Occasional Potato Salad

One of my friends (might've been Nancy or Charlie) named it that because I make it only for special occasions and it has only the occasional potato in it. Another friend asked if I had a license to call it potato salad, and when I described it on the phone to my aunt, she said it wasn't potato salad but a scumgullion. It was conceived as a kind of “everything” salad for the July 4 parties I had from 1987 thru 2001. I don't remember which year I first made it, but it didn't have turkey at first, so I still consider that ingredient optional. Note that it does contain a plurality of potato.

materials:


The quantities above are subject to revision next time I measure from practice.


methods:

Cut potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms (if mushrooms aren't small enough to begin with) into largish chunks, dimensions 1” to 1.5”. Okra much over 2” long should be cut in half to reduce length. Place in pot, cover all with hot water and heat to boiling ASAP. After 7 mins. boiling, empty over frozen peas (if frozen peas are used; otherwise drain canned peas or blanch raw peas and add separately to final mixture) in drainer. Allow to cool & dry in heap in drainer. This moiety may be refrigerated, covered, awaiting other ingredients; such chilling may improve the final mixture.


Hard boil eggs and allow to cool. These may be refrigerated awaiting other ingredients. Shell and quasi-cube each into 8 pieces (more if large eggs are used).


If turkey is used, cook it by boiling, or preferably broiling, according to usual criteria. It too may be refrigerated pending final mixture. Cut into pieces approx. 1/2” thick and up to 3” long and of convenient width.


Peel & wash onions. Mince or nearly mince celery, onions, and radishes. For celery, this may be accomplished by slicing shafts lengthwise into 2 to 8 strips, depending on how far down the shaft and whether above or below the branch node, then slicing crosswise 6-8 mesh; use all portions, chopping leaves & branches. For the onion, slice 3-4 mesh in all 3 dimensions, finishing perpendicular to the rings. For the radish, slice about 8 mesh in all dimensions. Best not to leave these ingredients waiting long for the others.


Shred cabbage by slicing into thin strips, then cutting strips into shorter strips.


Cut peppers into chunks of 1/2” to 1” dimensions, discarding seeds & core. Best to prepare this ingredient last.


Mix all above & remaining ingredients, mayonnaise last to coat all evenly. Refrigerate until served. Aging a little softens the cashews pleasingly.


yield:

Too much for however many guests you have, especially considering some will be turned off by it. The rest of the celery from a bunch you can serve as crudités, stuffed or plain; assuming you bought a bunch for this recipe and use the outer stalks, the heart will be included in this leftover portion. From a radio commercial for something unrelated, I got the idea of stuffing celery with peanut butter, but more people prefer cheese spread/stuffing.


notes:

The cooking time above is figured to be good for chunks of potato & carrot that size, taking in the time it takes to reach boiling, and additional cooking while cooling heaped in a colander without rinsing. However, there may be a bit or two of potato that was sticking above the water and will come out crunchy. Using hot faucet water to start with may also help supply lead, which last I heard had not been ruled out as an essential nutrient. But seriously folks, although only lead excess, not deficiency, is a concern, and some have speculated that water from the hot faucet will contain more lead leached from plumbing joint solder, I know of only one person who did a measurement, and he found a lower concentration of Pb in the hot than in the cold water. The time running the water to get to the hot stuff will tend to clean it out, anyway.


At times I've tried Idaho potatoes in the mix for variety, but they're best avoided for consistency (too soft), and only red & white Eastern (Long Is., Maine, Prince Edward Is.) or equivalent used. New (budded) potatoes are a waste of money in this mixture.


Young peas are too soft, and will tend to get smashed with mixing. Frozen peas work best and contribute most to color. However, try to buy small okra.


There seems to be no advantage to carrots bunched with the green tops still on vs. the bagged ones. Try, however, to buy them sweet. Well in advance, you can buy a bag and eat one raw; if it's good you can buy more from that shipment, and if not, wait a while for better ones to come in.


Red, yellow, and orange peppers are a little hard to find firm & sweet and to keep that way, so you may have to do a bit of shopping near prep time. Green peppers take longer to go bad. However, all peppers are subject to autolysis after they're cut, so don't try cutting them much ahead of time.


Unpeeled onions should be kept in a dark place with air space until use. If reds or whites start to sprout they develop the “hot” taste of green onion, not good for this recipe. Vidalias (like, but more so, than other allium bulbs) are especially subject to softening from contact with each other. Yellow, even Bermuda type, onions are too strong to be used raw in a recipe like this, except for Vidalia and possibly close relatives bred for this purpose.


You may have to pare away rotten or blackened parts of potatoes, peppers, or radishes. The black stuff on raw mushrooms is not a growth of another type of fungus, but reproductive parts of the mushrooms themselves; other than a brief wash, don't expend much effort to remove it.


I specify Hellman's because other mayonnaises I've tasted have been too sweet. Smart Beat (a fat-free mayo substitute) has too much sweet-and-sour quality for this mixture.


This salad is a mixture of chunky and finely chopped ingredients, and quite colorful, what with the potato skins and other vegetables. The color will be smeared and obscured a bit by softened potato and crumbled egg yolk, plus the mayonnaise. However, it the potatoes are not overcooked, the peas not over-young, and the hard boiled eggs not over-sliced, that effect will be kept to a minimum.


Salt & powdered pepper may be supplied on the side. I don't think the mixture benefits from either, but guests may think otherwise. Cousin Lee figures the word “salad” comes from Spanish “insalada”, meaning “salted”, so we're guessing the word was first applied to mixtures of salt-preserved foods, quite a difference from its current usage.


There's enough vitamin C in this salad to have choked Linus Pauling.


Occasional Potato Salad goes well on a coated paper plate with franks & beans, among other possibilities. A lettuce-tomato-cucumber type salad works as a complementary alternative salad on the side, especially for guests who dislike one or more ingredients of Occasional Potato Salad or just find it a disgusting mixture, and for contrast for those who eat it in addition.


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