So, here it is the 4th of July and before we get the grill going, I'm making a potato salad to sit beside the hotdogs and corn on the cob. Potato salad is serious business because every family has their favorite and ours is no exception. There are several rules for making the potato salad that graces the tables at the grey cottage. So, here goes ...
Potato Salad - Rules of Engagement
1. Don't stint on the potatoes or the eggs.
When I make salad, I make it for the set number of people eating that day. So, I cook a large potato (or the equivalent) per person and one egg per person plus one for the pot. Cooking the potatoes demands a slow gentle simmer. I cut the peeled potatoes into walnut-sized chunks, place them and the eggs in cold water. Bring the water to a boil and then decrease the temperature to low and simmer the potatoes gently, so that they don't bang against each other in the pot and break up into a starchy mess. This is important, folks. Consistency is crucial in the Miller family potato salad. You have to be able to bite into chunks of potato ... what can I say?
2. The crunch triumverate is a must - so substitutes, please!
Do I measure these ingredients? Hell, no! When I make the salad, I take into account the tastes of those eating the salad that day. So, I may go light on the onion or chop the celery a bit smaller or put in extra olives, or ... you get it right? Those three crunchy flavours must be in there, but there's leeway. Today, they're in equal measures.
3. If you don't have celery seed, garlic powder, and dried parsley flakes, don't bother trying to make potato salad. Period. Peace.
Okay, I can bend a bit here, but just a little. You can use fresh parsley instead of dried, if you look in the cupboard and your dried parsley has gotten so old that it's positively khaki in color. You can't back out on the celery seed or garlic powder, though. Those two flavours must meld with the mayonnaise ... real mayonnaise and none of that Miracle Whip salad dressing crud. Now, do I measure? Nooooo ... I start small and work up to taste. Back in the day, Sprout Sara would be hanging her little mouth open as the official taster of potato and macaroni salads, but that's another story. The point here is that the herbs are crucial to the salad and must be finagled with in order to get the perfect flavour. Of course, salt and black pepper get added too, but you knew that already.
4. Paprika and presentation both start with the letter 'P' for a reason.
This potato salad recipe has been in the Miller family for so long that it has vintage status and back in the day, cold salads like this one were always topped off with a sprinkling of sweet paprika. It's such an old fashioned way of garnishing that it can be thought of as kitschy, but you know what? I. Don't. Care. It is the way this family has made potato salad forever. Some people slice hard-boiled eggs or place little wedges of tomato or sprinkle chopped parsley on their salads. This family sprinkles paprika. It's just the way of the salad.
5. The salad must be placed in a pretty bowl. Don't even think about one of those stupid plastic contraptions with a clip-on lid.
If you're picnicking or going to a party with a potato salad, it will sit front and center with the other cold side dishes. Please respect the salad enough to make it sit pretty. Enough said, right? Oh, and if you have some gorgeous edible flowers or some perfect basil or parsley, by all means, poke a sprig in for buffet 'curb appeal'.
So, there you have it! Other than, salt and black pepper, those are the basics of the perfect potato salad. It's such a summertime basic, that I couldn't do a series on picnic fare without including it on The Spice Garden. If you try it, make it your own ... that is the way with these summertime salads, don't you think? Personally, I think this one's the quintessential potato salad, but I'm not stupid enough to tread on your family tradition.
However you're knoshing your potatoes today, I hope you're with family and friends and having a whiz-bang holiday celebration! Happy 4th! Huzzah!