One of my very favorite things my mom makes is potato salad. I can never get mine to taste just like hers and, it’s funny, she was always trying to get hers to taste like her mom’s. I guess it’s all about what reminds you of childhood picnics and long summer days.
This potato salad isn’t like my grandma’s, which is more like the kind you find at deli counters: hers was all mashed up. This kind is what my mom calls her “gourmet” version (I’m pretty sure there are few gourmet recipes staring mayo though, let’s be honest). The potatoes are solid and don’t fall apart, the ingredients are separate and aren’t hidden in potato, and the sauce is creamy instead of getting totally absorbed. Even self-professed potato salad haters generally love it.
One of the main reasons I’ve had so much trouble re-making my mom’s version is the “recipe”: there is none. It’s not “add a cup of this” or a “Tablespoon of that”. Her instructions are more like, “Throw in some mayo, then add baby jerkin juice until it’s the right consistency. Put mustard in until it’s the right color…” It’s pretty hard to to cook with instructions like that.
But now that I make it, I totally get those instructions. As I was making this for an Independence Day picnic (at my Dad’s request), I tried to measure things out so I could write the ingredients measurements for this blog post. And that didn’t really work. So get ready for a sort-of recipe.
Potatoes. Red or Yellow work best, as you don’t have to skin them (all the good vitamins are in the skin!). I used little red potatoes so I only had to chop them into quarters.
Mayonaise (we like mayo made with olive oil)
Jar of Baby Jerkin Pickles, chopped fine (you’ll use the juice and the pickles) or sweet pickle relish
Chopped hard boiled eggs (We use this method. It’s easier if this step is done several days in advance).
Salt and Pepper
Optional: Thinly sliced red onions, Ranch dressing, sliced green olives
Cut the potatoes into bite sized cubes. Make sure the potatoes are all the same size, so they’ll cook at the same rate.
Put the potatoes in large pot; cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil.
After five minutes, begin checking your potatoes for doneness by poking them with a fork or skewer. Your potatoes are done when there is no resistance all the way through the center.
Drain the potatoes, let them cool to room temperature, then refrigerate them until cooled, about an hour.
Okay, now for the non-measured part. All of the following ingredients are to taste.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the cooled potatoes in mayonaise, mustard, and a bit of the pickle (or relish) juice until coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. You’ll have to do the ratio to taste, but mayo is the main event and the other two ingredients are guest stars.
*I usually have to add a bit more of everything after I’ve added the other ingredients (which is why it’s so hard to measure). I put ranch dressing as an optional ingredient because I ran out of mayo as I was making this and subbed in a bit of ranch. It was really good, I might do it on purpose next time.
Add in the chopped eggs, pickles, and (if you like them, which I don’t) sliced red onions and green olives. Toss until these ingredients are coated. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
Next add smoked paprika. I don’t measure this either; I sprinkle the top lightly and then mix the paprika in.
Taste, decide if you need to add any more of your ingredients, and serve chilled.
I don’t know if any of you can actually make this off of that, but that’s what I do. And that’s why it took me so long to get it right from my mom’s instructions: hah!
I love that I don’t have to cook all of these steps at once. I’m usually making this for a ton of people or a family party, so it’s nice to not have to rush to put it all together before we leave. I can do the eggs the day before, the potatoes the night before, and then jus throw it all together before we leave. It makes things so much less stressful.
Do you have a favorite thing your parents made that you just can’t recreate?