Some of the most satisfying parts of life’s journey involve food. When I think about my very favorite things to eat, my mom’s potato salad is pretty near the top of the list.
It is beautiful how something as simple as potato salad can connect hearts across generations. When I make my mom’s recipe (as best as I can remember it from watching her do it countless times over the years) it is like hearing her voice each step of the way as I prepare and mix the ingredients.
One of the things I love about her potato salad recipe is that it isn’t smooth. The ingredients are rough-cut and real. She often boils the potatoes with the skin still on and then peels them when they’re still hot. (I have memories of my dad grabbing a steaming potato from the pot to steal a bite before it was done.) It’s that rough realness that reminds me of life. Things aren’t always perfect or exactly as planned, and we have to roll with it. Recognizing the beauty of those challenging peaks and exhausting valleys makes life infinitely more wonder-filled.
Another thing I love about mom’s potato salad is that it has always been focused on community. She has made bowl after bowl of it for family gatherings, birthday parties, church potlucks, and to give comfort to those who have lost someone dearly loved. Even the ingredients reflect community…all of those individual elements being brought together to form a mixture that is significant and satisfying.
Creation…comfort…connection…I love that food – and potatoey goodness – can be so instrumental in such things.
- About 5 pounds of Russet potatoes (Try to get some grown in the Klamath Basin of Oregon. This recipe likes those best.)
- ½ cup cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
- 4 or 5 hard boiled eggs, rough-chopped
- 1 jar (4 ounces) of sliced pimentos
- ½ cup black olives, sliced
- 4 or 5 green onions (Chop the whole thing up – white and green parts both!)
- ½ cup chopped red onion (Optional…I don’t like it, but some misguided people in my family do.)
- 3 Tbsp juice from Kosher dill pickles
- ⅓ to ½ cup rough-chopped dill pickles
- 3 Tbsp juice from sweet pickles
- ⅓ to ½ cup rough-chopped sweet pickles (This is one of the only times I tolerate sweet pickles, by the way.)
- 1 or 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ to ½ cup real mayonnaise (More if you like it saucy.)
- 3 or 4 Tbsp yellow mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp dill
- Paprika for garnish
- Cut your potatoes in halves or thirds or quarters (I’m kind of casual about this…you choose), then boil in salted water until fork tender (about 10-15 minutes). Drain and chill…that will make it easier to peel and cut them into rough, 1-inch chunks.
- Put potatoes into a large bowl (I like a good stainless steel bowl, but no love will be lost if you choose glass or something else). Make a little “well” in the middle of the potatoes…sort of a bowl to pour your liquids into for mixing. Add the pickle juice, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper and gently blend it together. Taste it…if it’s to your liking, gently (don’t mash your potatoes! This isn’t that kind of recipe!) fold the potatoes and dressing together until it’s all nicely coated. Otherwise, adjust the dressing as needed.
- Add in the pickles, eggs, cheese, green onions, pimentos, olives, and – if you absolutely have to – red onions. Mix gently (remember…mix, don’t mash).
- Once everything is mixed and the potatoes are thoroughly coated with all that goodness, sprinkle some paprika on top, cover the bowl, and put it in the refrigerator to chill. Those flavors will dance and blend and the potato salad will be way better the next day.
- When the time is right and family is gathered around for a tasty meal, take out that amazing potato salad and heap some onto everyone’s plate. Eat it and enjoy, knowing that this recipe has been part of many, many gatherings and much, much love. Now, you’re included in it, too!