Friday, March 28, 2008



Greetings from the placid banks of Hopkins Prong, Sussex County, Delaware. Not to rub it in or anything but it's about noon, and 76 degrees. I'm in shorts. And barefoot. We are back from what we do best when we're here, spending money. Had to re-stock the fridge and get a few things at Lowe's so Steve can start on some small repair projects. Spending money here seems so painless because there's no sales tax on food or household items. The cash trickles like water through our fingers, but the resulting dent in the balance sheet is never that deep.

Tomorrow the boat will come and we'll take it out for a test run. It won't be nearly as pleasant as it would have been today, because winter is scheduled for a return tonight; tomorrow should be only in the 40s and blustery. But the boat couldn't be made ready in time for today, so somehow, we'll just have to manage (!)

This is my very first post from Delaware, and so far so good. The flash drive worked for the photo, so that means it should work for Hipcast, too. This computer is equipped for wi-fi, so it's pretty much like being hooked up at home. The next time I'm here it'll be with a different computer that will have an air card, but no w-fi. The air card is about as good as dial-up. So, to quote Mr. Dylan, a post under those conditions will depend on how I'm feelin'.

When I'm done here I'll go get dinner simmering: a pot of chili and Cuidado's Impossible Pie. I brought a few bananas here that are giving up the ghost, so I'll slice them on the finished product and we'll have us a banana-coconut cream pie.

And speaking of food: on to today's recipe. You're probably thinking, "who the hell needs another potato salad?" We all have our own recipes that have served us well over the years. Well. It's my blog! The recipe, which I've never written down, is one I've honed to perfection over many years. It has a good balance between sweet and savory, a bracing shot of fresh dill, (the dried stuff if you must, but it isn't the same) lots of celery crunch, and a creaminess enhanced with hard boiled eggs. Finally, sweet pickle relish gives it a depth of flavor without announcing its actual presence, sort of like anchovies when they're used in the right way.

Notes: contrary to what most publicly traded recipes using mayonnaise indicate, I add the potatoes to the dressing fresh off the heat; I do not let them cool off first. Supposedly this creates a health risk because heat is bad for mayonnaise, but I refrigerate the finished salad immediately. The dressing penetrates the warm potatoes much more than if they were cool, and the long wait for the finished product to reach "salad" temperature allows the flavors to intermingle properly. I've made this dish hundreds of times to no deleterious effect.

Peel your potatoes or not--I don't. If you don't peel them, scrub them well with soap and water before cutting.

At least 4 hours before serving:

2 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into salad-size chunks
2 eggs

Generous 1/3 cup mayonnaise, regular or low-fat
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
Generous tablespoon sweet pickle relish
2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. sugar

2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped, bite-size
1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, (use both white and green parts)
1/2 medium green bell pepper, very finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

While potatoes and eggs are cooking, chop all salad ingredients and place in a large work bowl.

Mix dressing ingredients and set aside

Boil potatoes and eggs together in salted water. When potatoes are done, drain, and transfer both potatoes and eggs to the bowl containing the chopped vegetables. With a spoon, retrieve the eggs, drop them into the cooking pan to crack them, and immediately run cold water over them. Shell the eggs, chop them (rub them over the big holes on a box grater if you like) and add them to the potatoes and vegetables.

Pour prepared dressing over hot potatoes and vegetables and toss to combine thoroughly. Refrigerate, uncovered, and let cool for at least 4 hours, turning occasionally to help dissipiate heat. For faster cooling, place the bowl on a grated shelf in the fridge instead of on a solid surface.



Cuidado said...

Can't wait for you to try that pie. My first sister-in-law who passed away last Sept. used the juice from gerkin pickles in her potato salad which is similar to your relish and it indeed, does give a 'depth of flavor' that is very unique. I've used it ever since she taught me the trick in '74.

Have a GREAT weekend!

Ralph said...

I'll report back on the pie, Cuidado. Unfortunately, whatever isn't eaten here in Delaware will be thrown away when we leave for home, because such a rich concoction falls under the "guilty pleasures" category for us--it's not something we can have sitting around. But who knows...maybe we'll finish the whole thing here!

Kat said...

I too use the juice from pickles and some chopped pickles as well in my potato salad so this isn't all that much of a stretch. I'll add it to my list of summer deck food.

Ralph said...

You know, Kat, I think I used to, too, and then forgot about them for some reason until Steve asked me where they were. Made a subtle but nice difference.

Anonymous said...

Will ad this to our ham for dinner tomorrow, thanks Ralph. Are you anywhere near Rehobeth Beach? I was a life guard there for one summer back in 1966.

Anonymous said...

The recipe sounds good!

I love potato salad and since leaving LI/NY - have missed the potato salad of my childhood. Friends ask when I return - pizza, chinese food and I say no - let's head to a deli!

In my region of PA, they do not have deli's (we have WaWa's or 7/11's)or grocery deli's and potato salad comes with mayo-mayo/eggs and no one uses vinegar. No bacon either for German-style potato salad. One supermarket had one called NY Potato Salad which was close and a friend recently hunted up a recipe and treated me to at a dinner at her home. She hit the mark closer than the supermarket! Very delicious.

I mentioned to her about the pickel relish - forgot about bell peppers. In NY, at my favorite deli - you might find one or two dices of green pepper or relish.

I like the idea of dill - perhaps, a great add-in for the german-style potato salad.

Thanks for the interesting recipe - adds to a variation on a theme.

Hope you & Steve are having fun.


Ralph said...

Linda, I love both potatos saland and coleslaw, and the were how I tested a deli or a food counter, when there was such a thing as food counters in like a drugstore. If they made those two things well, then the rest of their food would probably be OK. You up on LI were spoiled with such great deli food--if I had that tradition behind me I guess my first impulse would still be to go look for those things in stores. Nowadays, though, with food prep so instituionalized, mayonnaise-based salads have become just rank, in my opinion. I decided long ago that if I wanted good potato salad I'd have to make it myself. German potato salad: love it! Dill would make a nice addition.

Ralph said...

Z&M, if you know Rt. 24 between Millsboro and Lewes, we're exactly between the two, off 24. Hopkins Prong is a tributary of Herring Creek, which is off Rehoboth Bay, which is off the ocean. It's about 15 mins to Lewes, maybe 20 to Rehoboth.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly where you are. It's truly God's country and we spent many summers there as kids and one year I was a beach life guard, stayed at the Mary Ann Inn.