Potato Salad Makes a Picnic

June 2nd, 2010 / Comments 3

 Potato Salad Makes a PicnicThe warm days and evening sunsets of June usher in the arrival of picnic season. My early picnic memories involve big metal coolers and Tupperware containers with impossible to remove lids. There were charcoal fires smoldering with smoke that burned my eyes or wood fires lit to keep mosquitoes away and, more importantly, as the source of heat for cooking anything that could be wrapped in foil or speared on a long stick. For dessert there were marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers for s’Mores, or bananas wrapped in foil and roasted. Picnics were thirsty affairs and it was a proud moment when I was deemed old enough to control the push button spout on the red and silver drink cooler. These collaborative meals had varied menus, ham or fried chicken, green salad, bean salad or Jell-O salad but it wasn’t a picnic without potato salad.

The potato salad of those early picnics was white – peeled white potatoes, diced white onions, celery and mayo. I loved it. I skipped the shriveled hotdogs blistered by the fire and the dry, overcooked hamburgers slathered with catsup. I piled potato salad into the largest section of my divided paper plate, put a small scoop of baked beans into one of the two small sections and filled the other section with bread and butter pickles. It was an extra special meal if there was bright pink, purple, orange or green Kool-Aid in one of the drink coolers.

The monochromatic potato salad, transported on ice to every picnic was the point of departure for my expedition into potato salad country. I wasn’t always a painter but color has always been important to me. When I made my first bowl of potato salad, I though of potatoes as the white canvas, the carrots, red peppers and onions and green herbs as the paints and the dressing as the glue that held it all together. Here’s how I did it:

A Painter’s Potato Salad

I scrubbed a two pounds of small, red skinned potatoes and steamed them until they were fork tender. While the potatoes cooked, I diced a medium red onion and put it into a bowl of salted ice water to get rid of the sharp, raw onion taste.

I cut the potatoes into one-inch chunks as soon as they were cool enough handle and added half a cup of coarsely grated carrot, one diced, red pepper, two stalks of sliced celery, a large handful of chopped flat leaf parsley and the rinsed and drained onion.

For the dressing, I combined two-thirds of a cup of mayonnaise, two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and eight grinds of black pepper. I used a spatula to gently combine the dressing with the potato mixture.

These recipes serve four generously. I always use new potatoes, either red or white skinned, and combine them with the salad dressing while they are still warm. Yesterday’s cold potatoes are fine for hash browns but they don’t have the flavor or texture to make first-class potato salad. If the salad is too dry, I add another tablespoon of mayonnaise and a splash of vinegar. Chopped hard-boiled eggs and chives can be added along with the dressing. A taste test is the best way to determine if the seasonings need to be adjusted.>> Print This Post <<

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• 3 Responses to “Potato Salad Makes a Picnic”

  • Drick says:

    great tip on the onions, we do the same thing when using red onions only add the vinegar to the onion water…this is a really great salad, would almost say it is a great old-fashion potato salad but then, I would be putting my foot in my mouth and also telling my age…

  • Carole says:

    Thank you for the beautiful bookmarks (and pork roasting chart). I always have problems with the latter, so I appreciate the chart. LOVE your watercolors.

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