Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mom's Potato Salad

My Venture into Potato Salad

Everybody loves the potato salad they grew up on. I'm no exception. I have to say though that my mother makes the world's best potato salad. It's unapologetically sweet and tart and is not too mustardy. It's not too soupy and it's not too dry. Unlike many other potato salad recipes, mom's doesn't contain anything overly healthy or crunchy in it. You know, like celery. In fact, the only crunchy thing I remember in my mother's potato salad was an occasional stray egg shell.

When I asked her for her recipe, she said she didn't have a "recipe." She gave me the list of ingredients and told me to add them "until it tasted right." THIS was how she made her famous potato salad?! Add stuff until it tasted right?! No tattered recipe card with stains all over it? Oy. I, therefore, set out to recreate her wonderful potato salad -- measuring the ingredients as I added them until it tasted right. The recipe below is about as good as I could get it with my mother standing over my shoulders criticizing my every move and making disapproving, passive-aggressive comments about my new-fangled cooking techniques. You know, like using measuring cups and all. Love you mom! Anyway, in the end, she deemed my rendition of her famous potato salad "acceptable."  Whatever.  With that in mind, I present you an "acceptable" rendition my mother's potato salad recipe. Enjoy – and happy eating!

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Mom's Potato Salad
(Printable Version)

6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 lbs small red potatoes
1 TBSP kosher salt (or ½ TBSP table salt)

2 c. (or a 16-oz jar) of Miracle Whip
5 TBSP juice from the sweet pickles (or to taste)
½ tsp kosher salt (or ¼ tsp of table salt)
2 tsp mustard
1 medium red onion or sweet onion, finely diced
16-oz jar of Baby Sweet pickles, chopped in a small dice (reserve the juice)
2-oz jar of chopped pimentos, drained

In a small saucepan, add the eggs and cover with cold tap water. Cover and bring to a rolling boil. When the water is boiling, remove the pot from the burner and leave covered for 12-13 minutes. The eggs will be fully cooked using this method – and won't leave a green ring around the yolk either! Dump out the hot water and cover the eggs with cold tap water. Allow the eggs to sit in the cold water for a couple of minutes. Drain the water and repeat. If the eggs still feel warm, repeat. When cool, place the eggs in the refrigerator to cool down even more.

Clean the potatoes but do not peel. Add them to a large pan and cover with water. Add 1 TBSP kosher salt (or ½ TBSP table salt to the water). Cover and bring to a boil and simmer until a sharp knife easily penetrates the potato when pierced (about 16-18 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes). Pour off the hot water and put the potatoes on a rack to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the Miracle Whip, 5 TBSP of juice reserved from the sweet pickles, salt, and mustard. Stir to combine. Add the onion, sweet pickles, and chopped pimentos (if using). Taste. Does it need more pickle juice? If so, add as much as you want. Remember, once you add the potatoes, the sweet/tart flavor of the dressing will be muted so bump up the flavor. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator until the potatoes have cooled.

After the potatoes having cooled enough to handle, peel and chop them into 1/2" cubes. Peel and dice the eggs. Add the potatoes and eggs to the dressing you prepared earlier. Gently stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

Alternate Preparation:
This potato salad has a medium level of soupiness. Some of you may like your potato salad with a lot of dressing while others may prefer it rather dry. If you want a soupier potato salad, make the dressing the same way but add fewer potatoes. Like it drier? Add 1 or 2 more potatoes to the mixture.


  1. I am going to sound stupid I know, but I sometimes take a while till something sinks in.
    You say in the recipe you peel and chopped after they have been cooked and cooled. Is there a reason you wouldnt peel and cube and then boil the potatoes first? I am only asking as I cube and peel first but I didnt know any other way and well sometimes I find out I been doing something all wrong.

  2. Great question! When you're making mashed potatoes, it's perfectly OK to peel and cube the potatoes before you boil them. Water can then easily penetrate to the center of the potato and a lot of starch leaches out into the water. For potato salad, you don't want the water to penetrate deep in the potato. You want the natural starches in the potato to help keep the potato from falling apart later when you add the dressing. Those starches act as a natural gum -- especially when the potato has cooled. If you boiled the potatoes without their skins, the potatoes would fall apart much easier in your potato salad.

  3. Brilliant answer, thank you. I do have a problem with my potatoe salad being all mushy when I prefer the potatoe to hold together more, now I know why. Gonna try this one today since I finally got my potatoes and a red onion.
    I love your blog and recipes and especially your humourous stories, I cracked up in the Abercrombie and Fitch. More please?

  4. OMG! This is a clone of my handed-down non-recipe except I use dill pickle juice instead of the sweet pickle juice. Perhaps our mothers were separated at birth?

    May your jello always jiggle,

    Patty P


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