Potato salad is not high on my list of favorite things to eat or make. It’s pretty easy to screw up and I’ve had plenty of bad potato salads, most of which I’ve made. I hate the kind that are drenched in runny mayo. I’m also not too fond of the kind with the half-cooked potatoes. It’s a little weird to bite into a piece of potato that has the consistency of an apple. Some people use potato salad as a culinary dumping ground by adding in weird and random ingredients. I think grocery store delis employ this method because I’ve seen some pretty funky looking potato salads in the deli case.
So I suprised myself when I told Jeremy that I would bring a potato salad to their barbeque. I hadn’t made a potato salad in a very long time, so it was an odd choice. I could have offered to make pasta salad or tomato salad or any other kind of salad, but, no, I offered to make potato salad and there was no choice but to move forward with it.
If you are like me, wary of potato salad, try incorporating the following tips the next time you make it. Just so you know, in case you hadn’t already guessed, I’m no expert– I’m just pretending to be one while writing this post.
Tip #1: Properly Cook the Potatoes
I was worried about cooking the potatoes because my last potato adventure (oven roasted potatoes on Easter) resulted in the crunchy, apple-like texture. I didn’t want crunchy potatoes in my salad, but I also wanted to avoid mushy potatoes. This time I tested them often while they were boiling. I knew they were done when I was able to easily insert the fork, without a lot of pressure, and the potato piece still stayed together.
Tip #2: Avoid Runny Mayo
Just like your nose, mayo should not be runny. Adding mayo to something hot causes it to break down and become runny. In the case of potato salad, be sure to chill the potatoes before adding the mayo. I learned this tip from Aaron McCargo, Jr. on Food Network. Thanks, Aaron!
Tip #3: Keep it Simple
When left to my own devices I sometimes have a tendency to go overboard with ingredients. “A little bit of this and a little bit of that” is not always a good thing. For this salad I wanted to keep it simple, but also use what I already had at home because there was no time to go to the store. Luckily, I didn’t have much on hand, so keeping it basic wasn’t that hard. Some onion and celery for crunch, lemon and fresh thyme to brighten the flavor, simple salt and pepper to season it, and some apple cider vinegar to add some tartness.
Tip #4 Use Quality Mayo
Using a good quality mayo makes a huge difference in potato salad. I didn’t have enough jarred mayo on hand so I decided to make my own, which was suprisingly easy. I created my mayo using the guidelines from the book “Ratio” by Michael Ruhlman. If you are afraid of raw eggs you might want to avoid this step. Also, I was sure to let Jeremy and Kelly know, right before they took a bite, that the mayo had raw eggs. I wanted to make sure they made an informed decision before eating it. They enjoy living on the edge when it comes to eggs and, as of this writing, no one has gotten sick. I, too, am not afraid of raw eggs as long as I know that the product is fresh.
There is something special about homemade mayo. The texture is velvety and the taste is amazing– rich and creamy. It took my potato salad to a different level, so if you’re feeling adventurous I have included the recipe at the end of this post. I understand if you’re not, so feel free to use jarred mayo in it’s place. Word to the wise: always, always keep mayo-based salads chilled until you serve it and don’t leave it sitting out for very long. Safety first, people!
Tip #5: Don’t Eat the Whole Bowl by Yourself
Homemade mayo is full of fat, but in my opinion, well worth the indulgence on special occasions. It’s a whole lot richer than the jarred variety so a little bit goes a long way. Just don’t eat the entire bowl and you should be fine. If you do happen to eat the whole bowl I recommend working out the next day using Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred.
My lessons from previous mistakes and “keep it simple” philosophy resulted in a pretty good potato salad. I don’t enjoy admitting when I’m wrong, but I might have been wrong about potato salad. It’s up for debate, but I really don’t want to think about it anymore.
1 lb new potatoes, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise*
3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring pot to a boil and cook potatoes until fork tender, approximately 10-15 minutes (depending on how big your pieces are cooking time may vary). Drain and place in large mixing bowl and chill in the refridgerator. Wisk the apple cider vinegar with the mayo. Stir in the thyme and set aside. Combine the onion, celery, and parsely with the potatoes. Add the mayo and mix until thoroughly combined. Store in the refridgerator for at least an hour before serving.
Yield: 1 cup
You can make this using a wisk, food processor, blender or immersion blender.
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
In a small bowl wisk together the yolks, lemon juice, water and salt until combined. Add in a small amount of the oil (no more than 3 or 4 drops) and wisk the mixture until the mixture starts to thicken (known as “emulsify”). Add in the remaining oil, using a slow steady stream, while continously wisking. Continue wisking until the mixture is thickened. Store, tightly covered, in the refridgerator for up to a week.