Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Gran's Gonna Kill Me

She deftly lifted the next cooked potato and keeping it in the palm of her hand, she first peeled then diced it with a sharp knife.

“Gran, aren’t you afraid of cutting your hand?”

She gave me the same response as my mom had when I’d asked her the last time she made their potato salad.

“No, Dear. I’ve been making this potato salad for a long time, and I’ve never – not once – cut myself while doing it.”

 As she worked on the next cooked potato, I studied her face – the lines crisscrossing her face, the age spots on the back of her hands, the papery thin skin covering her face and arms, her fluffy white hair sticking out from her head – and figured she knew what the heck she was doing.

My Gran must have been in her 80’s when I really watched her make her potato salad. It fascinated me how she was able to hold the cooked potatoes and eggs and dice them in her hands with a sharp knife without cutting her hands.

My mom prepped the potatoes and eggs the same way.

And so do I.

To the best of my knowledge, we’ve never – not once - cut ourselves while doing it either.
I’m pretty sure it’d taste the same if I did the dicing on a cutting board, but I take comfort in knowing that I prepare it the same way my Gran and my mom did.

However, I have added one teeny, tiny ingredient. And I’d bet the $2 that I have in my wallet [I know. I’m a big spender.] that my mom added her own “something” to the recipe. [In fact. I know she did.] I like to think it’s just another layer to the family story.

But I didn’t add this ingredient until I’d been preparing it the exact way my mother had showed me for well over 10 years. And while I’m probably gonna catch a lotta afterlife crap from my Gran for giving away her recipes, I’m still gonna share it. It’s that good. [Heck. What is she gonna do? Come back and haunt me? I wish she would. I have quite a few questions for her.]

Now. Before I give you the complete recipe, you gotta pinky swear that you will NOT change my Gran’s recipe in any way until you’ve been preparing it the same way for at least 10 years. ‘K? If you’re outta the correct ingredients, don’t substitute other crap. This should be a clear sign that it just wasn’t meant for you to make it that day. The don’ts include:

  • Putting fruit or nuts in it. [This ain’t fruity or nutty potato salad. Although some of mom’s family was fruity and nutty.]
  • Using turkey bacon. [This is just wrong. This ain’t potato salad for dieters.]
  • Not using the bacon grease. [This is a must. Again. This ain’t potato salad for dieters.]
  • Not putting the onions in it cuz you’re afraid your other half won’t kiss you after eating it. [Honey, once your other half tastes my Gran’s potato salad, you’re gonna get a lotta kisses. It’s that good. Did I mention my Gran had 8 kids?]
  • Using sweet relish instead of dill relish. [Save the sweets for dessert. Like pecan or cherry pie. Besides, you’ve already jumped off the dieting deep end with the bacon grease. A piece of pie ain’t gonna make a bit of difference.]
  • Using some other type of potatoes other than the regular Russett potatoes. [My Gran’s Gran, Annie O’Brien, was from Ireland, and I have not one potato recipe passed down through my Gran that included golden potatoes, red potatoes, and the like. Save those for your new found fancy schmancy potato recipes. This recipe needs no razzle and dazzle to impress. Hello? Bacon grease.]
  • Using more or less of something because you think you know better. [Trust me. My Gran knew better than you.]

  • 7 Medium-Large sized Russett Potaoes [I buy the 5# bag, and use the leftovers to make mashed potatoes and my Gran’s potato pancakes with the mashed potato leftovers. Haven’t made up my mind yet if I’m gonna share that recipe with you. It's my Gran's Gran's potato pancake recipe. We’ll see how this goes.]
  • 7 Large eggs
  • 4 pieces of thick-sliced bacon
  • Bacon grease from frying the 4 pieces of bacon
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 medium-sized sweet onion [It’s not really sweet, so we’re not breaking the whole “This ain’t sweet-tasting potato salad” rule, and it’s one of my mom’s substitutions.]
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dill [not sweet] relish
  • 1 Tablespoon of mustard [Just the plain ol’ yellow kind. No Dijon-like crap.]
  • 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning [The one with a yellow label.] [This would be my addition to my Gran’s recipe. In fact, I use it in *everything*. You can purchase it online here. So there's absolutely no excuse for you not having this on hand.]
  • Mayonnaise, about 1 cup but add ½ a cup at a time.
  • Salt to taste

  1. Rinse the potatoes [don't peel before cooking] and put them and the 7 eggs in a big pot just covering them with water. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 20-25 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes and eggs are boiling, dice the celery and the onions well. No big chunks. [The potato and the bacon are the stars of this show, folks.]
  3. When the potatoes and eggs are done, drain the boiling water out of the pot placing the hot potatoes and eggs in a colander to cool.
  4. While they're cooling, fry the bacon in the same pot until crispy but not burnt. [This way there's only one pot to clean and the grease can't pop onto your shirt and ruin it. My mama didn't raise no fool.] Don't cook the bacon in the oven or microwave. Fry. It.
  5. Once the bacon is fried completely, take the bacon strips out of the pot with tongs and drain them on some paper towels. Place the pot with the grease to the side to cool a bit.
  6. Peel the 7 hard boiled eggs.
  7. Place the 7 cooled cooked potatoes and the 7 hard boiled eggs in a big plastic bowl.
  8. Peel the skin off the cooked potatoes with a knife [like a paring knife] and dice the potatoes and the eggs. No. You don't have to do it in the palm of your hand. In fact, if you're not related to my Gran, I wouldn't try that. Just make sure the diced potato pieces are on the medium side. Not too big and definitely not too small. [We're not making potato soup here.]
  9. Once done with the potato and egg dicing, use both your hands to mix the pieces around. Yes. Use your hands, not a spoon.
  10. Add the diced celery and onion to the potato and egg mixture and toss again with your hands.
  11. Crumble the 4 slices of crispy [but not burned] bacon strips and toss into this mixture. Yes. With your hands.
  12. Add the 1 Tablespoon of dill [not sweet] relish to the mixture and toss with your [you guessed it] hands.
  13. Add all the leftover bacon grease from the pot, the mustard, and the vinegar to the mixture and stir it all carefully all with a big spoon just until it's mixed. [I use my big sturdy bamboo wooden spoon. I guess you could use some other kind just so long as it's sturdy.] 
  14. Add the Slap Ya Mama seasoning. [I just love the name of this stuff. And it tastes perfect. My Cajun neighbor introduced me to it, and it's made in the same little town she's from, Ville Platte, Evangeline Parish, Louisiana, which also happens to be a parish away from where my Gran was born there in Louisiana. Connections, folks. They're everywhere.]
  15. Now. Add the mayonnaise a 1/2 cup at a time. Why? Because my Gran's potato salad is not that wet and drippy kind of potato salad. It's just not. It's hearty. The potatoes break up a little while mixing and while it's not creamy, per se, it's definitely not cubed potatoes with mayonnaise dripping off of it either. So. It's better to add a little mayonnaise at a time because you can always add a little more, but once you've ruined the potato salad with too much mayonnaise, it's ruined. I don't care how much you love mayonnaise, it ain't the star of my Gran's potato salad.
  16. Before just adding salt blindly, taste test the potato salad. If you think it needs salt, add it. If not, then don't.
  17. Chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  18. Sprinkle a little Slap Ya Mama on top before serving cuz it makes it look pretty.
Remember that this stuff is good, and will go fast. Especially the 2nd time you make it. So. It's perfectly acceptable to get your serving right after you make it. After all, you're the one who took the time and trouble to follow Gran's recipe and it should be properly taste-tested to make sure that you've made it correctly.

This is what it looks like after you've taken your portion and placed the rest in a serving dish:

After all have taken their portion and then some, this is what it'll look like afterwards:

Not really this yellow. Added a filter cuz it made it look better. =)

Lastly, I won't be there to see if you've changed things around with the recipe. But my Gran will probably be watching you to see if you do it right. And if you do see her, please tell her to come and pay me visit. I have some questions for her.


  1. This is an absolute *keeper* and it's going in my special file for KEEPER RECIPES. I already know it tastes good from the ingredients and my hubby will love me for that little "tweak" of yours, the Slap Ya Mama stuff...hee, hee! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Are you sure we are not related??

  3. Lisa, Thanks! Can't wait for you to taste it. Yum. Also, read the Slap Ya Mama company story/history. Love that local stuff!

    Joan, anything is possible. LOL. Pray tell, what part of the story and recipe makes you think we might be related? Was your Gran named Gran? Do you dice cooked potatoes and hard boiled eggs in your hand? Do you make a not sweet but heart potato salad with bacon grease? Thanks for reading and commenting!


  4. Family recipes are the best. I make my turkey stuffing exactly the same way my grandma and her daughter-in-law (my mother) made it. And now my daughters do, too :-)

  5. This looks yummy. Needed it yesterday. : )

  6. Oh, Debi. Gran made her own very delectable turkey stuffing. I'll see about sharing it. ;)

    Fran, I know I listed a lot of don'ts for this recipe. However, as I recall, there wasn't a single one that said you can't make Gran's Potato Salad whenever the heck you want. LOL.

    Thanks, Ladies, for stopping by and visiting! I appreciate it.


  7. Thank you--and I pinky swear to follow it exactly. However, I will not dice anything in my hand. Am a serious klutz with a knife...

  8. This is amazingly close to my own recipe, so I should have all the ingredients on hand. Looks like we're having potato salad for lunch :-)
    Thanks for sharing! And please share the stuffing recipe - I'm sick of the stuff-from-a-box...
    I love your writing style, btw. This was lots of fun to read.

  9. Muchas gracias for sharing this recipe.

  10. I'll have a tough time sneaking this one past my wife this summer. She's very attached to her own potato salad recipe, so this has to be one I just confront her with when she comes home one day :) thanks very much, Caroline!


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