When I was growing up I never liked potato salad. I couldn’t figure it out because I loved potatoes made every other way. Being Irish, they are my favorite food group, LOL! It wasn’t until I was in college and visiting a friend’s house that I discovered how much I had been missing.
Joyce’s mother made us potato salad and I fell in love! It was so simple and easy to make, and SO much better than any store-bought versions I had tried. Not too heavily dressed with a simple mayo/mustard/pickle juice sauce poured over perfectly boiled potatoes (in their jackets!). I begged her to make it for me every time I visited, and it became a joke that she had to stock up on potatoes the moment she heard I was coming to see her daughter.
Eventually she shared her secrets and I learned to make it for myself. And no surprise, it became one of my most requested dishes. Aspects have changed over the years, I have added a few more ingredients, but the foundation is the same. And still just as delicious!
There is something very comforting about potato salad – maybe it is the memories of warm summer days, picnics at the beach, barbecues, and softball games with friends. I make a lot of different types of potato salad but this is the one I keep coming back to and the one I always serve at my barbecues.
If you don’t like mayonnaise or are afraid of it spoiling on a hot day, you can also use a simple vinaigrette or Italian dressing on this salad. In that case, leave out the pickles and add some bell peppers to the celery and onions. If you wanted you could even add some chopped salami for an Italian twist! Any way you make it, I know your family and friends will love it.
Adding just a little vinegar helps cut the fat of the mayonnaise and takes the flavor somewhere between an old-fashioned and German potato salad. For a little extra color, and to follow in my mom’s footsteps, I added a sprinkle of paprika over the top. Old habits … 🙂
Potato salad needs to be kept cold for safety reasons. If you are planning on serving it at a barbecue or picnic, place it in a serving bowl and take along a bowl big enough for the serving bowl to fit inside – a wide shallow bowl would be perfect. When you get to your destination, place some ice in the large bowl, nestle the serving bowl in the ice, and add more ice around the edges. This will keep your salad nice and cold, no matter how long it sits out. Replenish ice as needed.
While I can eat the entire huge bowl of this salad, I know most people consider it a side dish to the entrée of grilled meats or poultry. Personally I would be happy with this salad as my main course. Yep, I am most definitely of Irish descent and I have a feeling Darby McCarty would be proud! (Yes, that’s a real person, my 7th Great Grandfather from Tyrone, Ireland in the 1600s.)
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you want a more colorful salad, use red onions in place of half the green onions and add about 3 tbsp very finely chopped red or orange bell peppers.
This recipe is naturally gluten-free!
Kitchen Skill: Speed Up Your Celery Chopping
This may seem silly, but there really is a quicker way to chop celery. Trim the ends off the celery stalks and cut them lengthwise into three long strips. Cut them crosswise in half and then pile all 6 pieces up, lining up the ends and chop crosswise with a sharp knife. This creates perfectly sized pieces with the fewest cuts.
- Potato Salad
- 4 extra large Russet potatoes or 7 medium-sized
- 2 to 3 green onions, trimmed and finely sliced
- 2 celery stalks, trimmed, stalks finely chopped; see Note above
- 3 tbsp sweet pickle relish
- Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (use one without eggs for a vegan version)
- 1 tbsp champagne or sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp agave syrup or light maple syrup
- 2 tsp prepared yellow or spicy brown mustard
- Juice from the pickle relish, as desired
- Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Cook the Potatoes: In a large stockpot or saucepan, filled with cool water and 1 tbsp salt, add the potatoes (unpeeled and whole) and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the potatoes at a low boil until a knife inserted in them slides in and out with very little resistance. Remove the potatoes as they are done with a slotted spoon, setting them aside to cool. This usually takes about 15 minutes; larger potatoes will take longer.
- Assemble the Salad: When they are cool enough to handle, use a knife to pull the peels off and then cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Place the potato chunks in a large mixing bowl. Add the green onions, celery, pickle relish, salt and pepper. Gently toss together to distribute the ingredients evenly.
- Make the Dressing: In a small bowl, combined the mayonnaise, vinegar, agave, mustard, and about 1 tsp of the pickle juice. Whisk until smooth and if you need it thinner, add a little more pickle juice. Add salt and pepper, whisk together, taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Dressing the Salad: Pour about half the dressing over the potatoes and toss to coat. Add as much more of the sauce as you like. Some people like a "wetter" potato salad, others prefer a dryer version. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Transfer to your serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Keep in the refrigerator until about 15 minutes before serving. Can be made up to two days ahead. When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with a few green onions for garnish.
- Yield: about 6 servings
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