When I think about cooking with love for the people in my life, there's always one person who jumps to mind as the example I should be emulating. Unfortunately, I can't tell you her name because she doesn't know I'm writing this post and she probably wouldn't want a post dedicated to her anyway. She's far too modest and is simply uninterested in fame or glory.
But I'm going to call her Edna. She lives in my hometown of Pittsburgh and she's been a family friend for as long as I can remember. And Edna has a favorite saying which speaks volumes about her as a person: "It's as easy to cook for ten as it is to cook for one."
I used to marvel at those words and wonder how it could be possible. She would bring salads, casseroles, bars, pies and deviled eggs to share at church potlucks, and as a child scrambling to get to the head of the food line, I would always wonder how Edna managed it. Because the food was always perfect, always comforting, always homemade from-scratch.
But Edna has secret and it has nothing to do with scalable recipes, experience, the best ingredients, or efficient kitchen appliances (although all of those things are helpful). Edna's secret in the kitchen was love. She loved the people she cooked and baked for, whether family or friends, and that love didn't change no matter how many people were involved. Food was Edna's inconspicuous and quiet way to say, "I love you."
Yet Edna would probably never admit this. In fact, she would never tell you she could have a pie ready to bake (all from scratch) in 30 minutes or less - with a perfectly crimped double crust. She would never tell you she makes the best deviled eggs I've ever had - it's just something she throws together. And Edna would never admit that she makes the best potato salad on the planet - a salad by which I judge all other potato salads. Including my own.
Edna's potato salad tastes like quintessential American Fourth of July summer picnics - comfort, happiness and friendship. Yes, it also tastes like perfectly cooked potatoes, creamy mayonnaise and rich hard boiled eggs (with a crunch of celery and zing of vinegar), but for me her salad really embodied everything I love about summer.
That's what I have attempted to recreate here. I wanted to create a classic go-to potato salad with the power to transport me back to friends and family, no matter this distance. I'm happy with where I have arrived - even if it's not Edna's embodiment of happy summer memories.
Thus the potato salad I'm sharing today is only a pale a tribute to Edna and her potato salad. Which of course is about more than just potato salad because anyone can throw potatoes, eggs and mayonnaise together. Edna's salad is about all her love that she gives so freely, whether to one person or to ten. And it's the kind of love I hope to be able to someday live and share so freely.
For now, I'll start by sharing potato salad. It's not Edna's, but it's made with love for all those in my life. And it's love I want to share with you.
A little about this salad:
- Roasting Potatoes: I roast potatoes because I don't want to boil away all the nutritients with water. Besides, I believe roasting intensifies the potato flavor and really helps soften tough potato skins.
- Cauliflower and Radish: I'll guarantee Edna did NOT add cauliflower or radish to her potato salad. But I wanted to add more healthful nutrition, so I figured I'd try adding a little of both. And it works just fine - you will never know either ingredient is there. Unless of course you made the salad and insist on searching amongst bits of egg white and potato. But seriously, they disappear.
- Capers: I don't think Edna added capers either, but I like the briney bite they give this salad. Just don't go crazy with the capers or they will overpower everything.
- Homemade Mayonnaise: I have said this before, I'll say it again now, and I'm sure you'll hear me say it in the future - there is no good pre-made substitute for homemade mayonnaise. So I really recommend making your own for this salad. If you use a jarred variety, you will probably need to add additional Dijon mustard, vinegar and lemon juice to the dressing.
Roasted American Potato Salad
Prep Time: 30 min Roasting Time: 25 min Chill Time: 2 hr Oven Temp: 425℉ Yield: 8 servings
- 10 medium potatoes, diced into 1-inch chunks, about 8 cups (recommend red potatoes)
- 1/2 cup diced cauliflower stalk
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 6 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced (1 cup)
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced (1/3 cup)
- 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
- 2 medium radishes, finely diced (3 Tablespoons)
- 3 Tablespoons drained capers (halved, if large capers)
- 2 Tablespoon minced fresh dill
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
- 1 Tablespoon dijon mustard (recommend Grey Poupon)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Preheat oven
- Combine diced potatoes and cauliflower in a large bowl and drizzle with oil; sprinkle with garlic powder, smoked paprika, kosher salt and cracked black pepper; toss together, then spread out potatoes and cauliflower on a half-sheet pan
- Roast potatoes and cauliflower for 25-30 minutes until a fork can easily pierce and slide out of the potato chunks; set aside to cool until just warmer than room temperature
- While potatoes and cauliflower are roasting and cooling, prep and combine celery, bell pepper, onion, radishes, capers, dill, garlic and eggs in a large bowl
- To make the dressing, whisk together mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, mustards, lemon juice, salt and cracked pepper. Add potatoes to salad bowl, pour over dressing, and mix thoroughly
- Chill for at least 2 hours before serving
- Make sure potatoes are roasted perfectly by checking the done-ness during the last 10 minutes of roasting. A fork should be able to easily pierce the potato chunks and slide out easily. If you do not roast long enough, the potatoes won't absorb the dressing and if you roast too long, the potatoes will fall apart when you mix the salad.
- Make sure potatoes are slightly warm when you add them to the salad so that they will better absorb the dressing. But don't add hot potatoes to the salad if you will break the dressing and cook the other vegetables. If you roast the potatoes in advance and store them in the refrigerator, make sure to warm them before adding to the salad or the potatoes will never absorb the dressing.
- Potatoes come in all shapes and sizes so the best way to be sure you have the right balance between potatoes and other ingredients is to measure the chunks of potatoes. I use a big 4-cup glass measure to keep track of my potato chunks.
- If you like to really taste mustard in your potato salad, you may want to add a little more prepared yellow mustard to the dressing. I prefer more of a balance between the mustard, mayonnaise and dill flavors and my proportion of mustards reflect this.
- If you're not sure how to boil an egg, see my previous post devoted to just this topic. It's all about perfectly cooked and easy-to-peel eggs.
- Like most non-greens salads, potato salad tastes best after it has had a chance to chill - the potatoes absorb the dressing, the flavors really meld, and somehow cold potato salad just tastes better than tepid or warm potato salad. So I recommend making this salad the day before you want to serve.