Classic Potato Salad. Creamy with mayonnaise, tangy with mustard, crunchy with celery and onion, and with a surprise of green olives, this is a classic old-fashioned potato salad recipe.
Before we get to this classic potato salad recipe, let’s talk taters and some tater facts. Remember when our teachers used to encourage us to be stupid by saying “There are no stupid questions!” So here’s my stupid question, Where are Idaho Potatoes Grown?”
I bought this bag of potatoes at Costco. It reads “Idaho Potatoes, Product of USA”. These beautiful potatoes are just a tad larger than fingerlings, and with their perfect rosy complexion appear as just harvested new potatoes. Just like the ones we clamor for in early summer.
But wait a minute! Isn’t Idaho potato harvest in late summer??? It’s March.
The first question that came to mind was “Can Idaho Potatoes be grown in warmer climate states and still carry the Idaho Potato logo?” If not, have these little beauties been in some sort of high-tech cold storage all this time? I assume the later, and impressed with whoever and whatever preserved these little guys, considering installing a unit in my home and I’ll sit around in it!
Back to this purchase. These potatoes seem perfect. Ruby Red on the outside with buttery gold flesh inside they are creamy, sweet, tender and a rare treat any time of year. I’ve never had them before and where ever they’ve been hiding, I want them year ’round. If you see a bag, I highly suggest you grab it and give them a try.
So with all that said, let’s talk potato salad.
When I think of potato salad, I think “All-American…summer…picnics…back yard BBQ’s…” But is Potato Salad really All-American? From what I read on a Google search, our cold mayonnaise based version was surely inspired by German immigrants who served theirs warm and with vinegar.
Our version, a creamy sauce wrapped around a dependable American potato just can’t be beat.
What’s the secret to a great potato salad? It’s all in the potato you choose and how you boil them.
- Red-skined potatoes! About 8 medium-sized, all consistent in size. Use red-skinned potatoes because they are lower in starch so they hold their shape better. And higher in sugar, they make a better tasting potato salad.
- Rinse potatoes and cut out any unsightly spots. Do not peel.
- And there’s a right way to boil a potato. Place un-peeled potatoes in a large kettle and cover them with cold water. Enough water just to cover the potatoes.
- Slowly bring to a good simmer. Add about a 1/2 cup salt. Don’t let them come to a hard boil. We don’t want them bouncing and bumping all over the place, just a good simmer. Watch them closely. If you cook them too long, you’ll have mashed potatoes when you mix the salad, not enough and you’ve got that raw potato taste.
- To know they’re done, insert a sharp knife into one of the potatoes. When it slides out easily and feels tender. The potatoes are done enough for potato salad.
- Remember, when you drain them in the colander, they’re so hot, they’ll continue to cook for a few minutes more.
- Meanwhile, chop your vegetables. I use about 1/2 cup of sweet or green onion, 2 – 3 stalks of chopped celery, thin sliced pimento-stuffed green olives and some chopped bacon. Place them in a large bowl.
- When potatoes are cooked perfectly, drain them in a colander. Here’s where you can decide to leave skins on or off. The skins will peel off easily since they’re cooked.
- With a sharp knife very coarsly chunk them while they’re sitting in the colander.
- Pour steaming chunks of potatoes over the bowl of chopped vegetables and let sit for about 5 minutes before stirring. I like to do this to steam the vegetables and let the flavors marry a little bit.
- Top with 1/2 cup mayonnaise and a tablespoon or more of mustard. This all depends on your taste preference. With a large spoon gently fold the potato salad together. At this time I start adjusting the flavors, adding more mustard and mayo, if needed, for both texture and flavor.
- Remember, the potatoes were boiled in some salty water. Taste before adding salt and pepper.
- Top with sliced hard boiled egg if you’d like. Remember, those eggs will slice cleaner if they’ve been sitting in the refrigerator for a couple of hours after boiling.
- Refrigerate until serving time.
Classic Potato Salad … It’s What’s for a Side Dish.
Varieties: Potatoes with a high starch content, like russets, bake well and yield light and fluffy mashed potatoes. Those with a low starch content, like red-skinned potatoes, hold their shape after cooking, and are great for making potato salads and scalloped potatoes. Medium starch potatoes are called all-purpose potatoes, and they’ll work in most potato dishes.
- Best for baking: Russet potato
- Best for potato salads, gratins, and scalloped potatoes: Yellow Finn potatoes, new potatoes, red-skinned potatoes, white round potatoes, and purple potatoes
- Best for mashing: Russet potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes, Caribe potatoes, and purple potatoes
- Best for soups and chowders: Yukon gold potatoes, Yellow Finn potatoes, red-skinned potatoes, white round potatoes, and purple potatoes
- Best for pan-frying: Red-skinned potatoes, white round potatoes, new potatoes, and fingerling potatoes
- Best for French fries: Russet potatoes, purple potatoes, Bintje potatoes
- Best for purees: Fingerling potatoes
- Best for roasting: New potatoes, Bintje potatoes
- Best for steaming: New potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes
- Best for potato pancakes: Russet potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes