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May 18, 2007 12:39 PM

Want rec. for cajun potato salad

In 1970 when we moved to Houston, Tx., we had some neighbors who were cajun. She made this potato salad, and would bring me a bowl of it whenever she made it. It was always still warm, and had the look of mashed potatoes, but very yellow, yet no mustard taste, and lots of ground black pepper. There were no chunks of onions, or anything else. It wasn't as smooth as you would make your mashed potatoes, but not really chunky. I have tried to duplicate this and have failed. Does anyone have a clue as to what this dish was? Maybe the yellow was from eggs, but there were no pieces of egg whites that you could see.

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  1. You've probably already done this--but how about trying Epicurious to see if they have anything. If not, try to e-mail Emeril. There must be a way to reach him through the Food Network website. Or try to contact Paul Prudhomme through his website.

    1. I checked some of my old Louisiana cookbooks and the one thing that some of the potato salad recipes had was a surprising amount of yellow mustard. Many were standard recipes with nothing else that could have accounted for a yellow color.
      The ones that had mustard were from the old cooks like Austin Leslie of Chez Helene and Charles Kirkland of Broussard's, part of an elite group of black chefs who made New Orleans' Creole cuisine famous long before Prudhomme was out of short pants and Emeril had found his way South from Massachusetts. Prudhomme does use a small amount of mustard in his potato salad recipe as does Alex Patout.
      Leslie and Kirkland used Idaho potatoes which they boiled for at least 1/2 hour or until the skins broke which would account for your neighbor's almost mashed potato texture. Leslie's recipe used 1/2 cup of mayo to 2 T mustard (plus 1/4 cup oil) while Kirkland's calls for 1 cup mayo and 1/4 cup yellow mustard. Neither uses additional vinegar so that may account for not really tasting the mustard. Both chefs use hard-boiled eggs but your neighbor may have eliminated those.
      Many of the famous black chefs of New Orleans were from the country so it's likely that their recipes would be close to the Cajun recipe that your neighbor used. My father was Cajun and all of my relatives make potato salad that is noticeably yellow unlike my mother's was, but I never would have never described them as "very yellow." Mama was from New Orleans and never used mustard in hers.
      Only a guess but the best one I can come up with.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MakingSense

        Well, I think that I have your answer. I had a good friend who would make what you are describing. The secret is that all of the Ingredients were cut micro small.... Which includes, eggs, celery, green onions , mustard, sweet relish and miracle whip mayonnaise and the potatoes are cooked to almost the point of mashed potatoes and yes, it was the best potatoes salad ever!!! Hope this helps. YES, YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT THAT MUSTARD. I was fortunate to see Frances make it a few times so that its burned to memory. Oh yeah, the potatoes are Idaho and also micro cut (some will look mashed but some will have that micro small box cut to them)

      2. i'm going to guess (keep in mind I am truly guessing) that she used cumin or saffron, which have great abilities to make things yellow.

        1. I have searched every site I can and found nothing that comes close. But, now that I really think back, they weren't really that yellow, just a bit yellow. But spicy, becasue of the black pepper. No cumin taste for sure.

          So Making Sense - what was your mama's recipe?

          6 Replies
          1. re: danhole

            what about paprika. I know its a dark red color, but if its stirred up in the potatoes it
            might give off a color.

            1. re: danhole

              Mama was from New Orleans. Her French family was from Marseille, not Cajun. Daddy was Cajun, from one of the River Parishes, and all my Cajun relatives make the yellowish, soft potato salad like your neighbor's. They use simple spices and you weren't likely to find cumin in their pantries, especially back in the 60s. They use yellow mustard.

              Because you gave the date as 1970, I looked at old cookbooks and I think the recipe you might want to use is that of Austin Leslie, chef at Chez Helene in New Orleans, who was famous for his potato salad.
              He boiled 1 pound of peeled, diced Idaho potatoes for 1/2 hour or until tender (sounds like a long time) and then cooled them for about an hour. Add 3 chopped hard boiled eggs, 1 chopped rib celery, 4 sprigs chopped parsley. Mix together 1/2 cup mayo, 2 tablespoons yellow mustard, 1 diced onion, 1/4 cup cooking oil salt and pepper to taste and add to potato mixture. Mix until well blended.
              Sounds pretty simple. Your neighbor probably added or subtracted things her family did and didn't like. Potato salad seems to be like that. Simplest recipe in the world that either works or it doesn't.

              The Austin Leslie recipe is from Creole Feast: 15 Master Chefs of New Orleans Reveal Their Secrets, published in 1978, a cookbook of recipes of the great black Creole chefs of New Orleans fine restaurants. Leslie was one of the best. He survived Katrina only to die shortly after in Atlanta. You may remember a TV comedy show in the 80s based on his restaurant - "Frank's Place."

              1. re: MakingSense

                Thanks a lot. I'm sure there was no celery or parsley, but the rest may work. I am thinking that the eggs might have been grated. I thought they were mashed potatoes, but she called it potato salad. She had a very thick cajun accent, but I know that was what it was.

                I remember "Frank's Place". That's sad that he survived Katrina and then died.

                1. re: danhole

                  Enough mashed egg yolks would definitely give a yellowish coloring to the potato salad.

                  1. re: danhole

                    So leave out the celery and parsley. I don't use eggs in my potato salad but Mama did. Potato salad is one of those personal, ad hoc dishes. You'll have to play with the recipe until you find your own personal fave. Probably be better than your Cajun neighbor's when you hit it, too, and everybody will ask for your secret.
                    I think the yellow mustard probably was the golden ingredient. Most Cajun food is made from pretty simple ingredients.

                  2. re: MakingSense

                    Speaking of Austin Leslie, I highly recommend his cookbook "Creole Soul" - pretty simple recipes, all of which are tasty and comforting. Granted, everything has a healthy amount of pork in it (esp. bacon fat), so its not really an every-day book.

                    For some reason, Amazon doesn't have it, but I know that a number of shops here in New Orleans always have it in stock.

                2. I am from Crowley, LA (a very cajun town). The way we make potato salad is to boil your potatoes (peeled) along with a few eggs. Drain the potatoes, put in a bowl add a good amount of mayo, yellow mustard, chopped green olives with pimentos, chopped pickles, salt and pepper, chop up the hard boiled eggs and you mix it all together. I usually mix after each ingredient is added and I think that contributes to the almost mashed appearence. And you just serve it warm. The yellow does come from the yellow mustard and the just adds a subtle note to the salad. This is the way we have been doing it for generations. Hope it helps.