Potato salad is a very personal thing.

There are a multitude of choices to make, and everyone has a different opinion: Skins or no skins? Red Bliss or Yukon Gold? Egg or no egg? Mayo or vinegar? Celery or onion, or both?

Woe be unto you if you make the “wrong” choices for your July Fourth potato salad. It’s a little like serving oyster dressing instead of sausage stuffing at Thanksgiving — you’ll never hear the end of it.

“There are very personal and polarizing feelings about potato salad,” said Elizabeth Horton, an avid home cook and food public relations professional who was featured in Bon Appetit a couple of years ago.

“I know in my family alone, if anybody gets out any kind of potato salad that has vinegar or something like that, it’s like, ‘Oh, no, no, no.’ It has to be all about mayonnaise and mustard.”

So when she goes to summer potlucks or a family gathering, Horton makes a classic potato salad that uses Yukon Gold potatoes, canola mayo, onion and celery, Dijon mustard, a sprinkling of smoked Spanish paprika and unexpected ingredients such as carrots, cilantro and white pepper so that it’s “not a wimpy potato salad. It’s got chutzpah.”

And, oh yes — the skins stay on. It’s summer. “There’s no time for peeling,” Horton says.

Maine cookbook author Kate Krukowski Gooding leaves the skins on for visual appeal and adds mustard for tang. For herb seasonings, she recommends dill, chives, savory and chervil.

“I don’t put any celery in my potato salad,” Gooding said. “For me, it’s a textural thing. I don’t like the celery taste. I have a friend who loves olives in her potato salad, and I just want to gag.”

In her next cookbook, Gooding will publish her new recipe for Thai Ginger Potato Salad, a spicy version of the July 4th classic side dish that includes curry, onion and garlic. Think of it as a nod to America’s melting-pot culture. She got the idea on a business trip while she was eating spicy Thai potato chips, deconstructed the flavors, “and it is soooo spankin’ good.”

Want to get really wacky? Forget about puzzling over which variety of white potato to use and go with something completely different — sweet potatoes.

Laura LeBrun and her fiance both love sweet potatoes and curry, so ever since last summer, LeBrun, who blogs about food and other topics at sweetersalt.com, has been developing a curried sweet potato salad recipe. She lightened it up by using yogurt instead of mayonnaise.

“I brought it to a family picnic the other weekend,” she said, “and it was a hit, so I was happy.”

ELIZABETH HORTON’S CLASSIC POTATO SALAD

8 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into non-uniform 1-inch pieces, skins on!

4 carrots, roughly chopped

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

5 large eggs, hard boiled, peeled and roughly chopped

8 tablespoons canola mayonnaise

2 tablespoons strong Dijon-style mustard

Half bunch of cilantro, stemmed and chopped

1/2 teaspoon paprika (smoked Spanish is best)

Sea salt and white pepper to taste

Cover potatoes with water in large pot and boil until just tender with fork. Drain, set aside to cool. Add vegetables. Chill for a few hours. Remove from fridge and add eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, cilantro and seasonings. Good paprika, such as smoked Spanish style, renders great flavor. Serve immediately or, if time permits, refrigerate overnight. May need to add a touch more mayonnaise and mustard the next day. Great accompaniment for barbecue chicken, boiled lobster or spicy sausages on the grill.

KATE GOODING’S THAI GINGER POTATO SALAD

DRESSING:

2 eggs

1 tablespoon chili paste (Sambol)

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

3/4 cup ginger oil*

1/4 cup lime oil

*Homemade Ginger Oil: Combine 1 cup canola oil and 1/4 cup chopped, fresh ginger. Let sit for 3 days before using.

SALAD:

3 pounds Maine red potatoes, cut in chunks

1 sweet red pepper, cut into thin strips about 1 inch long

3/4 cup sweet onion, chopped fine

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Combine all dressing ingredients, except oils, in blender or small food processor. Turn blender on and drizzle oil in. This gives the dressing a thicker, creamy-looking body. Can refrigerate dressing for up to a week. Cook potatoes for 15 minutes, drain and place in large mixing bowl. Add dressing, red pepper, onion and cilantro; stir with wooden spoon to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature. For a nice presentation, place the potato salad on top of shredded napa cabbage and garnish with chopped peanuts.

LAURA LEBRUN’S CURRIED SWEET POTATO SALAD

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks

1 cup fat-free plain yogurt

1/4 cup low-fat, all-natural mayonnaise

1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley

Place sweet potatoes in a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring water to a boil. Once water is boiling, allow potatoes to cook 5 to 10 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and allow to cool. Combine yogurt, mayonnaise, curry, salt and garlic powder in a large mixing bowl. Add pepper and sweet potatoes.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with chopped parsley.

 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]