Is It a Recipe or a Story?

I must confess, there are certain dishes that always bring back pleasant memories from my childhood.  Being raised in a family with two distinct heritages, Polish and Italian, there were always interesting and tasty recipes at family gatherings (along with some truly weird foods, but that’s a story for another day).  My hubby always compliments me when I cook in “both languages,” whether I am making red sauce and manicotti, or cheesecake and kielbasa.  One dish in particular that always reminds me of my mother’s Polish family is potato salad.

Though typically a side dish, the potato salad from my childhood was always my main dish as I heaped scoopfuls of it on my plate at family gatherings.

stuffing face

I vividly remember eating many lunches where it was served with cold ham off the bone along with rye bread and butter.  A written recipe has never existed for this potato salad as with many of our favorite dishes, but I can recall watching it being made back in the ’70s by my aunts.  Through trial an error and over time, I have come up with what I think is a very good reproduction of what I shall call my “Oh So Good Potato Salad”.

What I love so much about this dish is the creamy texture of the spuds and eggs blended with the crunchiness of the fresh veggies.  I’ve never written down this recipe until today, so I when I made it I paid extra close attention to the ingredient list, the amounts I used for each, and the order in which all the things were assembled.

swedish chef

The recipe is written below, but reader beware.  I do a lot of explaining about why I prepare the ingredients the way I do, so don’t be in a big hurry to get to the basic instructions.  It’s a fun little journey through my zany mind as I make my favorite comfort food.

This week I was asked to bring a potato salad to a church function, so the following recipe feeds a big crowd and can easily be halved to meet your needs.  You may use any brands or varieties in this recipe, and you may use as much or as little of the ingredients as you want according to your taste.  Furthermore, feel free to experiment a little and add something new to the mix – Weber’s Horseradish Mustard or Dijon Mustard always kicks it up a notch.  Having said that, the first time you make my “Oh So Good Potato Salad,” I suggest you stick to the script and see for yourself the ‘oh so goodness.’

Ingredients:

  • 5 lb bag of potatoes (I used Yukon Gold), peeled and medium diced
  • 10 large or jumbo hard-boiled eggs (reserve one sliced egg)
  • 1 large jar of Miracle Whip Salad Dressing (30 oz)
  • 2 green peppers, small diced (reserve 3-4 thin sliced rings)
  • 5 stalks celery, small diced
  • 1 large white onion, small diced
  • salt and pepper
  • paprika

Instructions:  Begin by hard boiling the eggs.  I actually cook a dozen jumbo eggs because at least two in the batch usually go rogue in the pot by breaking open or being uncooperative in the peeling process, and it’s a good insurance policy to have a couple in the margin of error.  I put all the eggs in a pot, cover them with cool water and boil them for 12-14 minutes. I check for doneness by breaking open one of the rogue eggs that already cracked or lost its stuff while boiling.  I’ve under-boiled eggs in the past, much to my dismay, and I haven’t figured out a great way to cook the center of the yolks longer once they’ve been peeled and cooled.  So sacrificing one egg to check for a solid yellow yolk is always worth it, plus the hubby gets a free snack.  Boiling the eggs too long creates that grey shadow around the yolk which is another pet peeve of mine, so don’t over-boil them either.  Ok, I got it all out of my system, enough said about hard-boiled eggs.

Next, wash, peel, and medium dice the potatoes.  Sometimes I just wash the potatoes well and keep the skin on, but you can make the call on whether the skin stays on or gets peeled off.  I’ve even purchased those adorable little baby potatoes and used them whole or halved.  Anyway, I dice them into medium bits because one time when I made this salad in the past, one of my sisters made fun of how large the potato chunks were, so I always have that memory playing in the back of my head.

cry

Cutting the spuds while still raw also saves your hands from burning when attempting to dice hot whole potatoes after cooking them which I have also done, much to my regret (I’m not very patient in waiting for them to cool).  Aren’t you thrilled to be learning from all of my rookie mistakes?  I put the diced spuds in a pot with cool water, and once they are boiling, cook them for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I test for doneness before draining them in a colander.  They should break apart easily when pierced with a fork or simply give them a taste and decide if they’re done.

IMG_3948Be careful – if you over-cook them, they’ll get very mushy, so there’s that.  After draining them, transfer them to a huge mixing bowl and set the bowl on top of a container of ice to cool them more quickly.  As they cool, give them a stir once in a while to help bring the temperature down throughout the bowl.

While the potatoes are cooking, I dice equal amounts of green pepper, onion, and celery (reserve 3-4 green pepper rings for decoration).

IMG_3941If you like more onion flavor, add more onion.  If you loathe green pepper, then skip it and double the celery.  I like all three of these flavors, so I play nice and treat them fairly like they’re children, making sure everything is equal.  I prefer small dice on these crunchies because who likes getting a big hunk of onion or celery in a spoonful of potato salad?  (See previous note about large potato chunks).  Once the onions, green pepper, and celery are diced, set them aside.

Next, peel the hard-boiled eggs and put them through an egg slicer.

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For the first egg, put it through the slicer once and set it aside for decoration.  For the remaining eggs, put them through the slicer once AND then turn the sliced egg perpendicular to that cut and slice again.

This method dices the eggs very well and very small.  Use more or less egg to your taste.

By now the potatoes have cooled after sitting on the container of ice (about 30-45 minutes), and the party is about to begin.  So, the potatoes that are in the huge mixing bowl are going to welcome the guests – add the celery, onion, green pepper, eggs, salt and pepper to taste, and several large dollops of Miracle Whip.

Listen, you can use another brand of salad dressing, but Miracle Whip is the secret ingredient here, so no substitutions please.  I know I said earlier that any brands are fine, but I lied.  This is one ingredient where the brand name matters.  Using a large spoon, fold over the potatoes into the bowl and continue to mix to let all those wonderful ingredients become friends.  Continue to add more Miracle Whip with salt and pepper until you have a nice consistency and flavor.  I typically use nearly an entire 30oz jar, but I had to buy a larger than normal jar (48 oz compared to 30 oz), and I only used 2/3 of it for this recipe.

IMG_3953You want to make sure you use enough Miracle Whip because no one likes a dry potato salad, and the potatoes and veggies will absorb some of it as it rests.  So when you think it’s perfect, add one more dollop of Miracle Whip to the mix and you’re golden.

At this point, I like to wipe the exposed interior rim of the huge serving bowl just above the potato salad with a wet paper towel so it looks pleasing to the eye.  The next step is totally optional, but in the tradition of my Polish forebears, take the reserved green pepper rings and sliced hard-boiled egg and make a few flowers on top of the potato salad.  Top it all off with a dusting of paprika.

Clearly I need to practice flower making, but you get the idea.  I prefer to refrigerate it for 2-3 hours before serving, but it also can be eaten once it’s been mixed.  Voila! Thanks for reading my recipe story.  Enjoy serving and eating your “Oh So Good Potato Salad”.

IMG_3956

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