A post by Food52.com (a website with terrific recipes) for a potato salad using arugula and Dijon vinaigrette got me to thinking. I’ll read every new potato salad recipe out there…yet I keep returning to the one of my childhood.
So I’ve decided potato salad may be one of those foods we like, but our family favorite may be the DNA one we return to time and again.
If you grew up in the South, and some Midwest states, that probably means you’re eating a potato salad with chunks of potato, mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip) as the “binder.” It also means it has hard-boiled eggs in it, along with chopped onion, celery, sometimes green pepper and pickle relish. A dab – not too much – of mustard, and there you have it. That’s the kind on our family reunion picnic table.
New Yorkers like a deli-style potato salad. (You can get it locally at Kevin’s Dockside Deli in Palm Beach Gardens.) It may (or may not) have mayo or a touch of sour cream in it, but vinegar and sugar plays in, and the result is a wet potato salad with the tang of vinegar and just a touch of sweetness. The potatoes are typically sliced, not chunked.
German potato salad, found in some west Texas locales, and all around Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, is made with sliced potatoes, bits of bacon and onions, and hot vinegar with only a touch of sugar (optional). Celery seed also is optional for this one. I like a hot potato salad with knockwurst, actually.
A “loaded baked potato salad” recipe came out of Texas (I think), sometime in the mid-70s; it made the rounds and has its followers. It’s heart-stopping just like a real loaded baked potato: Sour cream, bacon, cheddar cheese and butter, plus green onions, go into this recipe. (Not for dieters – but remember, everything in moderation!)
The Californians and West Coast types don’t have a set one, but do throw in avocados and artichoke hearts, and substitute the mayo for a vinaigrette made with olive oil and sometimes, balsamic or champagne vinegar. We’ve seen versions that contain pancetta instead of bacon, as well.
Recipes for potato salads
Here are common recipes for the most-fixed potato salads; tell us about your variations in the comments.
Southern potato salad
- 6 medium potatoes (peeled, if desired)
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped
- 3 ribs celery, chopped fine
- 1/2 green pepper, chopped fine (optional)
- 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup mayonnaise (or to taste)
Boil or steam potatoes until fork-done. Peel if desired; cool.
Combine potatoes with all ingredients except mayonnaise in large bowl and mix well. Add mayonnaise and stir to coat evenly. Chill well; keep leftovers chilled.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
New York deli potato salad
- 3 pounds small red potatoes
- 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup onion, pureed in food processor
- salt and white pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 carrot, finely grated (optional)
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise (or to taste)
Cook potatoes to fork-tender by boiling or steaming; peel (if desired) and refrigerate. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients in order given except carrots and mayonnaise.
Slice potatoes about 1/4 inch thick into a large bowl, and pour in oil mixture. Combine well. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Before serving, stir in carrots and add mayonnaise to taste. Serve at once; keep leftovers chilled.
Makes 8-10 servings.
German hot potato salad – version 1
- 1/2 pound bacon (8 to 10 slices)
- 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard, or to taste (optional)
- 5 pounds potatoes, cooked, diced
- 1 medium onion, chopped (optional)
Chop the bacon to small dice; fry in a large skillet. Remove and drain on paper towels. Drain all but 2 tablespoons drippings from pan.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine sugar, vinegar, eggs, salt and pepper and mustard (if using); whisk to combine well. Pour into pan with drippings set over medium-low heat. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.
Put potatoes and onion* in large bowl; pour cooked mixture over all and toss well to combine. Add bacon and toss again; serve warm. Refrigerate any leftovers. Warm leftovers in the microwave on medium power for about 90 seconds.
Makes 10 servings.
Variation: Cook the onion in the bacon drippings before adding egg mixture and toss in with dressing.
This is an entirely different German potato salad, courtesy of my friend, Lila Steinhoff.
Lila’s German Potato Salad
- 5 pounds potatoes, cooked to fork tender, peeled – see note
- 1/2 cup green olives with pimentos, chopped
- 6 slices bacon
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or to taste)
Cook potatoes till fork tender. (Note: Lila uses the pressure cooker to cook in 10 minutes.) Run cool water over them; peel and cut into cubes.
While potatoes are cooking, make dressing: Slice olives and set aside. Cook bacon in skillet till crisp; remove and drain bacon. Crumble and set aside. Drain drippings from skillet, leaving about a tablespoon with all bacon pieces. Heat over medium heat, and add onion; cook till onion breaks apart, but do not overcook. Add vinegar and salt; bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add mayo, stirring to bring up all bacon from bottom of pan and incorporate. Add in bacon and olives; pour over warm potatoes and stir with wooden spoon to avoid breaking up potatoes. If creaminess from potatoes is desired, stir until a slight “mashed potato” effect is achieved.