Mary’s Potato Salad

August 9, 2023

Last weekend TKW posted our dinner menu (see below) which included a favorite potato salad inspired by my Mom’s, and an IG follower asked for the recipe. As today is Mom’s 100th birthday, and it’s a major favorite in the Watson/Sive household, I heard the message! So today, while I’m also thinking of Mom‘s many intellectual, professional, and life accomplishments—and they were many, especially someone born in 1923—here I celebrate Mom in a more traditional way. (This praise I think she would have looked askance at but inwardly smiled.) While this recipe closely follows Mom’s approach in the defining use of vinegar and serving warm or at room temperature, I’ve “shuzzed it up” a tad. 

Clean 2.5 lbs. of mature red potatoes; be sure to take out any “eyes” or blemishes and leave the skins on. Place in heavy pot and cover with cold water. Heat to boiling and then medium boil.

While the potatoes are cooking, slice in the long direction, as thin as you can, 1/4 to 1/2 inch of a red onion and put in the bottom of ideally a ceramic (to retain heat) salad bowl. Combine in a measuring cup and whip lightly with a small whisk or fork: 1/3 cup basic vegetable oil (you want subtle or really no taste from the oil, so no EVOO here), 1/3 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar, 1/3 teaspoon salt, and 1/3 teaspoon pepper. Pour the dressing in the bowl, being sure to cover all the onions. (Similar to most of TKW’s fab salad dressings, soaking the onion (or shallot or garlic) pickles and mellows the astringency.)

Cook the potatoes until almost fully done; a fork or small pointed knife goes in easily, but with just some resistance. (Key to this recipe is that the potatoes absorb the dressing and continue to cook as they cool.) Remove the pot from the heat and leave  the potatoes in the hot water. Take potatoes out of the pot two at a time, place on a cutting board, and leaving the skin on, cut each in half on the long dimension, and then again in three to five ½-inch-wide slices; place in the bowl and toss lightly. Repeat until all potatoes are cut and dressed.

Medium chop the leaves (no stems) of six or so Italian parsley, and toss the salad again. Some portions of skin and little bits of potato will come free, and the salad becomes a mix of firmer slices mixed in the bits of what look like smashed potatoes.  

I love this recipe (sometimes in 2x or 3x the quantity here) for large groups, as you can make it a few hours before guests arrive; the potatoes soak up the dressing and everything blends and mellows. If doing this, be sure to cover the bowl with a heavy plate or pot lid and a thick kitchen towel, toss once or twice more, and maybe serve with just a bit more fresh chopped parsley on top. The meal last weekend: BBQ chicken with KC (aka Kansas City, TKW’s hometown) Masterpiece, grilled sugar snaps, and this potato salad. The tart of the salad a great mix with the sweet and savory of the chicken and peas. And an homage to our childhoods. Thanks, Mom!