Yuriko's Potato Salad

October  4, 2022
0 Ratings
  • Serves A Crowd
Author Notes

It is often the case that food equals love. My daughter turned six on Saturday; her namesake, my grandmother, passed away quickly and suddenly when my daughter was 18 months old. Although my daughter has no real memory of my grandmother, who was an incredible woman and cook, I have tried to keep her spirit alive for my daughter through food. When we cook together, my daughter wears my grandmother’s apron, and she is fully aware of its special significance. My grandmother’s cooking was synonymous with her love – no matter how big or small a group she was serving she always had a thoughtful, delicious menu planned out and was able to execute everything to perfection. She practically floated around the kitchen, and I do not remember her ever saying a cross word (unlike myself, under pressure) or even getting flustered with any potential mishap. The ultimate was always the enjoyment of the meal, sharing food and love with family and friends around the table. She is a constant reminder of the kind of person and cook that I aspire to be.

The recipe I want to be remembered for is one that my grandmother never wrote down, and the one that connects the wide-eyed, eager kitchen helper with the person I am today. This simple potato salad was one of her spot-on, amazing recipes. For a period during my teen years, when I was boycotting mayonnaise, this was the only exception. It is bright from a healthy dose of lemon juice and has been enjoyed on many a summer Sunday. It is perfect for a potluck or barbeque and goes especially well with fried chicken. I watched her make this countless times, without any formal measurements. After she passed away, I was the only one who knew how to make it, and finally figured out the measurements and wrote them down. Once I even included it at Thanksgiving, in her honor, on a holiday that she had mastered.

What You'll Need
  • 3 lbs potatoes (either 12-14 small to medium red potatoes, or 4 big Yukon golds)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery (tender stalks)
  • 2 -21/2 tablespoons mayonnnaise, start with 2 T adding more if necessary
  • ¾ t plus a pinch of salt plus ¾ t plus a pinch of sugar thoroughly dissolved in ¼ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemon preferred)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Steam potatoes until tender, making sure to check the water level about half way through and adding more as necessary. When poked with a metal skewer, it should go through without resistance; start checking for doneness at about 25-30 minutes for red potatoes, 40-45 minutes for big Yukons. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Note: For big Yukons, I steam them in a metal colander set in a large pot.
  2. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, using a butter knife, peel away skin and any blemishes. Discard skins. Cut red potatoes in half crosswise and then quarter each half. For Yukons, slice crosswise (1/2 inch thick) and then quarter each slice. I usually use the butter knife to coarsely cut potatoes in my hands, and then drop the potato pieces into the large cooling bowl.
  3. Fold in the onion and celery. Add the mayonnaise and pour about half of seasoned lemon juice on top. Thoroughly combine using a wooden spoon or spatula; the potato edges should be fuzzy (Yukons will kind of fall apart while red potatoes will hold their shape a bit better, both are delicious) and lightly dressed in a mixture of the mayonnaise and seasoned lemon juice. If they seem dry, add a bit more mayonnaise. Taste for more seasoned lemon juice and add as necessary. Sometimes I have used the full amount of juice, sometimes a little less. Finish with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • inpatskitchen
  • JanaVee
  • lapadia
  • Greenstuff
  • lorigoldsby

Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.

48 Reviews

inpatskitchen January 25, 2015
Here it is again...I just love this potato salad! Thanks so much for sharing again!
JanaVee July 17, 2012
This is a wonderful classic potato salad and a wonderful story as well. I also see a classic Organdie by Vernonware plate. I have my mother's Vernonware and I love it!
gingerroot July 19, 2012
Thank you so much, JanaVee! It is a simple recipe that holds a lot of meaning for me. The dish belongs to my mom. : )
lapadia July 12, 2012
Utterly a classic, and full of memories, thanks for reposting, gr!
gingerroot July 19, 2012
Thanks, lapadia! Your Broccoli Egg Persillade looks fantastic.
inpatskitchen May 2, 2011
Couldn't wait...made this yesterday with my Fried and Baked Spicy Chicken...Loved it! May I link it to my blog?
gingerroot May 2, 2011
Hi, Pat! I tried sending you a message through the site...yes, you may link it to your blog. Thanks for asking. I am thrilled that you tried in and enjoyed it. Looking forward to trying your chicken!
inpatskitchen May 2, 2011
Thanks so much! It will be a part of our Memorial Day Barbeque also!
Greenstuff April 29, 2011
What a lovely story. It made me get up and inventory the aprons I have hanging in my kitchen closet next to the ones I use every day. Among them: Two aprons that my mother made for me and my now husband. He doesn't even cook, so it was really sweet that she included him in the gift! Mom died almost 30 years ago. Two aprons I made from leftover fabric from a quilt I made for my dad. His house had a definite color scheme, so it worked well to use the same fabrics in the bedrooms and the kitchen. He's also gone, almost 20 years ago now. And two aprons that my grown-up daughter (named for my mother) made. One, she painted as a very small child and it's really cool, better than one that I did at the same time. The other, she silk-screened when she was about 12. There's been a lot of food and a lot of memories in those aprons. Thanks for making me think about it. My husband loves potato salad, so I'll think of your grandmother when I make this one.
gingerroot May 2, 2011
Somehow, I missed this, and I apologize for not replying sooner! Thank you for sharing such lovely memories - I love that you have kept such special aprons hanging next to the ones you use. It is a wonderful thing that aprons can become such treasures, full of our love for family and the traditions we create through food. I will think about you the next time we cook and my daughter wears my grandmother's apron. I hope your husband enjoys the potato salad – I would love to hear how it goes over.
lorigoldsby April 27, 2011
Beautiful story! Happy belated b-day to the little gingerroot...I still have my daughter's apron hanging in the kitchen...even though she's off to college. I love a good potato salad-I like how you specify that they need to be done--still have my gran's metal skewers she used--if it didn't fall completely off, they weren't done! we affectionately called it mashed potato salad.
gingerroot April 28, 2011
Thank you, Lori! I know my daughter will be off to college in a flash - I am in disbelief that she is already six. I hope you try this, the lemon really makes it bright.
Lizthechef April 27, 2011
Our loved ones are right there in the kitchen with us, aren't they? Belated birthday wishes to LGR!
gingerroot April 28, 2011
So true, Lizthechef, and I am thankful for that everyday. Thanks for your good wishes to my daughter! She is enjoying her extended birthday.
lapadia April 27, 2011
Love potato salad, this sounds great; a beautiful heartfelt story, thanks for sharing with us...and HBD to your daughter, too!
gingerroot April 28, 2011
Thanks so much lapadia! I hope you'll try it (and let me know what you think), and I really appreciate your good wishes for my daughter.
monkeymom April 27, 2011
I love your pictures! Love the headnote and everything about this. Happy Birthday to little gingerroot from me as well!
gingerroot April 27, 2011
Thanks you so much, monkeymom! She was really happy to read all her belated birthday wishes. She also approves of being called little gingerroot and decided her younger brother is baby gingerroot. : )
gingerroot April 26, 2011
Thanks everyone! Your lovely comments mean a whole lot to me. PS, my daughter will be so tickled when she reads all of your belated birthday wishes! ?
hardlikearmour April 26, 2011
I really love your headnote - it seriously made me tear up a little! I love that you learned to make this, so can share it with your family (and us) as well as pass the tradition on to your daughter. This just oozes love! Thank you for sharing it with us.
gingerroot April 26, 2011
xx hardlikearmour! This recipe really connects the arc between the wide-eyed kid with a big appetite in my grandmother's kitchen and the person/mom/cook/food lover that I am today.
drbabs April 26, 2011
Happy birthday to your daughter! What a wonderful way for you to share your love of your grandmother with her.
gingerroot April 26, 2011
Thank you, drbabs!
TiggyBee April 26, 2011
oh, gingerroot - what a lovely and touching recipe! - xox
gingerroot April 27, 2011
Thanks so much, TiggyBee! xox
inpatskitchen April 26, 2011
Beautiful recipe...beautiful story!
gingerroot April 27, 2011
Thank you, inpatskitchen!
wssmom April 26, 2011
Simply beautiful and beautifully simple! What a lovely story!
gingerroot April 27, 2011
Thank you, wssmom!!
Bevi April 26, 2011
What a lovely story and remembrance.
gingerroot April 27, 2011
I am enjoying reading through everyone's food memories and connections. Thank you, Bevin!
gingerroot April 27, 2011
Sorry about that Bevi, auto-correct drives me mad sometimes!
aargersi April 26, 2011
Happy Birthday Young Gingerrot :-) Love your story and the recipe too - simple and delicious ....
gingerroot April 26, 2011
Thanks so much, a! My daughter is sitting on my lap and just read your comment with a big smile on her face. Hope you try it, it goes really well with friends, family, and the summer sun.
Sadassa_Ulna April 26, 2011
Beautiful story and great recipe, Happy Birthday to your daughter!
gingerroot April 27, 2011
Thank you! She loved reading through all the birthday wishes!
healthierkitchen April 26, 2011
It's a lovely tribute to your grandmother and It's terrific that you share this with your daughter.
gingerroot April 27, 2011
Thank you, healthierkitchen! I am really enjoying cooking with my children (my son is three) and hope that it becomes a part of them.
ellenl April 26, 2011
Ditto the other comments. I love what you are doing for your daughter.
gingerroot April 27, 2011
Thank you, ellenl!