Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! I hope everyone has good weather and will perhaps enjoy the delights of a BBQ. I’m going to my dad’s house today, where my brother will surely be the grill master. We will have simple barbecue fare, like good ole’ Loeffler’s hot dogs, hamburgers, and pork roll (a New Jersey specialty). I was asked to bring potato salad.
Growing up, I was never a big fan of potato salad. My mom’s was so-so, and always seemed to be swimming in pools of mayonnaise, which she loved. Hers just had onion, celery, some parsley, and salt and pepper. And pools of mayonnaise! Really, none of the potato salads I grew up with were ever elaborately made, no matter who made it. Maybe some have bacon or hard-boiled egg in them, with or without celery and onion, etc. Then there is the “German potato salad”, which is similar, but with more of a vinaigrette dressing instead of mayo, and sometimes served hot. I guess the store bought type I like best is red-skin potato salad, which often includes some sour cream with mayo. I buy it occasionally, but “doctor it up” with some additional herbs and other seasonings.
The first time I was ever “wowed” by potato salad was on a Christmas Eve I spent with my husband and his family in Czech Republic. My mother-in-law’s potato salad had lots more ingredients that made it special. More vegetables and other goodies! Though I never received her recipe, I have found one that I’ve adapted slightly that my husband likes even more. It is NOT a quick and easy recipe to make, but it is amazing! It includes almost 20 ingredients. Some may seem like odd combinations, but believe me, they complement each other wonderfully. I have included several tips in the recipe instructions that can help quicken preparation and limit the number of bowls and pans used.
A Czech-Style Potato Salad
Yields: 8 to 12 servings
- 7 medium potatoes, boiled, chilled, then peeled and large diced (I suggest boiling the night before, or in the morning)
- 2 medium carrots (200 g), peeled, cut into match sticks, cooked, then diced
- 1 small parsnip or parsley root (100 g), peeled, cut into match sticks, cooked, then diced
- 1 small celery root/celeriac (100 g), outer skin sliced off, diced, cooked in pickling solution (see next bullet). If you can’t find celery root, 1/2 cup sliced green celery stalks can be used instead, but do continue to include the simmered pickling solution.
- Pickling solution for celery root: 1.5 oz (43 g) water, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 tsp sugar, 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped (bathed briefly in boiling water)
- 1/2 cup (100 g) frozen or al-dente cooked peas, thawed frozen/fresh cooked in boiling water, then drained
- 4 or 5 sweet-sour gherkin pickles (100 g), chopped
- 2 large eggs, hard-boiled, cooled, peeled, then chopped
- 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, small diced
- 3 to 4 strips of smoked bacon (50 g), chopped then cooked crisp (1-2 Tbs bacon fat reserved)
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup mayonnaise (75 to 100 g), as desired
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup Tartar sauce (75 to 100 g), as desired
- Optional: 1/4 cup fresh herb parsley, chopped
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Scrub potatoes, and cut in half. Cook on medium-low heat, covered, for approximately 25 minutes or until just tender poked with sharp knife. Not mushy. Remove from heat and drain immediately. Fully cool and then chill for at least 3 hours or overnight. [Note: I have never used red-skin potatoes for this recipe, but think they would work with skins left on.]
Hard-boil 2 large eggs. I simmer the whole eggs on low heat, just covered with water, in a covered saucepan for 10 minutes. Cool. [They can be speed-cooled by draining the hot water out of the sauce pan, and allowed to chill in icy water for about 5 minutes, then drained.] Wait to peel and chop until just before the very last steps in the recipe.
Peel skins off of chilled potatoes (unless you use red-skin potatoes and like their skins on). Cut into large dice. Put in large serving bowl (I use a 4 quart bowl, which is about 4 liter size).
Prepare and cook carrots and parsnip (or parsley root) as directed. Cool (I cool quickly in cold water, then drain) then dice. Add to the serving bowl with potatoes. [Note: You can cook them in the microwave al-dente to speed things up.]
Remove and discard outer skin from celery root (celeriac) and small dice. In either a saucepan or microwave safe bowl (I use the same one I used for the carrots/parsnip), add pickling solution and prepared celery root. Cook accordingly (on stove or microwave) until al-dente. This is about 5 to 6 minutes simmering on the stove or 3 to 5 minutes in the microwave on high, covered. Set aside to cool a bit, without draining. You will need the pickling liquid. Then add both the celery root and pickling solution to the serving bowl.
Peel and chop the onion and put in a small bowl (I use the bowl made available after the celery root). If using frozen peas, add them to the same bowl as the onion. If cooking fresh peas, cook separately until al-dente. Notes just below.
- If using frozen peas: Add boiling water to the bowl with the onions and frozen peas and let sit for a minute or so. Drain, then add veggies to serving bowl.
[The boiling water bath on the raw onion takes the edge off its strong flavor. It also sterilizes and thaws frozen peas, which become sufficiently al-dente once thawed.]
- If cooking fresh peas: Add the onion to the hot water of the recently al-dente cooked fresh peas. Let onion and peas sit in hot water (off heat) for about 10 seconds or so. Drain water off onions and peas, discarding water. Add onions and peas to the serving bowl.
Cook chopped bacon in a small frying pan until crisp, reserving 1-2 Tbs of fat. While the bacon cooks, stirring occasionally, chop the pickles, and peel and chop the eggs and cored apple. Add all three to the serving bowl.
Salt and pepper salad, to taste, adding optional chopped herb parsley. Then add mayonnaise and Tartar sauce, preferably mixed together. Gently mix all potato salad ingredients. Chill potato salad, covered with foil/wrap or lid, for at least 2 hours before serving. When ready to serve, check seasonings and give the salad another gentle mixing. Enjoy! Whew!