Alibi V.14 No.21 • May 26-June 1, 2005 


Mary Magdalene's Satisfying Side Dish

During chicken- and steak-grilling season, cold salads can be hot stuff, particularly potato salad. If you're at all like me, you judge potato salad against your own beloved mother's recipe. For many of us, mom's is the only version of potato salad we enjoy. My mom's name was Mary Magdalene, and here's her version of America's favorite summer starch. Use red “new” potatoes since they absorb flavor and retain texture better than Russet. After cooking, dress the potatoes with olive oil, cider vinegar and salt and pepper while they're still warm, and chill (the salad, that is). Be sure not to put the mayonnaise or eggs in until the mixture is cool. Mom used sweet Spanish red onions but you could use Vidalia or scallions. A pinch of sugar is optional, depending on the acidity of the vinegar. The most important points are not to use cheap mayonnaise and to always be very careful serving salads with mayonnaise dressings when you are outdoors. Place the salad bowl in a basin of ice to keep it safe in the heat.

Mary Magdalene's Potato Salad


6 medium red-skinned potatoes cut in to one-inch cubes

3 hardboiled eggs, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

2 tablespoons cider or white balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard or dry English mustard

1 cup real mayonnaise

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1) Cover potatoes in cold water and simmer until fork-tender. Remember that they will continue cooking even when they're drained.

2) Peel and cut warm potatoes into one-inch dices.

3) Coat warm potatoes with olive oil; salt liberally.

4) Sprinkle with vinegar, then grind some fresh pepper to taste (about 2 teaspoons).

5) Add Dijon mustard, celery and onions and refrigerate, covered, until cooled.

6) Add eggs, then mayonnaise, and mix well.

7) Adjust salt, pepper and mayo to taste; refrigerate several hours (overnight is better).