On my way to dinner, I had no idea that I had just entered myself into a contest. My cousin was home from school for the weekend, and my aunt had invited the family over for a barbecue. “Bring a side,” she said. I obliged, whipping up a recipe for potato salad that I had been wanting to try from Molly Wizenberg’s book. Unbeknownst to me, sitting on my passenger seat was a loaded bowl—a light, fresh potato salad that would go face-to-face against it’s counterpart: the mayo-laden, sweet pickle-strewn, over-egged variety that is served everywhere from here to Maine. The gloves were off.
I can’t say that I wasn’t nervous, seeing my duplicate contribution to the party staring at me from the buffet. Sometimes I wish I could go to gatherings anonymously—people expect the world of your potluck dishes when you write about food. This was so different from every potato salad that I had ever made (chock-full of herbs, easy on the eggs, sans pickles), that I wondered for a moment what people would think. Did I salt it enough? Was there enough ranch? Mayo? Too much dill?
Not only did it smack the competition right upside the head, it did so in style. This salad is beautifully colored, and requires only a minimal amount of ingredients. The recipe comes from Molly’s father Burg, and the “sort of” comes from my inability to precisely follow any recipe I encounter.
You’ll need some red potatoes (some call them “waxy” red potatoes), a few eggs, ranch dressing, mayo, a load of fresh dill and one bunch of green onions.
Cover the potatoes in cold water and give them a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook them uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until mostly tender when pierced with a knife. Transfer the potatoes to a colander and run them under plenty of cold water, then stick them in the fridge to finish cooling.
Carefully cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a gentle boil. Once the water begins to boil, remove the pan from heat, cover and let sit for “exactly 12 minutes.”
Here’s the major difference between Ms. Wizenberg and me: she speaks in exact, precise measurements. She says “gently place” and “exactly 12 minutes.” I say “throw,” “about,” and “remove the eggs from heat whenever you remember to do so.” God bless her.
Give the dill a fine little chop…
…and mix it in with the mayo and ranch dressing. Cover and stick in the fridge until we’re ready to use that sucker.
Crap. See why I said “whenever you remember?” Because I forget things. And I cannot in good conscience give you instructions that I myself have not followed.
After the 12 minutes, remove the eggs and run them under cold water until they’re cool to the touch. Stick them in the fridge for a spell to ensure they’re totally cooled.
Chop the green onions…
…and the cooled potatoes into rough 1″ chunks.
And oh, the eggs. Is there anything prettier than an egg? I go through phases where I want to raise chickens for eggs. And then I remember that I don’t really like chickens. Or anything with wings, for that matter. Birds freak me out. So then I just go to the grocery store.
Give them a nice chop.
Combine the potatoes, green onions, eggs and a pinch of salt. Give it a good stir.
Mix in the dressing, cover, salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate overnight. Yup. It’s a make-ahead sort of deal. But after tasting it both before and after it’s overnight stint in the fridge, I can tell you that it’s just fine either way.
I just adore the contrast of the red potatoes and the dill. This salad is surely pretty enough to serve for company.
And what I loved most? The flavors. Lightly seasoned dressing with hints of ranch, tender potatoes and perfect little pieces of egg that were, despite all my attempts to make them otherwise, perfectly cooked.
Summertime is calling. Make this cool, crisp potato salad for your next barbecue and watch as people devour it and snub that poor, ugly yellow potato salad, leaving it to wither in the heat.
- 2 pounds red waxy potatoes
- 4 eggs
- 6-8 scallions (green onions, usually one bunch in the grocery store)
- 3/4 cup mayonaise (not light, please)
- 1/4 cup ranch dressing (not light, please)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- Salt and pepper to taste (I found it needed quite a bit)
Wash the potatoes, place in a large pot, and cover with water plus one inch. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Transfer potatoes to a colander and run plenty of cold water over them. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled.
Gently place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil, then remove from heat, cover, and let sit 12 minutes. Remove eggs from heat and run lots of cold water over them. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled.
Stir together the mayonnaise, ranch dressing and dill in a small bowl. Chop green onions, leaving out the darker green pieces. Shell the eggs and roughly chop. In a larger bowl, combine the potatoes, chopped eggs, and chopped green onions. Stir. Pour in dressing and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight*.
*If you can’t do this it should be fine as long as your eggs and potatoes are thoroughly cooled before using. If you want to sort of “half” make it ahead of time, make the dressing the night before (mayo, ranch, dill). This will at least give the flavors in the dressing time to come together.