Ah, the glorious potato. In the movie, The Martian, Matt Damon eats potatoes for a year a half. Potatoes are packed with Vitamin C, potassium and a great source of fiber. This article is dedicated to transforming the ordinary potato into the best potato salad that will have your guests inquiring on your secret recipe.
As a distant member of the nightshade family of vegetables, known for being poisonous, the potato took a while to catch on in European culture. Even though the American indigenous population had been enjoying them for thousands of years.
Potatoes arrived in Europe with Spanish sailors, who were also the first to grow them as a crop. They had seen firsthand that eating potatoes protected them from scurvy.
Potatoes came with a new concept though; starting from the ‘eye’ of the potato flesh, versus seeds as was the primary European ag process at that time. This also slowed down their acceptance as a food crop.
Of course, what really cemented the deal in Germany was when Frederick the Great threatened to cut off the nose and ears of those who refused to grow this new nutritional crop. That’s what you call incentive. It worked. And it began the path to potato salad as we know it. The Germanic versions of this in the day were boiled taters served warm, with vinegar, mustard, oil and seasonings. Still are actually, and quite tasty…especially with a little chopped bacon…but we digress.
Noted author and historian of African American food, Adrian Miller, writes of German immigrants who came to the southern US during the 1860s with their potato salad dishes. Their connections and sharing with the African American community began the foothold in greater American cuisine, while developing the dish’s deep association with Black families.
Recipes began to appear about that same time, but it didn’t appear in many cookbooks until the advent of commercial available, and safe, mayonnaise in the mid-20th century. Mayonnaise is the base of classic potato salad. Southern cooks will add sweet relish, up north you will find more dill pickle influence, hard boiled eggs are a constant along with onions and, in a nod to the German roots, some kind of mustard. Green peppers, celery, olives, sour cream, and more have all found their way into many a family variation of the dish. And bacon. It still works, trust us, even though we skipped it this time.
Pro tips for the best potato salad
First, and this is important. We know potatoes are not poisonous. However, improper food handling can be. The taters and eggs need to be fully chilled before adding mayonnaise. Having seen a restaurant mishandle this step and get many folks sick from the brunch line, this cannot be emphasized enough.
This recipe can be made in advance, many people think refrigerating overnight gives the best results.
This is a traditional recipe. We used Russet potatoes and peeled them. You can certainly use baby reds or Yukon golds, with the skins on, or peeled. Any spud will work. Lots of folks cook them whole. This does work, although it is easy to get a less even gradient of soft to firm from edge to center. For ease and speed of cooking we recommend dicing the spuds to your desired size and then cook them. It also gives you a more consistent texture in our opinion.
Many hard-boiled recipes will say their way makes the easiest egg to peel. Cooking has little to do with it, the fresher the egg the easier it peels. Peeling eggs is the easiest when they are fully chilled, and held under cold running water. This helps loosen the shell after you have cracked it and started peeling, in addition to washing away any shell fragments.
You can certainly use pickle relish and pre-sliced olives if you choose. We like to start with bigger pieces and cut them to a slightly larger chunk than the already prepped product. Dill or sweet pickles are fine, again your preference. We stayed a little more savory than sweet and used dill chips to chop up.
You can use any onion. We chose green onions because the bulb offers good onion tastes, and the green is a great garnish. Sweet onions are delightful, especially with sweet relish. Red onions are pretty and have a nice sharpness to offset the rich salad flavors.
Best Potato Salad Recipe
- 2 Large Russet potatoes
- 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
- 4 Eggs
- ⅔ Cup Mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoons Prepared yellow mustard
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Ground black pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Granulated garlic
- ¼ Cup Pickles
- ¼ Cup Olives
- 4 Green onions
- Wash and scrub potatoes
- Place in pot, cover with water, add kosher salt, cook over medium heat
- Place eggs in pot, cover with at least one inch, place over medium heat (We boiled extra eggs to have around)
- When eggs reach a boil, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 12 minutes
- Pour off hot water, place eggs in pot under cool running water for 3-5 minutes
- Boil potatoes until tender, easily pierced with a fork
- Drain and place in pan no more than two inches deep
- Refrigerate eggs and taters about two hours, until cold
- Peel and chop eggs
- Coarsely chop pickles and olives
- Clean and slice green onions, reserving ½ cup sliced green portion for garnish
- In a bowl add cup mayonnaise, yellow mustard, salt, black pepper and granulated garlic
- Blend well
- Add onions, pickles and olives
- Add potatoes and mix well
- Add sliced green onions on top, refrigerate until served
- Sprinkle with paprika and serve. Enjoy.