Growing up, one of our favourite summertime treats was always mom's potato salad. Mom used to make a huge bowl full of it and we would just pig out for days. It was a favourite of all of our friends as well, and always a hit at parties and potlucks.
Potato salad is still one of our favourites every summer, but now I'm the cook. I have never quite managed to get it to taste like mom's, but maybe that's just because everything tastes better when mom makes it.
Step 1: The Recipe
I don't usually measure anything when I make this, but I have done the best I can to figure it out approximately. Of course, everything can be adjusted to suit individual tastes.
2 large potatoes (or 4 small)
3 large hard boiled eggs
3 green onions
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Dill and thyme (optional)
Paprika and fresh parsley (for garnish, optional)
Optional add ins: Celery, green/red pepper, cucumber, grated carrot, green relish, or chopped dill pickle, chopped parsley of other fresh herbs, or.... pretty much anything you like.
The amounts given here will give you approximately 2 cups of salad, which is anywhere from 2-8 servings, depending on how hungry everyone is and how you want to use it, as a side or as a vegetarian main. In the summer months we often just have potato salad for dinner, with a tossed salad and a couple of different kinds of cheese. It makes a nice meal on a hot day.
Step 2: Boil the Potatoes
Wash, peel, chop and boil the potatoes.
Cook for about 15 minutes or until they break apart when poked with a fork.
Drain them and put them back in the hot pot for a bit to make sure they are nice and dry.
Step 3: Boil the Eggs
Put the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil slowly over medium heat. Heating the water too fast may cause your eggs to crack.
Boil for at least 5 minutes to ensure that the eggs will be hard boiled. (Times may vary depending on factors such as the size of the eggs, so adjust accordingly.)
Rinse under cold water and peel. Rinse again to make sure there are no bits of shell on them.
Yolks should be completely cooked and bright yellow.
Step 4: Mash It All Up
Mash your potatoes and eggs and mix them together in a bowl. How much you mash is up to you. I like them just a little chunky.
Step 5: Add Seasonings
Add salt and pepper to taste. I used about 1/4 of a teaspoon for each.
Add any other seasonings you like. I used dill and thyme, both of which go well with eggs and potatoes.
Step 6: Add Onion
According to my mother, green onions are a must have for potato salad. You can substitute any mild flavoured onion if you don't have green onions. Just chop it very finely and be careful not to add too much so it won't be overpowering.
Chop your green onions and add them in, along with whatever else you like. I added some finely chopped celery with mine. Usually I like a little red pepper as well but I didn't have any.
Mix everything well.
Step 7: Add Dressing
Add in about half a cup of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, or whatever dressing you like. My mother always used Miracle Whip, so that is what I use. It was a little dry so I added about 3 more tablespoons.
Mix everything together well, making sure the dressing is spread evenly throughout.
Step 8: Chill, Garnish and Serve
Chill your salad at least an hour or overnight. The longer it sits and chills the better the flavour will be.
Transfer to a clean serving bowl, garnish and serve. You may want to use a fancier serving dish if you have company coming. This was just for our dinner, so I used one of my pink mixing bowls.
Paprika is a traditional garnish for potato salad, though I have no idea why. I asked mom one day when I was little why she put paprika on top and she said "I don't know, I just do". And so I do it too.
You can add a sprig of parsley to make it look pretty. I also have a picture here of my traditional decoration from my childhood, a flower made out of peppers. That was always my job when mom finished making the salad.
Step 9: Tips to Get Everything Just Right
For the potatoes:
When chopping the potatoes, keep the pieces all the same size for even cooking. Smaller pieces will cook faster.
If you are cooking a large quantity or preparing them ahead of time, keep them in a bowl with enough cold water to cover them completely. If they are exposed to the air for too long, they will turn black.
Cover the pot so that the water will boil faster, but remove the lid once it starts boiling so that it doesn't boil over.
For the eggs:
There many opinions about how to boil eggs and this is only my way of doing it.
When they have boiled for the right amount of time, scoop them out, one at a time, with a slotted spoon and rinse them under cold water until just cool enough to touch.
Crack your eggs at the big end. There is a little air pocket there which will help you to start peeling the shell. It should come away easily if you do it quickly, while the egg is still hot.
When mixing the salad:
Always mash your potatoes and eggs first before adding anything else.
Always add your seasonings before the dressing, while the salad is still dry, so that they will mix evenly throughout.
Alternatively, add them to the dressing and blend well before adding to the salad.
If possible, add the dressing while the salad is still warm. The potatoes will absorb the flavour flavour better this way.
And finally, be sure to chill your salad well, preferably overnight, to give it time to develop more flavour. And always keep it well chilled if taking it on a picnic or to a party. Eggs and mayonnaise will both begin to spoil very quickly in the heat.