A Potato Salad for All Seasons

We started getting ready for Christmas day dinner on Christmas Eve, which is considerably more low key than Thanksgiving. Perhaps because there’s not as much emphasis or pretense put upon having an amazing meal. The gift giving thing kind of overshadows the food, but one doesn’t forego it entirely. Sadly, I had kind of forgotten about Christmas up until my grandmother asked me to help prep the day before.

It’s really no big deal; I don’t know how anyone else does it, but we basically make the same stuff we had at Thanksgiving… just in smaller amounts. I know that there will always be: turkey, yams, mac and cheese, greens, and… potato salad. Now when the seasons change and you have different celebrations, the menu changes. However, there is one thing that our family ALWAYS has, and it’s potato salad.

My grandmother isn’t the greatest cook, but that’s one of the few things that Nana does well. In fact, it’s so good, it’s one of the few recipes that I refuse to meddle with. It’s also the only potato salad on record that I like and willingly eat… and I’m not the only one that loves it. At the church that I used to attend, if there were church dinners, they would always call on her to make potato salad. I remember the big bags of potatoes as a kid that we would have to boil one by one because she didn’t have a big enough pan for all of them… and how I would get the privilege of peeling the potatoes for her as she would make 5 -10# of the stuff, depending on what the church would need. Also, as a kid, I always loved sneaking a taste of the finished product with a spoon. Although I was a picky eater as a child, like I said, this is one of the few things that I really enjoyed.

During the past couple of holidays, she has entrusted me with making it, and I don’t take it lightly. I stick to the ingredients that she uses and change nothing up… and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive her stamp of approval every time that I’ve made it for her. It pretty much still works the same way; she supplies the ingredients and cooks what needs cooking, and I supply my hands to do the work. As I recall how she would add the sugar, mayo, relish and celery seed without measuring, but always knowing how much was enough, I find myself doing the same thing. I always wondered how she always knew how much to put in… but now I understand. She has somehow passed down that same knowing to me. This is the difference between learning to cook in cooking school and learning to cook “organically”: you learn to cook based off of technique in school, but at home, you learn to cook based off of instinct. I think you need a good combination of both. I’ve been blessed to learn both ways.

So anyway, to what you guys want to know: how to make this big bowl of love! You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • potatoes (we usually use Russet potatoes, but any boiling or all purpose potato will do.)
  • eggs, hard boiled
  • sweet relish
  • celery seed
  • mayonnaise
  • sugar, TT
  • onion

Like I said, we never measure it, but I’m going to try to recall how much of each thing I used when I made it on Christmas Eve. Maybe you’ll be able to figure out proportions from there if you want to decrease or increase the amount. Eyeball the amount, smell it, and taste it a lot. Trust me, if you make this enough, you’ll be able to figure it out and just know the amounts.

Note: When I refer to Tb, I’m talking about the big tablespoons that you eat with, not an actual measured out tablespoon.

Boil about 6-8 large potatoes, drain and let cool. Don’t worry about seasoning the water. You’ll need to peel and dice these, so only boil them enough so that they’re soft, but they’ll hold shape when mixed. Once you peel them, do a large dice on the potatoes. Put into a mixing bowl. Dice your onion as well. For this amount of potatoes, I used ½ an onion. It doesn’t sound like much, but remember that onion goes a long way. It’ll be more than enough. Add this to your potatoes.

Use 2 hard boiled eggs and dice them into the mixture as well. Once everything is all diced, add the celery seed, relish and sugar. I think I added about 2 tsp–1 Tb of celery seed (I don’t think it was more than this; I like to go a little heavy with it), 1-½ Tb relish, and the same of sugar. Start with 1 Tb though, and after mixing everything together, see how it tastes from there. You can always add more if necessary, but you can’t take any away if it’s too sweet.

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Add in your mayonnaise. I think for this amount, I used like 3 Tb. Mix everything together until moist, but not too wet. Taste it and see what you think. If needed, add a little more sugar.

Taste it again. If it’s good, taste some more of it. If it’s really good, get a small plate and devour accordingly, and give your Nana a plate so she can share with you. If it’s for a dinner, plot on ways to keep it all to yourself and tell people that it didn’t taste right… but not worries, you “took care of it”, and took one for the team. That’s what me and Nana do… but we always end up sharing it anyway 😉

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I hope you try this and enjoy it. If you do, let me know what you think!

Ciao 4 now!

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