Thursday, June 16, 2011

Benjamin's Potato Salad

This all-American potato salad recipe is a reworking of a Gaskins family recipe (Ben Gaskins's grandmother's recipe, actually). We like using red potatoes for this, but feel free to use others varieties or a combination of potatoes. We learned from America's Test Kitchen that if you toss the cooked potatoes with a little light vinegar, they'll retain their flavor better after being boiled.

Active time: about 35-45 minutes, plus chilling time
Serves 12

3 lbs red potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1 Tbsp rice vinegar, or white vinegar
4 cold eggs
1/2 Vidalia onion, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
4-5 stalks celery, diced
1 C mayonnaise (I like using Kraft's olive oil mayo)
1/4 C sweet pickle relish
1 tsp mustard powder
1 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for potatoes
freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar, if needed

Peel about half of the potatoes (or all of them if you don't want any skins) and cut them into 1-inch size pieces. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water by about two inches. Bring the water to a boil, season generously with salt, and boil the potatoes are just tender or a fork easily slides into a piece. (It's really important that the potatoes don't break apart at this stage; otherwise they won't hold together when tossed with the dressing.) Drain the cooked potatoes in a colander and let cool for a few minutes. Sprinkle the tablespoon of vinegar over the potatoes while they're still warm and toss gently. Let the potatoes cool to room temperature.

While the potatoes cool, you can cook the eggs, chop your vegetables, and make the dressing. For the eggs, have a large bowl of ice water handy next to the stove. In a pot, about 4 cups of water to boil. Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, gently lower each cold egg into the boiling water. Boil uncovered for exactly 9 minutes. Remove each egg with the slotted spoon and gently lower into the bowl of ice water. You can leave these in the water until you're ready to assemble the salad.

In a large bowl (the bowl in which you want to serve the salad) combine the onions and celery. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, relish, mustard powder, herbs, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Taste the dressing and adjust for seasonings. If it seems like it's missing a little something, add the pinch of sugar and it will be perfect--I promise.

Once the potatoes have cooled and you're ready to assemble the salad, add the potatoes to the bowl with the vegetables. Remove the eggs from the water and peel them. Chop them into pieces and add to the large bowl. Toss everything together, the add the dressing and toss again. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

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