Tuesday, September 14, 2010

uncle brian's potato salad

09102010 Uncle Brian's Potato Salad 03

With the end of summer came an intense craving for my uncle's homemade potato salad. Labor Day weekend in Seattle was rainy, chilly, and mostly unpleasant, so there were no opportunities to make potato salad for a crowd. Last weekend, however, the Canadian Cowboy and I rented a cabin on a small lake outside of Seattle. I made potato salad and pretended there was a crowd. (Note that this sort of mind game will result in a boatload of leftovers.)

Canadian Cowboy was in charge of the fishing gear. I haven't been fishing in over five years, so I had to relearn how to bait a hook and cast a line. As it turns out, I'm not very good at putting my own worm on the hook -- we saw quite a few of them fly off in the other direction when I cast my line -- but I deserve an "A" for effort, I think. Okay, maybe a "B." I mostly gave up after my fumbling resulted in a squirt of worm guts to the face. (I bet you're hungry now, right?)

Thankfully, the Cowboy is much better at baiting a hook than I am.

09102010 Cabin Weekend 17

This potato salad recipe is great to have on hand for potlucks, picnics, and other such events. A half batch will easily feed 8 people as a side. I was expecting to spend an eternity peeling potatoes, but was delighted to find that the skins mostly slid right off by just using my hands. To add a little color to the dish, I left the skin on that didn't come off easily (see below). Next time I'll leave even more.

The most important bit of advice I can offer (with respect to this salad, at least) is NOT to add all the oil and mayo at once. If you would like an oily or overly mayo-y potato salad, I'm sure the deli counter at your local grocery store would be glad to assist you. (Yuck.) Start off by adding only half of the listed amounts -- at most -- and then add more as needed until the salad just comes together. Bear in mind that the consistency of the dressing changes after it is refrigerated, so it's best to err on the side of caution. The salad should have bright hints of onion, lemon, and paprika and not taste at all like mayonnaise.

Finally, I was thrilled with the smoked paprika flavor right after I added the dressing to the salad, but found it a tad dull when I served it the next day. If you make the salad a day or two ahead of time, you may want to taste and adjust the spices again before serving.

09102010 Uncle Brian's Potato Salad 01

Uncle Brian's Potato Salad
Adapted from my Uncle Brian's recipe
Serves an army (at least 16 people)

10 pounds redskin potatoes, scrubbed clean
1 medium Bermuda onion (can substitute a Spanish onion or any sweet onion)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I prefer smoked)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
Olive oil for consistency (approximately 1 cup)
Mayonnaise for texture (approximately 1/2 - 1 cup)

Bring a large stock pot filled half-full with water to boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and continue to boil for 30-45 minutes, until they are cooked and easily pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool.

Once the potatoes have cooled, peel off most or all of the skin. (I like to leave some on to add color.) Dice the potatoes into approximately 1" pieces and place them in a large bowl. Stir in the onions and then cover and refrigerate until chilled.

To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, dry mustard, paprika, salt, and pepper. Whisk in 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of olive oil. Pour over chilled potato mixture and stir to combine. If the salad is dry, whisk together some or all of the remaining mayo and oil and add to the potato mixture, taking care not to make the salad overly oily. Taste and adjust spices as needed.

Potato salad should be served well chilled and stored, refrigerated, in an air-tight container.

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