Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wing and a Prayer Potato Salad

If you're like me, some of your favorite dishes come from your mom's kitchen. So naturally, once I had a family of my own, I wanted to duplicate some of them. That was fine when she had a recipe to pass along. But often there was none and she'd say "oh, you know" (no, not really mom), "you just put in some of this and a little bit of that. It's so easy." So I've been trying to master my mother's "easy" potato salad for years. And now that she's been gone awhile I REALLY have to wing it, and I say a prayer of thanks for the many years that I did have her around for food questions (and many other things).

Now I take mental notes whenever I prepare this potato salad, but adjust as needed. I must say mine's getting to be almost as good as hers, almost.

Of course, it starts with potatoes. I'm not fussy about new or old, I just use basic ones -- in this case 13 of them. I peel, quarter, and boil. Add the potatoes to cold water or boiling water, it doesn't really matter. Make sure, however, you remove from heat and drain the water once they're fork tender, you don't want mushy potatoes . What DOES matter, a lot, is adding salt to the water with the potatoes. In this case I added about 3 T. and it wasn't at all too salty, I might even add more salt the next time. After the cooked, drained potatoes have cooled a bit, I cut them into bite-size pieces and put into my BIG bowl.

I like boiled eggs in my salad. I usually use about the same number as the number of potatoes -- so, yes, in this case 13 eggs. Use whatever method of boiling you prefer, as long as your eggs are nicely hard boiled. Peel, chop up, and add to the BIG bowl.

Now for the veggies -- afterall, it IS a salad. Not everyone is a fan of radishes, but I really like them in potato salad. They add wonderful color and a nice crunch. I wouldn't say the same number as the potatoes and eggs, but maybe half that, so about 6 this time. I slice into thin semi-circles and add to the BIG bowl. I also chop up celery -- about 6 stalks -- and add to the BIG bowl. My family doesn't like onions in their salad so I didn't add any, but my mom's version always came with chopped onions.

Now I have to mix up a batch of dressing in a separate bowl. I use about a cup of mayo (or salad dressing) then pour in a little milk (maybe 1/4 cup). Basically I want to produce a good stirrable consistency. Next, squirt in some yellow mustard (maybe 1T.) to get a nice shade of yellow. Finally, add a little sugar (about 1 T. ), tasting as you go to get a nice flavor. Pour the amout you think you'll need into the chopped ingredients (the BIG bowl). Stir. Add more if needed. If you run out of dressing and the salad still looks dryish, you can always whip up a little more dressing. The dressing does tend to absorb into the salad over the course of a day, so this is one of those dishes that can easily be prepared the day before.
Ahhh. Just like mom used to make......almost.

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