Sunday, June 16, 2013

“Animal Crossing: New Leaf” lets you become mayor of a little town filled with animals who live out human lives. The game for the Nintendo 3DS plays out in real-time so even when you aren't playing, things are still changing and evolving for you to discover when you return.

Among other features, my town had a beach and I could go fishing in the blue waters off the coast. For some reason, it made me think of going on picnics as a kid, which means summertime and Mom’s potato salad.

I’ve never been able to duplicate her recipe because she never wrote down how much of her ingredients she used. I’ve watched her make it; I’ve helped her make it; it never comes out the same.

She says the missing “ingredient” between hers and mine is a mother’s love for her child. Nope. I’m fresh out of that.

So I decided to use her recipe as a starting point to make my own. While it will never taste as good as hers, it is still pretty darn good.

There are only seven ingredients, and like her recipe, I only guessed at how much of each to use based on taste and appearance. The ingredients are:
  • Potatoes
  • Eggs (hard boiled)
  • Sweet relish
  • Celery seed
  • Medium onion
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow mustard
  • Salt & pepper
It all starts with the potatoes. Generally, I use 6 to 8 depending on the size and I like to use butter potatoes. They add a bit of creaminess, and hold their shape and texture well.

Cut them into about 1” cubes and place in a big pot. When all are diced, cover the potatoes with cold water plus about an extra inch at the top.

Bring to a boil over high heat. While that’s working, start on the eggs.

I generally cook six eggs and then figure out how many I’ll need as I go. But you’ll never find any extras (I eat the evidence).

There are two ways I go for making hard boiling eggs: the Alton Brown way using an electric kettle (fast, easy, no attention needed) or the pot of boiling water method (still fast, still easy, but a little more attention needed).

Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Add about an extra two to three inches to give the eggs plenty of room to move around.

Cover and place the pot over a cold burner; turn the heat on high. Once the water just begins to boil, turn off the heat and leave the pot on the burner, keeping it covered.

Check on your potatoes. It is hard to say how long they’ll take, but you shouldn’t go by time anyway. Go by how they feel.

They should be fork-tender, but not too mushy. Mushy potato salad is not what we want.

If they aren’t done, grab your onion. I like using Vidalia onions because they are sweet with just a little bit of heat. If you can’t find Vidalias in your region, you can use a regular white onion, but try for the sweetest variety you have available.

Chop up half of the onion into a small dice. Here’s where good knife skills come in handy because you may want to add more onion later so keep that second half nearby in case you need a quick chop.

Once the potatoes are done, drain them in a colander and put into the biggest bowl you have. Drain and shell the eggs at this point as well.

Chop up the eggs, but not too small. You want them to have a bit of size for flavor and texture. Throw those into the bowl as well. I chop usually four or five to start and keep the leftovers handy for adjustments.

Add the chopped onion and about 2 to 3 tablespoons of sweet relish (more or less depending on your taste desires). Now the seasonings.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky, and will require you to use your eyes and your taste buds.

Sprinkle the celery seed over the mixture. I don’t measure; I just do a little sprinkle over everything in the bowl. You want a good, light covering – not a blanket of seeds.

The binders are next. I have a spoon that was obviously a bit of swag from many years ago that is perfect for making potato salad. I use it to scoop out two spoonfuls of mayonnaise and fold it into the mixture.

You are looking to cover each bit of the ingredients with a light coating of mayo. Don’t stir, but use a wide spoon to gently fold the mixture together until everything has a nice mayo sheen.

The mustard is also an eyeball thing. Using a squirt bottle, I make a zig zag pattern across the mixture, and then give it another toss to mix. You want the potato salad to take on a pale yellow color.

Add a couple pinches of kosher salt and about 20 grinds of fresh black pepper. This give it enough seasoning to achieve good flavor but still allows for room if people insist on table seasoning.

Now taste it. Yes, warm potato salad might be good for some people, but that’s not what we want. However, right now, it will be warm.

Here’s the beauty of the recipe. This is the time you can adjust the potato salad to fit your taste. Want more onion or egg? Chop it up and toss it in. A little too much mustard? Add a bit of mayo until the flavor balances out.

Once you hit potato salad nirvana, cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for about an hour, if you want to eat it right away, but longer gives the flavors a chance to meld and mingle. It will be better the next day.

Pair it up with a couple of hot dogs fresh off the grill topped with mustard and any leftover chopped onion. This is how summer should start, end and everything in between. Take your 3DS with you on the picnic!

Enjoy and happy gaming!


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