Tuesday, January 5, 2010

They Call It TATER Salad (Lee Brothers Style)

If there's one thing that's important growing up in the South, that's potato salad. Forget about sweet tea or fried chicken or anything else. It's the almighty tater, and how it's dressed for the occasion, that is a hotly debated topic. The wrong or badly made potato salad can ruin a picnic on the sunniest day of the year and get in-laws into a standoff.

Everyone has their own favorite recipe and special fixins. Do you add mustard or not? Onions? Slivers of ham? Chopped hard-boiled eggs? Dill pickles? Special spices? And most everyone's potato salad recipe is proudly proclaimed "the best" of them all.

Despite being Chinese, my father and his brothers and sisters (having been raised in the South) were firm believers in this as well. "Our" potato salad eschewed mustard, and had a flavorful but simple mix of onions and celery, diced small, combined with hard-boiled eggs and potatoes, dressed lightly in mayo and salt and pepper. The onion gave it heat and spice, the celery added crunch, and the rest was just a creamy heavenly mouthful.

My first attempt at making it was an absolute failure. My family is one of those who don't have measured recipes, and in my 12 year old confidence, I added this and that, mimicking my Aunt Dot who was our family's potato salad connoisseur. "Too many onions," my father growled after one bite, never one to mince words. I tasted, and he was right...the salad was just overcome with the heat of the onion and was almost inedible.

Fast forward some 20 years, and my recipe has been perfected...the right balance of onion, celery, dill pickles (my father would NOT approve), eggs and taters. So who messes with perfection? Since I have a bad habit of clipping almost every recipe in the weekly food section (and even the recipes in the coupon clipper), I would have to own up that it's me. The recipe that tempted me is in the Lee Brothers' new cookbook, Simple Fresh Southern (what a great title!) and the recipe is Green Goddess Potato Salad, another simple recipe that smothers hunks of freshly boiled taters in that rich, tangy herb-green dressing. My tweaked version (leaving out the white wine vinegar, which I didn't have, and with a few other small edits) is below. My husband, who is another die-hard potato salad lover and devoted to the dill pickle version, was crazy about it. "But next time, let's add eggs," he said. Perfect recipe, version 2.

Green Goddess Potato Salad (adapted from the Lee Brothers)

About six medium potatoes (enough to make four healthy servings--roughly 1.5 to 2 pounds?)
1/2 cup mayo (Hellmans)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (green and white parts)
Teaspoon of dried tarragon
Juice of 1 small lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped hard-boiled eggs (optional)

Peel and cut potatoes into 1 inch chunks. Bring to boil (you can boil eggs at the same time if you're using them), add a couple teaspoons or so of salt, and boil for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. While potatoes are boiling, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl for the dressing.

Drain the potatoes, and peel and chop the eggs. Add to the dressing and mix to combine. Let cool in fridge, and add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Photo credit: oprah.com

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