I grew up in Texas where potato salad is a staple at backyard cookouts, graduations, family celebrations and even weddings and I believe the best potato salad is my mother’s recipe.
Potato salad is pretty much a blank canvas that you can prepare to your own tastes. So what is it about a recipe that makes it go from a good to great tasting side dish? Are there secret ingredients that can make potato salad special? I believe that my mother had the answer to those questions.
In Texas smoked meats and potato salad are a real crowd pleaser at backyard cookouts, graduations, family celebrations and even weddings. Texans know good potato salad and most every family has their favorite recipe but to my thinking, my mother’s recipe was and still is the best. Like many other home cooks, she used hardboiled eggs, onion, celery, and mayonnaise but what made hers special were dill pickles, some of the pickle juice and mustard. The zesty flavor of mustard and briny pickles brighten the flavor of the potato salad and goes especially well with the smoky goodness of barbecue. She did one other thing that made her recipe special and that is to “cook the potatoes in their jackets” as she used to say. She cooked the potatoes with the skin on then peeled them so they retained their nutrients and flavor, didn’t get watery and didn’t fall apart.
My mother never measured when cooking, everything was done to taste. Like her, I usually don’t measure unless I’m sharing a recipe with my readers then I measure all of the ingredients until the flavor is just right. I like to taste as I go and you should as well. The last thing you want is bland potato salad and the potatoes you use will determine how much seasoning your potatoes will need. This recipe creates a flavorful potato salad that has a zippy taste from the pickles and mustard while the red onions and celery add a nice crispness to counter the softer eggs and potatoes.
My Mother’s Potato Salad
- 3 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes, washed but not peeled
- 1/2 large red onion diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 or 2 dill pickles, diced, I use Claussen’s refrigerated pickles
- 1 c. mayonnaise, I used Duke’s
- 5 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 – 2 tsp. salt, to your taste
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tbsp. pickle juice (if needed add an addition Tbsp., one at a time, until the taste is to your liking) I needed a total of 8 Tbsp. for the potatoes I used
- 6 hardboiled eggs, peeled (5 cubed and 1 sliced for garnish)
- chopped parsley or dill for garnish
Place the whole potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water by 2 – 3 inches and salt water generously. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium, cook at a gentle boil until tender about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Add additional water, if necessary, to keep the potatoes covered. Drain the potatoes and let rest on a large tray until cool enough to handle then peel and cut into cubes.
Place the potatoes into a very large mixing bowl then add the onions, celery and pickles. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo, mustard, salt, pepper and 4 Tbsp. of pickle juice. Pour over the potatoes and mix gently until all the potatoes are well coated then taste and adjust seasonings and pickle juice, if necessary. Add the cubed hardboiled eggs and gently mix. Cover and refrigerate several hours but preferably overnight for the flavors to blend. When ready to serve, taste one last time to see if any additional seasoning is required, then garnish with sliced hardboiled eggs and parsley.
- Use good quality waxy potatoes, I used Yukon gold.
- Use potatoes that are firm, with no dark spots, deep cuts or sprouting eyes.
- Try to use potatoes that are all the same size. If not, you may need to remove smaller potatoes when cooked while larger potatoes may need to cook a little longer.
- Make sure the potatoes are cooked through. There is nothing worse than eating undercooked, crunchy potatoes.
- Potatoes are done when a long metal skewer, fork or thin knife can slide all the way through without resistance.
- Remember that potatoes need to be well seasoned. You may need to increase or decrease some of the ingredients so I would suggest to taste several times before refrigerating.
- Don’t over mix or you will end up with mashed potatoes.
- Add eggs at the end and mix gently so that they don’t completely fall apart.
- Potato salad tastes better after being refrigerated for several hours or even better made one day in advance.
- Garnish the potato salad with sliced hardboiled eggs, parsley, dill or paprika, if desired.
- Depending on your taste, you can add or remove ingredients to your liking. Make the recipe your own by adding chopped bacon, sliced scallions, olives, capers or even sweet pickle relish but then again, it won’t be My Mother’s Recipe.
Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and backyard cookouts so I thought this was the perfect time to share this old-fashioned recipe of my mother’s with my readers. It is one of my favorite summer sides to serve with barbecue, hamburgers, hotdogs or sandwiches, it is great to take to a potluck meal for a group of friends or to serve with southern fried chicken or baked ham at your family dinner table. Tell me, do some of the foods that you love come from recipes that your mother originally made for you. My mother’s fried chicken and potato salad will always be my favorites.