There are two kinds of enthusiasts.
The first type is an indiscriminate lover of anything having to do with the object of their affection, despite its worthiness of veneration. Crazy cat ladies and UNC fans come to mind.
The second is extremely selective; they consider themselves something of a connoisseur. They have stratospherically high standards and eschew inauthenticity or subpar quality.
Sometimes this can turn the devotee into a giant pain in the keester. Think amateur wine experts or Renaissance Faire enthusiasts.
When it comes to potato salad, I am in the second camp (except I’m always absolutely charming about it; never having once pained a keester).
I do, however, have somewhat strong opinions.
Celery and mustard are abominations. It should never be refrigerated; the potato starches crystallize and ruin both flavor and texture. Hot is not an acceptable temperature. While German potato salad is a perfectly fine spud side dish, it is not and never will be potato salad.
Most store-bought and restaurant versions have no justification for existence. I can count on one hand the acceptable commercial varieties. It is such an infrequent occurrence that I remember each one.
There was one in a deli called Kangaroo Sandwich Shop in La Jolla California. Years ago Belks had an in-store restaurant in which they served a delicious potato salad. And a Greensboro diner makes a deliciously different one with lemon.
It’s a little peppery for me and unfortunately, chock-full of celery. So I dumped the stuff I didn’t like, enhanced what I did, and filled in the recipe blanks. I also used a few techniques from America’s Test Kitchen, and came up with an original bowl of potato love.
Lemon kitchen potato salad
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
Skin of 2-3 lemons, yellow part only, peeled off with a vegetable peeler
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup lemon juice
1 hard-cooked egg, finely grated
1/4 yellow onion, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Salt & pepper to taste
Potatoes: Place potatoes and lemon skin into large saucepan of heavily salted water. Bring to boil and cook until a fork easily pierces the spuds.
While the potatoes are cooking, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil, season with big pinch of salt and pepper.
When potatoes are cooked, drain, mash about half of one tater and stir it through. This will add texture and make the sauce cling better. Then mix in lemon/olive oil, draining off any excess. Let cool completely.
Whisk dressing ingredients. Taste for seasoning, and re-season, if needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to mix with spuds.
1 hour before service: Fold dressing into potatoes until well coated. Taste and season. Cover and let sit for an hour before service.
This is only one of about a dozen potato salad recipes I use. When you eat it as often as I, you have to mix it up.
It really is a gift from the gustatory gods. I love it. I love the words “potato salad”. I love the sound it makes when you mix in some delicious Hellmann’s mayo. I love the anticipation when it’s what’s for dinner. And I love that something so simple brings me so very much joy.
Does that sound pathetic? I’m not obsessed; I do love other things…like the sound of rain, cute shoes, Scott Joplin, and Mad magazine.
Thanks for your time.