Our nephew Sam is a professional chef who trained at the New England Culinary Institute and has worked at fine restaurants around the country, including McCrady’s in Charleston and Wilshire in Los Angeles. Some months ago he hinted broadly that he would like to contribute to this blog. We immediately took him up on that hint. And then we waited…and waited. For the family Fourth of July potluck, he brought a delicious potato salad, and before I let him touch the black bottom cups, I made him promise to send us the recipe.
Guess what? He came through–and here he demonstrates that professional chefs use shortcuts and mixes, just like mere home cooks.
Sam’s Super Ranch Potato Salad
5 pounds red bliss potatoes cut into 1/4-inch rounds
8 hardboiled eggs, sliced
1 red onion, small dice
2 stalks celery, small dice
1 bunch green onions, cut fine, including white parts
2 bunches parsley, fine chiffonade
1 pound bacon, diced small and rendered
2 packets Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix, buttermilk variety*
2 cups mayonnaise
2 cups buttermilk
red wine vinegar to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the potatoes in a large pot of very well salted water; this is your only chance to pump those bland potatoes full of flavor, so make sure you do it.
When the potatoes are a little past fork tender (break one up and taste it to make sure the texture is where you want it), drain the water and spread the potatoes on a sheet pan. Place in the fridge to chill. If you mix the salad while the potatoes are still warm, you’ll end up with mashed potato salad. Gross.
In the meantime, place the eggs in cold water in a saucepan and bring it up to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid and let the eggs sit for 11 minutes. Cool the eggs enough that you don’t burn your fingers, then peel them. If you peel a hard-cooked egg while it’s still warm, the membrane hasn’t yet had a chance to reattach to the egg, so it will peel very easily. Slice the eggs.
Mix the ranch dressing per the package instructions. (Please note, I’ve worked for some of the best chefs in the country–guys who are James Beard Award winners, on the Food Network, etc.–and they have had “ranch” dressing on their menus. None of which was anywhere near as good as making your own from the Hidden Valley package. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. Whatever you do, DO NOT USE THE BOTTLED dressing–I’ll find you and take it away!)
When the potatoes are cool, gently, very gently, fold in all the ingredients. Take care doing this. There are a lot of different textures going on that you’ve worked hard to create, so don’t go messing it up by mixing too quickly. Season with salt and black pepper–yes, you’ll need more salt–and red wine vinegar to taste. You’ll need that acid to cut through the rich flavors of the salad and to not bog down your taste buds. Enjoy.