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Potato salad makes summer taste better

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

We can all agree on this: We love potato salad. We love it at potlucks, picnics and pig pickin’s. We love it with hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas ham, and just because.

Is there a “best” potato salad recipe? Sure there is, in your house. Everyone has a definite favorite, one with sweet pickle relish, one with Duke’s mayo, or Hellman’s or Miracle Whip. There’s potato salad with no mayo at all and German potato salad.

There are yellow mustard fans, Dijon mustard fans, and the no mustard, thank you, fans.

We add crunch with celery, green onions, sweet onions, yellow onions. But we can also use shallots or radishes. We can serve it on lettuce, or cabbage or just piled high in a bowl.

Herbs? Sometimes, but not always. Dill is very good. So is basil. And there are parsley lovers and those who have to have chives. Some add cilantro, though that’s controversial.

Southern potato salad has eggs. Sliced, diced or chunked. Some mash up the boiled eggs and add to the dressing, some add the yolks to the dressing and slice the whites.

Lots of folks finish with paprika, plain old paprika, not smoked or fancy. Just for color.

Lots of salads have vinegar, ranging from white to cider to white wine. You need that tang to balance the creaminess and softness of the potatoes.

Read about potato salad and you might hear the debate over bacon, or another one about ham.

Each region lays claim to a favorite recipe. But it’s OK to try something new now and then. Here are a few ideas for the new potatoes that are coming out of the ground right now.

Most potato salads use red-skinned potatoes, but some use Yukon golds. Growers have purple or blue potatoes, or potatoes with red skin and red flesh. They really taste the same. The purple and red make a pretty presentation mixed with the white.

Use small, fresh potatoes for the freshest salads. They cook faster and taste creamier.

We don’t recommend Russets, which make fabulous baked or mashed potatoes. They don’t hold up well in potato salad, unless you like a mashed potato salad, which has become more popular.

This potato salad recipe is big on bacon (and calories) but it’s a change from the ordinary.

Bacony Potato Salad

2 1/2 pounds red potatoes

6-7 slices thick-cut bacon, diced

3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/3 cup sliced green onions

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Halve the potatoes or quarter if large, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place in a large saucepan of heavily salted water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and simmer until the potatoes are knife tender, 4-5 minutes. Cook the bacon and make the dressing.

Cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned, 15-20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Measure 1/4 cup of the bacon fat and place in a large, heatproof bowl.

Add the vinegar, mustard, scallions and1/2 tsp. salt to the bacon fat, season with pepper and whisk to combine.

Drain potatoes well, immediately add to the dressing and toss with a rubber spatula to combine. Taste and see if potatoes need more salt or pepper. Set aside to cool slightly and blend flavors. Add parsley and cooked bacon and serve warm or at room temperature.

Buttermilk Ranch Potato Salad

3 pounds red potatoes, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup finely chopped green onions

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. dried chives

1 tsp. kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Place 1 1/2 to 2 inches of water in the bottom of a large pot. Place a steam basket in the pot and add the cut potatoes to the basket. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium high. Cover and steam the potatoes until knife-tender, stirring once or twice to make sure the potatoes are evenly cooked, 25-30 minutes.

Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Let cool at least 30 minutes before dressing.

Make the dressing. Place the cilantro, dill and parsley in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Remove 3 Tbsp. of the mixture to a small bowl and set aside for garnish.

Add the buttermilk, yogurt, mayonnaise, scallions, garlic, chives and 1 tsp. salt to the medium bowl of herbs. Season with pepper and whisk to combine. Refrigerate until potatoes have cooled to room temperature.

Pour the dressing onto the potatoes and fold it in gently. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Scatter the reserved herb mixture over the top.

If you don’t like cilantro, simply leave it out.

This recipe uses many flavors of summer, with tomatoes and basil.

Tomato & Mozzarella Potato Salad with Lemon Buttermilk Dressing

3 pounds small red or Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled and quartered.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup olive oil

2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp honey, warmed

8 ounces small mozzarella balls

12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

2 ounces basil, roughly chopped

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and salt it generously. When the water is boiling, add the potatoes and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are very tender but not yet falling apart. Drain cooked potatoes and return them to the pot.

While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together the buttermilk, olive oil, lemon juice, honey and 1/2 tsp. salt. Pour this dressing over the warm potatoes and toss to coat.

Toss with the mozzarella balls, tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, then serve at room temperature.

Good Ol’ Potato Salad

3 pounds red potatoes, peeled

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup yellow mustard

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish

1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

4 hard boiled eggs, three chopped, 1 sliced

Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces. Place in a large pot and cover with 1 inch of water. Ad 2 tsp. salt and bring to a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes, until fork tender. Drain and cool.

In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar and onion powder. Pour over potatoes and mix well.

Add relish, celery onion and chopped eggs. Salt and pepper to taste

Top with sliced eggs and sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate 4 hours for flavors to blend.

Now this is country singer Martina McBride’s mashed potato salad recipe. And it is your basic mashed potato with butter and cream, that you add pickles and sugar to. Not my taste, but it is all over the internet.

The Pioneer Woman makes a version that does not mix the cooked potatoes with butter and cream first, or add sugar. That sounds a little better to me, but I still like solid pieces of potato better.

Martina McBride’s Dad’s Mashed Potato Salad

6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 stick butter) cut into small pieces

1/2 tsp. kosher salt or to taste

1/4 tsp, freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 cup warm half-and-half

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Miracle Whip

1/4 cup yellow mustard

3/4 cup finely chopped celery

3/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 cups finely chopped sweet pickles

1/4 cup sweet pickle juice

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar

5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped

2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

Cover the potato chunks with cold water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain and return potatoes to the pot. Add the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mash with a potato masher or hand mixer, adding warm half-and-half as needed until potatoes are smooth and creamy. You should have a little over 6 cups of potatoes.

Add the Miracle Whip, mustard, celery, onion, pickles, pickle juice and sugar, mixing after each addition. Stir in the eggs until well combined. Chill at least 1 hour or overnight. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

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