When I was a teenager I had a close friend named Don Himes. Don claimed his mother made the best potato salad in the world. Hmm … that was quite a claim. My mother’s potato salad was not to my liking and sure enough one day I went fishing with Don and his parents and his mother brought her potato salad along. Wow! He was right, and to this day I have not tasted any homemade conventional potato salad to rival hers. Thus, I did my best to recreate her potato salad and I think I’m pretty close. You benefit from my experience. The secret is in slightly undercooking the potatoes and having sweet gherkins chopped into the dressing … and mustard totally excluded and no &%^$ hard-boiled eggs.
6, large russet potatoes
1 1/2, cups of diced celery
1 1/2, cups of diced onion
2 tsp. of Celery seed
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups of mayonnaise
1½, tbsp. of Fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. of Rice vinegar for the parboiling
1 tbsp. of Rice vinegar for the potato salad
1 tbsp. of Sea salt for the parboiling
1 tsp. of Sea salt for the potato salad
1 tsp. of Pepper
10, medium size sweet gherkins
3 oz. of sweet gherkin juice
1/3 cup of sweet relish
3 tbsp. of Sugar (amount optional … try 1 tbsp. first and increase as you see fit)
3 hard boiled eggs, chilled (optional, for those who just don’t understand …)
Peel and slice each potato into pieces approximately ¼" thick by ¾" by ¾". Immediately put the pieces into a large pot with water initially at a depth of 4", for as each raw potato is processed it will not be exposed to air/oxygen and the pieces will stay light in color. When all of the potato pieces have been cut and are in the water then pour the contents into a colander, rinse the pot and refill it with fresh water. Add one tbsp. Sea salt to the pot along with 3 tbsp. Vinegar and mix. Rinse the potato pieces in the colander using cold water from the water faucet, then add them to the pot. Cover the pot and cook on high until the water boils. Reduce the heat to a medium simmer and cook the potato slices for five minutes, uncovered.
Test for doneness with a fork. The potatoes should not be soft and mealy, but instead tend towards firmness, yet be readily punctured with a fork. If they are too hard cook one minute longer and test again. When done, immediately put the potatoes into a colander and rinse them thoroughly with cold water. Gently toss the potatoes while the cold water is being sprayed on them. Be sure all potato slices have been cooled. Empty the drained potato slices from the colander into the serving dish you plan to use and cover it with plastic wrap and put it into the refrigerator.
Dice the celery and onion and slice the garlic thinly and put those items into a large bowl. Dice the sweet gherkins and add them to the bowl. Put the mayonnaise into a separate one quart bowl. Then add the fresh lemon juice and the 1 tbsp. of rice vinegar and mix thoroughly with the mayonnaise. Then add the sea salt, pepper and sugar and celery seed if you used it, and again mix thoroughly. Empty the contents into the bowl used for the diced vegetables and mix thoroughly. Taste the sauce and adjust the flavor to please yourself with additional salt, pepper, mayonnaise, vinegar or lemon juice, sugar and/or relish.
Remove the potato pieces from the refrigerator, drain off any water from the bottom of the bowl and gradually and gently add the potato pieces to the mayonnaise mixture and mix gently with each addition until all the potato pieces are completely and evenly coated. At this point the potato salad is finished and it can be put back into the serving bowl, covered and again refrigerated for a few hours to chill it to the proper temperature. It is then ready to serve, but it will actually taste better if prepared one day before it is used.
If you want to use chilled hard boiled eggs in your potato salad then make hard boiled eggs, peel them, chill them and then slice them and put the slices evenly on the top of the finished potato salad. Do this just prior to covering the potato salad for the final chilling. I say, if you want egg salad then make egg salad. If you want potato salad then make potato salad. Avoid confusion.
There are many different ways to make the mayonnaise mixture for potato salad. One of the best tasting versions in my opinion comes from the local delicatessen, and it seems like the only ingredients besides potatoes are mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip®) plus some kind of special vinegar and a very small amount of sugar ... and perhaps some salt. I have not been able to duplicate that taste yet, which I suspect is a matter of type of vinegar. è (I found a recipe for the deli type of potato salad and it is in the New Recipes and Research section of Food Nirvana, waiting to be tested. You may want to try that recipe.) In any event, it is worth your while to experiment with variety and quantity of all ingredients to produce what you believe to be the best potato salad you have ever tasted. To point, we can go through life eating ho-hum food, or, we can really enjoy eating … it is up to each of us to decide if life should be simply okay or great. Be creative.
The true test of flavor for the potato salad is after it has been chilled for 24 hours. At that time when you taste it you know precisely if it is perfect or in need of more of some ingredient(s). If/when you add any ingredient(s) and are pleased with the result be sure to write the change(s) on the paper that contains your basic recipe.