July 15, 2012

Nonna's Potato Salad

Since I was a little girl, I have adored my Nonna's potato salad. Only. I have never enjoyed one bite of any store-bought potato salad I've tried in my 26 years, but put me in the vicinity of Nonna's potato salad and I'm like a rabid dog. I get blinded by my insatiable hunger for the flavors and textures. It's awkward to admit, but I have never been able to stop eating it until I feel really, over the top, uncomfortably full.

Nonna's potato salad is full of nostalgia, yes, but it's also got an addictively (did you know that's not a word? Spell check is yelling at me right now) tart and vinegary flavor. It's that zing that made me lick my bowl at as a kid, sneak spoonfuls from under the plastic wrap before it was ready to be served at family picnics as a teen (I was soooo bad), and call my Nonna twice for the recipe as a young, and now not-as-young, adult.

Nonna hasn't made this potato salad in a few years. It's not that she's not able to, but she's 90. No doubt that family members have held back their requests because they know that she would gladly tackle the labor of peeling pounds of spuds in a heartbeat.  It would be a lot to ask.

She never writes her recipes down and she's never used a recipe card to cook with, as far as I've ever seen. When I call her for a recipe it's all "a little bit of this, some of that, if you have it." That may have been why I was a little skeptical when I called her most recently for this recipe, having lost it over the years since she last recited it to me. When she explained the steps it just seemed too easy.

"Are you sure that's it?" I pressed her over the phone.
"Yes..." She hesitated. "Yes. Oh, I add a little parsley if I have it in the garden, but some people don't like it."

Later, I texted my sister:
Got recipe. It's silly simple.
Must be something missing. 
I will make it and let you know if it tastes the same or not.

Her reply:
Do you think she remembered right?

Two days later I had time to make it. I took my first bite immediately sent my sister a text:
Wish I could send you some! Tastes JUST like Nonna's.
Evidently she was right about her own recipe. 
Serves me right for doubting the master.

Nonna's Potato Salad:
3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
olive oil
apple cider vinegar
homemade mayonnaise, recipe below (or quality store bought)

finely chopped white or red onion (about 1/2 cup)
salt & pepper
chopped fresh parsley

Boil the potatoes until soft and a knife inserted goes in easily. Drain well, allowing potatoes to steam out the moisture for a few minutes. In a large bowl, add the potatoes in small batches, generously sprinkling equal parts vinegar and oil to coat for every layer of potatoes. Toss gently, allow the vinegar and oil to soak into the potatoes. Stir in mayo to desired creaminess, then stir in the onions, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with additional vinegar if desired. Chill in the fridge, or serve at room temperature.

Homemade mayonnaise: To the bowl of a food processor, add one whole egg. With the blade running, add 1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar. Keep blade running, and very slowly pour in 1 cup of vegetable oil. Salt to taste.

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