I believe in choice, my choice of potato salad being no exception. This choice is gut-driven and deeply personal.
My grandmother made a simple potato salad that accompanied her fried chicken and hickory nut cake to our family reunions in Selma. She made that same salad when a tragedy befell a friend, the bowl of love left quietly on their porch.
My mother made the same salad that followed me through youth. I assumed that rightfully there would always be a Tupperware container of this piquant, cold, soul-satisying potato salad tucked into a corner of the fridge.
And, like so many things that one takes for granted, I only realized its importance in times of crisis, when it was gone. I knew the mayonnaise was made from scratch, but that’s about it. It was a taste, amongst so many other tastes, that I thought I’d lost forever.
I’ve tried to fall for other potato salads. Like a woman wandering the streets unattached, despondent, never attaching herself to a man because of the haunting ghost of a past lover –I’ve never tasted a potato salad worthy of my passion.
A decade ago, I successfully recreated a similar old-school potato salad that also sniffed of buried treasure, reminding me of my college days in Michigan– Mashed Potato and Pickle Relish Salad.
Through the years I’ve blogged about other family’s favorite potato salads–A Tale of Potato Salad, my friend Susan’s family recipe for German Potato Salad. It saddened me that attempts to recreate my own family’s bare-boned, deceptively simple potato salad were failures. Of late, I need my very own tater salad more than ever )-:
My grandmother and mother–both instinctive cooks– passed without penning a recipe. So I purchased the cookbook, “The Gift of Southern Cooking” by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. and hit pay dirt.
Opening it and thumbing through the recipes, I nearly cried with delight, especially when seeing their recipe for potato salad. This had to be the one! Chef Peacock was raised in my era about three hours south from where I grew up in Alabama, and Chef Lewis in Virginia. Close enough.
They put egg yolks through a sieve, and stirred it into the mayo giving the salad an egg-rich, velvety mouth feel–just like my family did. I’d forgotten that technique. As expected, their mayonnaise was homemade and emulsified with a whisk–not a blender. For that satisfying depth of piquant flavor, they used lemon juice AND apple cider vinegar–I’ve only used lemon juice in homemade mayo.
Out of necessity, I made a couple of changes to the recipe but it did not affect the final salad. Out of dry mustard, I used good Dijon, instead. (Trader Joe’s has a delicious, authentic Dijon, made in Dijon, France, of course.) I also used half of the onions as I was making the salad a day in advance to eating. Raw onions bloom in recipes if not consumed on the day they are made. (Recipe below.)
During this crazy era we’re inhabiting, my taste buds are on full throttle nostalgia. I served the salad cozied up to a grilled Delmonico. Hubby and I don’t often eat beef these days, and when we do, we don’t mess around. Here’s my absolute favorite way to grill steak.
What screams more of old-world steak house accompaniments than a classic Wedge Salad? Of course, the salad is constructed atop the backbone of the least nutritious salad leaves available, with gobs of blue cheese dressing and chopped bacon piled atop–be still my heart–but that’s what makes it so delicious.
A fine bottle of Cab and, oh yes, my dreams were pandemic-free, filled with generous hugs, family reunions and ghosts from the past.
BOOK NEWS: My dear friend, Alison Ragsdale, has a new book out, DIGNITY AND GRACE.
A Scotswoman to the core, her books are set, primarily, in her mother-land, this being no exception. An Amazon review:
DIGNITY AND GRACE is the atmospheric, heartwarming story of a young woman retracing the steps of her mother’s last journey, on which she uncovers long buried secrets and difficult truths about the people she loves. Ragsdale confronts the emotionally charged issues of a tragic death with sensitivity, courage, and forgiveness.
This recipe is adapted from THE GIFT OF SOUTHERN COOKING’s recipe for Potato Salad.
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