I have tried many times throughout my life as an adult cook to replicate the big picnic comfort food of my childhood but I never came close. As far as I can remember all my mother ever did was toss potatoes, chopped celery, and hardboiled eggs with lots of Miracle Whip. I tried that once and hated it. I learned that ever since I tasted real mayonnaise and even sometimes made my own, I cannot stand the sweet/harsh acid taste of Miracle Whip.
Maybe I am remembering wrong. Maybe it wasn’t my mother’s potato salad I liked so much. Come to think of it, our church’s Fourth of July picnic was Potato Salad Mecca. Lots of potato salads to choose from and always some that were really really good. Oh, and date pudding, too. With real whipped cream.
My sporadic efforts to make potato salad have been hampered by one thing. I know too much about what’s good for you and what’s not. I always held back on the dressing. I couldn’t bring myself to apply enough mayonnaise, or combinations of mayonnaise and sour cream, to make it creamy good. My potato salads turned out dry and sticky. Besides, we don’t eat that many potatoes any more. Too many carbs. So any potato salad should be a real treat and mine have not been.
Another factor is that I’ve tasted other versions of potato salad that I like better than the Pennsylvania Dutch versions of my childhood, especially German potato salad (though the Germans of my family didn’t make it) and Spanish garlic potato salad. I love the sweet-sour tang of the warm German dish and the creamy sharp garlic kick of the Spanish tapas salad.
Recently I’ve been hungry for potato salad and I’ve been experimenting. I looked at recipes and was horrified once again at how much mayo and sour cream they called for. A recipe from our favorite tapas restaurant in Chicago called for an unconscionable amount of garlic as well. I knew it wouldn’t work for me. But I tried some things and took potato salad to two recent potlucks. I got lots of compliments, especially at the second one, after I tweaked the formula. I actually measured the dressing ingredients for once so I can pass on the recipe.
The secret is an ingredient that wasn’t available when I was a child or even during most of my 45 years as a home cook: nonfat Greek yogurt. It adds the creaminess and mild tang without extra artery cloggers. This potato salad is about as healthful and tasty as it gets.
Practical Mystic’s Potato Salad for a Crowd
5 pounds redskin potatoes, boiled with a little salt, peeled, diced
2 c finely chopped celery
1 c mayonnaise (I used Kraft mayo with olive oil)
1 c plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 c cider vinegar
juice of one lemon
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T sugar
2 cloves garlic, pounded in a pestle with 1 t salt (or use garlic press)
That’s it. Toss, chill, yum. Sorry, no pictures. I didn’t know how good it was until we ate it and then of course we ate it all up.