mayo, or a tiny splash of milk. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with sliced egg and sprinkle with paprika if desired.