Posted on 02 July 2009.
It’s not a picnic, a barbecue or the Fourth of July, for some, unless the potato salad is there. And, not just any potato salad.
“It has to be my potato salad,” says an acquaintance of ours. In this case, it must be made with Best Foods mayonnaise and have some form of dill in it.
For every cook whose recipe is like this person’s, there are just as many who require salad dressing not mayonnaise, or ballpark mustard rather than Dijon. Some don’t put white or yellow onions in — they only use scallions. Some (and we find this hard to imagine) are annoyed when they encounter a crunchy bite of celery in the mix.
So good is potato salad, however, that despite the tedious actions of peeling potatoes, mincing onion and celery, boiling and peeling eggs, making and mixing in the dressing, most of us want it homemade. If not our way, then we want it the way our mom, aunt or an in-law made it.
Steve Silbas, who owns Casbeer’s at the Church, 1150 S. Alamo St., with his wife, Barbara Wolfe, makes his mother’s recipe. The technique that distinguishes this recipe is stirring in every ingredient individually, turning the salad into a creamy, mustardy, delicious blend.
“We had it at every family cookout, picnic and get-together – even Thanksgiving and Christmas. My sister, Sylvia, now also carries on the tradition,” he says.
An unusual potato salad recipe, offered by Saundra Winokur of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, near Elmendorf, comes from her late husband, who was Egyptian. It also is a flavorful, creamy concoction, using only three ingredients, plus salt and pepper. The steamy cooked potatoes are blended with minced, blanched fresh garlic. Then, olive oil is drizzled in, while stirring, until it has a moist, loose texture.
Jason Dady of the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills and other restaurants is a big fan of potato salads. They’re “way way too underutilized for the backyard barbecue,” he says. “I prefer mayonnaise/mustard based, but that’s not to say a great vinaigrette base isn’t delicious as well. Potato salads are relatively cheap to make, not too much prep, and can be a great compliment to a wide variety of grilled or barbecued meats.”
The version Dady serves at Two Bros. BBQ Market, 12656 West Ave., gains an extra punch from dry mustard powder.
My own potato salad has changed over the years, as I discovered and added ingredients that only made it better. The addition of sour cream to the mayonnaise makes the mixture seem less oily. A bit of vinaigrette mixed in with the steamy potatoes while they are still warm adds a real boost of flavor.
Finally, I like to put in at least 2 freshly roasted poblano peppers, and a little bit of minced serrano. The green chile flavors will really come through if this is held in the refrigerator overnight.
John Griffin contributed to this report.