Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Bite of Family History

My mother was not a great cook, but did a decent job of feeding her family of five staples like Spanish rice, tuna casserole and goulash. Her own mother was a terrible cook, and growing up in North Powder, Oregon, a teeny Eastern Oregon town of 400, hadn't provided much in the way of adventurous dining. She did occasionally venture into unknown territory, which brought exotic foods like tacos, made with store-bought packets of Taco Mix and greasy fried tortillas, to our dinner table.

There were recipes of hers I made sure to copy down before I left home. Her pineapple carrot cake, favorite holiday cookie recipes and, probably her pièce de resistance, a fabulous all-American summer favorite, potato salad.

The other day I needed to contribute a side dish for my brother's birthday dinner, and had mentioned bringing a rocking quinoa salad that Susana had made, or maybe Luan's terrific farro salad with pecorino and cherry tomatoes. But when I brought up Mom's potato salad, his eyes lit up and the deal was sealed.

Now, everyone has their own definitive version of potato salad, with accompanying debates about the merits of mayo versus salad dressing, celery or not. My mother's called for russets (no Yukon golds for her, mister), pickle juice as the dressing's secret ingredient and it had a slightly pink tinge from what we refer to as God's own condiment, ketchup.

And there's nothing that reminds me of her more than when I dig into a pile of this.

Mom's Potato Salad

2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. ketchup
2 tsp. worchestershire
2 tsp. basil
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/3 c. pickle juice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

8 med. russet potatoes
1 yellow onion
10 eggs
6 med. pickles

Put unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and cover with water. Place on stove and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender but not mushy. Drain and cool (can be made ahead).

While potatoes cook, make dressing. Put all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

Slice cooled potatoes into 1" square and 1/8" wide pieces (or bite-sized). Chop onion and pickles fine. Chop eggs. Put in a large bowl, pour dressing over top and fold it in (don't stir or the potatoes will break up too much) until thoroughly combined. Place bowl in refrigerator and let sit for a couple of hours so flavors have a change to mingle.

Serves 10-12. This recipe makes a huge batch, so you may want to halve it.


Unknown said...

Good old potato salad! This reminds me of my mom's except she uses the sweet pickles and not the juice. Congratulations on your three year anniversary!

Kathleen Bauer said...

You're so sweet! And I bet that's a terrific version your mom has. (Maybe post it on your blog?)

Unknown said...


Kathleen Bauer said...

OK, the next time you're home and she makes it, take copious notes (and don't let her throw anything into it without letting you measure it)!

dds said...

Excellent! (or should I say, "eggsellent"? 10 eggs, wow.) This is going to be a dangerous recipe to have on-hand. If I'd read it without having tasted I'd be leery, but having tasted it, all I can say is, "Can woman live on potato salad alone?" We'll soon find out. Thank you!

Kathleen Bauer said...

As you recall, it was a ton of potato salad. Half the recipe would serve a very hungry family. Try it and let me know what you think!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I was fortunate enough to have this at B's 5oth and am going to make it for a BBQ this weekend at DDS's! I hope mine turns out as yummy!

Kathleen Bauer said...

Let me know how it comes out!