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Monday, May 20

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I love potatoes. Love'em. Boiled, mashed, fried, baked, hot and cold. I could go all Forrest Gump over potatoes. But for now I'll focus on America's favorite summertime potato dish: potato salad.

Or is it American? There is written history of potato salad going all the way back to 1597. And a variety of recipes can be traced back to the last half of the 1800s. It can't be traced specifically to one region. But it isn't American, even though we rate it with hot dogs and apple pie as an American staple. Regional European differences account for the wide variety of ingredients and techniques used in potato salads.

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, there will be plenty of opportunities to prove those tubs of grocery store potato salad as the inferior party guest. And while potato salad does involve cooking, it is very minimal cooking. For the most part, only the ability to boil water is needed. Ingredients are added and can be tasted quickly and easily adjusted as needed. And since potato salad is such a common dish, it's easy for even the introductory cook to know what to add to make a dish taste as desired.

One of the hardest parts of making potato salad is knowing how much to make. In my past, when I actually followed recipes, I remember making potato salad and realizing I had enough potato salad for 20 people, but there were only five of us eating it, which resulted in a lot of leftovers. Leftovers that were unwanted after a while. So to help save you from the same fate, here is a pretty simple rule of thumb. One medium-sized potato per person. That potato will get you about 3/4 of a cup of cubed potato which will weigh about 1/3 of a pound. So with that information, you should be able to figure out how many servings your recipe will provide to you, even if it doesn't say so. All of today's recipes will serve four or five people and they can easily be scaled by simply doubling or tripling the recipe.

The most common types of potato salad are mayonnaise based, mustard based and hot German style. I'll give you instructions for making those as well as a few others that are a little different and sure to be a hit as well.

Mayonnaise Based Potato Salad
4 cups of cubed potatoes (about 5-6 medium potatoes)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
2 stalks of chopped celery
1 small chopped yellow onion

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and salt to the water. Watch to be sure that the water doesn't boil over. Let the potatoes cook for about 5-7 minutes until a fork can easily pierce the potato. Strain the potatoes and let them cool. Pour the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper, celery and onion in a small bowl and pour it over the potatoes. Stir gently till evenly coated and refrigerate for at least 2 or 3 hours or preferably overnight to let the flavors blend. Leftovers will last for about a week in the refrigerator.

Mustard Based Potato Salad
4 eggs
4 cups of cubed potatoes (about 5-6 medium potatoes)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 medium sized sweet onion
2 stalks of chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon of celery salt
1/4 cup of sweet pickle relish
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup of mustard
1 tablespoon of either cider vinegar or pickle juice
Hungarian paprika

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Once it reaches boiling, turn the heat off and let it set on the burner. Use a spoon to place the eggs in the water and cover it with a lid. Let it sit for 15 minutes before removing the eggs and placing them in a bowl of ice water. Let them sit for a few minutes before peeling them and then chopping them. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and salt to the water. Watch to be sure that the water doesn't boil over. Let the potatoes cook for about 5-7 minutes until a fork can easily pierce the potato. Strain the potatoes and let them cool. Dump them into a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the onion, celery, celery salt, pickle relish, pepper, mayonnaise and mustard. Pour over the potatoes, add the eggs and stir to combine. Once everything is coated, sprinkle the top with paprika and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours or preferably overnight to let the flavors meld. Leftovers will last for about a week in the refrigerator.

Hot German Potato Salad
4 cups of chopped potatoes (about 5-6 medium-sized potatoes)
1 teaspoon of salt
8 slices of bacon
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
3 tablespoons of flour
1 small diced onion
2/3 cup of cider vinegar
2/3 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
4 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of powdered mustard
1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and salt to the water. Watch to be sure that the water doesn't boil over. Let the potatoes cook for about 5-7 minutes until a fork can easily pierce the potato. Strain the potatoes. Pour the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. In a skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon slices until the bacon is crispy. Remove the cooked bacon and drain all but one teaspoon of bacon fat from the skillet. Add the vegetable oil to the skillet. Sprinkle the flour and chopped onion into the skillet. Let it cook for about 3-5 minutes until the onion is just softened. Stir in the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices. Cook until the liquid is slightly thickened. Add the bacon and parsley to the skillet and stir quickly to combine. Pour over the potatoes and stir gently to prevent mashing the potatoes. Serve while warm. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for several days and reheated before serving.

French Potato Salad
18 small red potatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 medium clove of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
2 minced shallots
1 tablespoon of fresh chervil or tarragon
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley

Scrub the potatoes clean and slice them in quarter-inch thick slice. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and salt to the water. Watch to be sure that the water doesn't boil over. Let the potatoes cook for about 5-7 minutes until a knife can easily pierce the potato. Reserve 1/4 cup of water from the pot of potato water. Remove the potatoes from the water and spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Combine the garlic, reserved cooking water, vinegar, mustard, oil and pepper together in a small bowl. Pour the liquid over the potatoes and let it sit for about 10 minutes so the potatoes will soak up most of the liquid. Move the potatoes to a bowl and sprinkle with the shallots and herbs and serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated for about a week.

Vegetable Potato Salad
4 cups of chopped potatoes
2 stalks of chopped celery
2 chopped scallions
1/2 of a chopped red bell pepper
1/2 of a chopped green bell pepper
1 small chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of coarse ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill
1 chopped hard boiled egg

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and salt to the water. Watch to be sure that the water doesn't boil over. Let the potatoes cook for about 5-7 minutes until a fork can easily pierce the potato. Strain the potatoes and let them cool. Pour the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients, except for the egg, in a small bowl and stir to combine. Pour this over the potatoes and stir gently to prevent them from smashing. Sprinkle the hard-boiled egg over the top and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.

Hopefully one of these five potato salads will accompany you to a barbecue or picnic this summer. If you have a potato salad you would like to share, feel free to do so in the comments. I'll be longing for cool weather soon, but for now I'm delighted by the future meals I'll get to eat outside.

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Comments

amy / May 21, 2007 5:10 PM

Mmm. These all sound delicious.

Just curious though when making potato salad, do you prefer to peel your potatoes or not?

Cinnamon / May 21, 2007 5:15 PM

I prefer to keep the peel on. It's the healthiest part of the potato after all, no? If you don't want to eat the peel, boil the potatoes whole, for about 20 minutes. Let them cool to the touch, and then pick them up with a tea towel and rub them. All the skin, and just the skin, will come off. Saving you gobs of peeling time. There are special gloves that do this, but why bother?

And a reader named Michelle sent a link to her sister's favorite potato salad. Blue cheesy goodness!

Ray / May 22, 2007 3:59 PM

I have a couple of variations for you. I have been making my mother's mayo potato salad for years. It is essentially your mayo recipe, minus the vinegar and sugar, plus one chopped hard boiled egg for each potato, and a finely chopped dill pickle. My own addition to it is a couple of finely minced cloves of garlic...yum.

A few weeks ago, I ate at Dodo for the first time, and their curry-dill egg salad rocked my world. A curry-dill mayo potato salad sure sounds good to me. I plan to try it soon!

bean / May 25, 2007 12:02 PM

on the peeling of potatoes:
Whenever I make baked potatoes I oil and season them well because I love to munch on the crispy skin that results. I recently heard that you'd only want to eat the skin if the potatoes were grown organically, as otherwise, you're ingesting nasty chemicals.

What do you think? Any truth?

 

About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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