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ISO of the best potato salad

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In all my years of cooking, I have never made a potato salad that I have been really satisfied with. So I am putting a call out to CHers to help me make the best potatos salad this summer. My criteria: creamy dressing, flavourful potatoes (I want to bit into the potato and taste the flavour versus having the flavour only on the side of the potato), down home ingredients. I love exotic, fancy ingredients but nothing too chi-chi... let's keep it simple - something that will be loved by adults and kids alike.

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  1. My mother's old-fashioned recipe:

    - Peel and put potatoes (either wax or starch will do - results in a different texture and the starchy potato will absorb more dressing) into a pot of water and cook until barely done
    - While the potatoes are cooking make hard boiled eggs
    - Drain and then sprinkle the potatoes with tarragon vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) and when cool chop in large cubes
    - Dice onions, celery, and dill pickles. Grate the hard boiled eggs.
    - Dressing: 2C mayo, 1/3c yellow mustard, 1/2c sour cream, a little pickle juice, salt and pepper (guessing on the measurements)
    - Gently combine (use more dressing than you think, the potatoes will absorb) and let set

    11 Replies
    1. re: alwayscooking

      My method is similar to alwayscooking's; I boil the potatoes whole til just barely done and then I peel them (I usually use red potatoes so I just peel off most of the skin with my asbestos fingers, not a peeler, but not all of the red skins, leaving a little color)...then I cut them up while still hot and then sprinkle the cut up chunks with a little cider vinegar..it's so important to sprinkle with vinegar while still warm...then I let them cool down to room temp and add my other ingredients and chill.

        1. re: Shrinkrap

          I was afraid someone would ask for more accurate measurements [bummer].

          The dressing amounts are only an indication of proportions - it would probably cover a couple of russets. It's an eyeball thing, dress the salad as if ready for serving and then add a bunch more. It will look like it's too much but most will be absorbed.

          When making the dressing, keep adjusting the various components taste and ask 'is this OK?' - that's the traditional approach to this salad.

          1. re: alwayscooking

            Hmmm... okay. I love mayo, my daughter HATES it... I win!

            1. re: Shrinkrap

              i use half mayo / half whip (she'll never know) and I do it for the zip that the whip has which I don't normally love. (truth, i use a bit more of the mayo than the whip) i also use herbes provence mustard in mine. i salt the water i boil the potatoes in pretty well. i usually use small slices of celery (or hearts of palm - which i REALLY love in it) eggs, onions and a HUGE amount of fresh dill. i've never used the vinegar but SO am going to do that. funny thing is, i'm making potato salad today for a birthday celebration - so thanks to whomever pushed this to the top! :)

        2. re: alwayscooking

          Potatoes, I use a little cider vinegar, onions, celery, pickles, hard boiled eggs absolutely. less mayo a little yellow mustard, no sour cream here. no pickle juice, s/p, fresh parsley. ditto on everything except pickle juice which I don't think would be bad just never tried it. But no sour cream for me.

          chill and serve.

          Measurements as someone asked. Wow, I have never measured because it is always different. Some day I guess I should set down and actually measure how much.

          1. re: kchurchill5

            I have to revise. I do cook my potatoes in a fair amount of salted water. Important. I only use a teaspoon or less of vinegar, just enough to give it a brine taste, maybe the same as pickle juice. I have to have eggs in mine, but light on the mayo, celery a must and just a teaspoon or two of pickles. Just a flavor is all, onion yes. I also forgot to mention mustard which I always add, just a little for flavor. Yes, not dijon.

            But I also love a dijon vinaigrette based dressing with just shallots potatoes, peas and dill. Completely different from the basic.

          2. re: alwayscooking

            This is the basic recipe I was taught and start from. I use Vidalia, sweet onion. Use the pickle vinegar to season the potatoes. Capers or olives (and a good white wine vinegar), are a good addition or substitution for pickles. Be careful about salt since all these ingredients are salty. I don't like overdressed and overworked potato salad so I stir it minimally and use more mustard and less mayo than you. I chop the eggs into 1/4-3/8 inch sized pieces.
            As you have said, when you get towards the end you have to taste and adjust it to your liking. Just don't turn it into mashed potatoes! Crispy bacon pieces are nice, too!

            1. re: Scargod

              I never seasoned my potatoes when they first came out. Not sure why, but I did thx to the comments but I used a little capers is what I ended up with. I did a light no mayo vinaigrette, but I used white wine, some dill, a little mustard, dash of garlic, s/p and then added some fresh chopped FL sweet onion of course eggs. A little parsley and served. Very good. Loved the capers!

              1. re: kchurchill5

                Sounds like it leans toward German potato salad (no mayo).
                You know, I'm a little embarrassed to say it, but I didn't start using capers till seven years ago! Now, they go into everything...

                1. re: Scargod

                  It's sort of a combo. I never liked warm and this is cold and love the capers. But yep, a mix of flavors, but it sure worked.

                  Capers! I love them. My mom before she passed recently, requested one of my dinners. Pan sauteed grouper with lemon, white wine and capers with fresh dill. But she always gave me a hard time because she said I put too many capers in, lol. I add them to everything too it seems.

          3. I recently made one with russet potatoes, hardboiled eggs, mayo, celery and onion powder rather than grated onion or chopped onion. Most people raved about it and the most interesting common comment was "I really like not biting into raw onion". The onion powder tip was one that my godmother passed along years ago, but I didn't try it until recently.

            3 Replies
            1. re: RGC1982

              Well, so many people make the mistake of neglecting to rinse onions that are to be served raw. Slice, rinse (or even better, steep for 5 minutes in wine vinegar, then rinse), then dice/chop. You can sometimes get away without rinsing genuinely sweet onions, but otherwise, if onions are to be served raw, they should be cut and rinsed.

              1. re: Karl S

                I got that tip recently for a salad dressing using shallot. Made a nice, subtle difference.

                1. re: c oliver

                  The steeping technique was, I believe, designed with shallots in mind, but also works (though less magically, perhaps) with onions.

            2. Best potato salad I've ever had is made by this old Japanese American lady. She makes it every new years day--- potato salad with crab meat and some black olives in it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: monku

                This sounds GREAT. Do you have the recipe by any chance? Japanese American potato salads are amazing, but the recipes are hard to find online! Thanks!

              2. Here's the recipe that everyone seems to love. I use red bliss potatoes and I leave the skin on. I use Harold McGee's method that ensures firm, not mushy potatoes. You need a thermometer in the water, and you heat the potatoes in the pot with water until they reach 170 degrees, and you keep them at that temperature for 20 minutes. This firms the cell walls. Then turn the temperature up and boil until done. I use a cake tester to pierce them because I find that this makes the potatoes less soggy than if you use a knife or fork. I leave the skins on and cut into cubes. Then I dress with olive oil and quite a bit of red wine vinegar. I add chopped celery and chopped green onion and just enough mayo to give the potatoes a fine mayo gloss. I then add kosher salt (since this is served cold, you need to add a little more salt than usual), toss, and then add chopped, hard boiled eggs. People eat it like it's going out of style.

                1. You're going to get four thousand recipes for a nice creamy summer potato salad so rather than typing one out I just want to give a couple of tips.

                  Be sure you've got plenty of acid. I use red wine vinegar and lemon juice. You can use cider vinegar, champagne vinegar or even distilled white just use a lot.

                  You also need plenty of salt. People tend to underseason potato salad because they don't taste it at all or they taste it while it's warm/room temp. Once you've chilled it you'll need more salt.

                  In keeping with my vinegar/salt theme I like to add capers. They are really not very chi chi and in a potato salad people who think they don't like them won't even know that they're eating them!

                  Also fresh parsley, fresh chives and lemon zest - yum!