Nothing signals summer like potato salad. A staple for barbecues, summer holidays and family outings, it's the perfect comfort food tempered by its coolness. After tasting my mother's potato salad over July 4 weekend, I became determined to make my own potato salad - my signature version, so to speak.
As it turns out, potato salad is much harder than it looks. Trying to make it your own? Well, there may be more peeling potatoes in my future. I started with the ingredients featured to the left, as well as Martha Stewart and Julia Child ideas floating around my head. I also opted against the vinegar or "German" styles. While I love them, there is something to be said for the cold and creamy taste of classic potato salad.
I used about two pounds of red potatoes, hoping they would stand up to the challenge of being firm (they did). I peeled and covered them with water and set them on the stove to boil, despite Julia Child's instruction to go for simmering. I can't pay attention to the boil/simmer dichotomy, Julia, I'm way too busy with prep.
The majority of my prep was spent on mayo. While I adore my mother's version because it reminds me of her and my family, I am strangely averse to mayonnaise (or miracle whip or anything else like that). However, I've had great homemade mayo at fancy restaurants and loved it, so I thought that might be part of this salad. After looking at several recipes, it appeared Martha's was the easiest, so I went with that. It calls for two eggs, a dash of dry mustard, 1 cup each of light olive and a vegetable oil, 2 tbsp of lemon juice and 1/4 tsp kosher salt. Mixing all of the ingredients together except for the oil, you then add the oil slowly while blending (or whisking, as I did, with an electric whisker). I recommend going light on the salt, or adding it at the end to taste. I also used slightly less oil as I wanted a thicker consistency. I ended up putting in about a teaspoon of sugar to take off the salt edge, but this may have been a misstep. All in all, not bad, not wonderful for my mayo-hating palate. Another key is light olive oil -- I used the good stuff and it overpowers the flavor.
All this whisking made me lose track of the potatoes, which were over-boiling (told 'ya I had no time to monitor). I turned them down and let them go until the fork test said "done, but not crumbly." I drained them, but let them sit about 5 minutes before I remembered my mother's trick of running cold water over them to get them to stop cooking. It works!
And now we come to both the easiest and hardest part: seasoning. I ended up going with chopped mild yellow onion (about 1/4 -1/2 cup), bacon bits (the kind on the jar is better for you, but TRB wisely noted that the freshly made ones may have had more flavor) and chopped chives to taste, with a little light sour cream to even out the mayo tang.
The result? I need to work on the spicing, to bring this up from good potato salad to great, and make the mayo in advance so I'm concentrating on the potatoes and bringing everything together. I'm also thinking of using real bacon freshly cooked and browned onion bits versus raw. Any other advice is always welcome, as I'm hoping to perfect the recipe.
Perfection aside, I'd like to think it still fits well into this tailgating meal. Beer, a Phillies win, and fireworks are all good accompaniments, I might add.