Today’s fun activity was to finally get off my duff and try my hand at a dish I’d never attempted without Aunt Judy being right there in her kitchen…her potato salad.
This concoction of hers was pretty much universally well-received, so much so that even Uncle Walter’s family in south Georgia would insist she make it whenever they’d head south for a family reunion. When *SOUTHERNERS* who know something about potato salad won’t touch anything else but what was inspired by her upbringing in northern Minnesota, you know you’ve got a real winner on your hands.
I’ll admit that the part that had scared me away from doing one of her signature sides was boiling the eggs and potatoes that go into it. If you bugger those two items, you’re pretty much screwed.
Today was the opportunity to find two more reasons to absolutely fall in love with the Instant Pot pressure cooker Julia had given me as a gift.
It already had me singing its praises for amazing steamed green beans but now knowing that it’ll turn out perfectly “boiled” (actually pressure steamed) eggs and potatoes for her salad…there’s no more excuses!
I’d invested in a double-layer egg rack…one cup of water and five minutes of pressure cooking later, the eggs went into an ice water bath for five minutes. OK, there wasn’t much ice because the ice maker was being rather hateful at that moment but the cool water still did the trick. All I had to do is roll the eggs on the cutting board to crack the shell and they came off insanely easy! I’d *NEVER* had hard-boiled eggs peel that easily!
Then it was time for the potatoes to have their turn in the Instant Pot. There are two secrets to this potato salad and using russet baking potatoes is one of them. She always preferred the baking potatoes having a much firmer texture after the boiling and I can assure you that it is instantly obvious when a potato salad doesn’t use them. Four decent-sized cleaned russets (still in the skin!) and ten minutes of pressure cooking later and they were done. And those skins came off just about as easily as the egg shells did!
The next secret is that Aunt Judy never used mayonnaise in her potato salad. Ever. I’m convinced that the only reason the Almighty inspired the creation of Miracle Whip (which is the other trick) and French’s Yellow Mustard was Aunt Judy’s potato salad.
I truly have no other use for those two items! 😉
The recipe that my sister provided many years ago in a special cookbook does have some measurements for them plus the salt and pepper but I never once saw Aunt Judy actually measure them at all.
Instead, she knew the specific hue of light yellow she was aiming for and then it was a matter of adding pepper and salt to taste. She also seemed to nail the exact amount of dressing to make depending on how many potatoes went into the boiling pot.
There were times that I distinctly remember accusing her of practicing witchcraft in that kitchen when she’d concoct her dishes using measuring that was best described as “by gosh and by golly”. And though I was convinced there was some sort of “bibbidy bobbidy boo” happening, I never actually caught her at it!
The best part of helping her make the potato salad was being drafted in as quality assurance! Even though it is better chilled and aged, there’s no way I was not going to have a bowl to test how close I got to her standard.
For a first solo attempt 30-40 odd years after I’d last helped her make it, I’d have to say it was pretty darned close. The only thing I’d change is perhaps bumping up the pressure cooking time of the potatoes from 10 to 12 minutes to make them slightly less firm.
Everything else was exactly as I’d remembered it.
OK, one difference is that her massive bowl would often produce potato salad both with and without eggs for those who were sensitive to egg…and I wasn’t one of them!
I’d think she’d be pleased knowing this sure as hell won’t be the last time I turn my hand to making one of my very favourite comfort foods. 🙂