Potato salad seems to be at every summer cookout. Chances are, your family has a recipe they have used for generations. If so-lucky you! If not, this is your chance to make this traditional summer dish your very own. The following recipe is for making a basic potato salad which you can serve as is, or add whatever you like to get creative with it. Just follow your instincts, add what you like and as a result you will have made the perfect potato salad dish for your summer celebration. With these 5 tips for making potato salad and the 3 basic ingredients, it's a darn tough thing to go wrong!
- Waxy potatoes – new potatoes, fingerlings, red bliss or a combo of all three. A 2-3 potato combination is a little more work (additional cook time) but it adds interest to the dish.
- Dressing – traditional potato salad uses mayonnaise and mustard both. You can use only mayo, substitute mayo with yogurt or sour cream instead, or you can use a vinaigrette dressing. German-style potato salad uses a Dijon mustard or a course ground mustard for a dressing. You can also use Ranch dressing for a southwestern twist.
- Seasonings – salt, pepper and your choice of herbs and/or spices. Shallot salt is delicious in potato salad, or try pickle juice! Just add to taste!
How to make potato salad:
First: scrub your potatoes well. Cut your raw potatoes into bite-sized pieces, leaving the skins on.
Cutting them into uniformly sized pieces ensures the potatoes will cook evenly. The last thing you want is for confused mix of soft and crunchy pieces. 1-2 inch cubes will provide you the ideal size.
Boil the potatoes in salted water. Just bring to a simmer to avoid overcooking, for about 10 minutes.
To test doneness, stick the tip of a knife into a potato piece. If the blade comes back with any gooey remnants, toss the potato back in. Overcooked potatoes will make a mushy salad, so watch them carefully. Once cooked, drain the potatoes well, but do not rinse.
Leaving the cooked potato pieces drained but un-rinsed, thus leaves some of the potato starch on the pieces. This bit of leftover starch will thicken up whatever dressing you choose to add.
Add your dressing to the potatoes.
If dressing with mayonnaise or mustard, allow the potatoes to cool before adding the dressing. Adding mayo to hot potatoes will melt the mayonnaise and it will separate, which turns it into an oily mess. If dressing with a vinaigrette, however, add your dressing while the potato pieces are still warm. Warm potatoes will absorb the vinaigrette perfectly, into the entire bite.
Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to serve.
Never let potato salad sit out for more than two hours. Surprisingly, it is not the mayonnaise that makes potato salad go bad – it’s the starch in the root vegetable that feeds on the bacteria. If the temperature outside is above 90 degrees, limit time out of the refrigerator to an hour to play it safe.
One interesting variation is to add chopped, boiled eggs to your salad. This makes a more filling dish, with a nice, smooth texture. For something different, add chopped dill pickle and a splash of pickle juice. If you happen to make your own pickles-all the better! Now that is a dish you can be proud of!
Garden Potato Salad
Would you believe adding fresh green beans is delicious with a vinaigrette dressed potato salad? Be sure to add the vinaigrette to the salad when the potatoes and green beans are still warm so that the flavor of the dressing is infused into every bite.
Tuscan Potato Salad
For this variation, use a vinaigrette dressing and instead of cutting the potatoes into bite-sized cubes, cut them into thin slices before cooking. You can leave them a bit more firm for this, as the slices will be a little more delicate than cubes, and could fall apart easily if overcooked. Add sun-dried tomatoes for flavor and added color, and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese for an unexpected yet appreciated European flair.
Amish style potato salad uses a creamy, cooked egg-based dressing with vinegar and sugar. To make this simpler, just add a few chopped hard-boiled eggs. Season with celery salt and use Maille Apple Cider Vinegar. Add the vinegar to the potatoes while they are warm, then once cooled, add the mayo to taste.
It’s rather amazing how you can take the 3 basic ingredients of potato, dressing and seasonings, and make all kinds of delicious creations for your next summer get-together. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with your choices of different dressings, seasonings and added ingredients for your own personal variation of this summertime classic!