Because a marriage is not only a union of two individuals but also two different culinary traditions, it is during the high holidays, when “laws” and “in-laws” meet around one table, that culinary conflicts are likely to escalate. The traditional Czech Christmas dinner is carp with potato salad, but few agree on how the potato salad should exactly be made. Apparently, there are families that hold democratic pre-Christmas meetings where the ingredient list is decided upon in order to prevent quibbling on Christmas’ Eve. Such important questions are discussed as: “Should celeriac be included? Peas or no peas? Herring? Mayonnaise, or just oil and vinegar?”. You see, potato salad is a complicated matter.
One of the benefits of our inter-cultural marriage is that there are no wars to be fought over Christmas dinner: my Dutch mother-in-law lives in blissful ignorance of Czech Christmas traditions (and is currently 800 km away) and my Dutch husband loves my mother’s potato salad. And I mean: who wouldn’t? It is neither too heavy nor too insubstantial. With a reassuring amount of mayonnaise but lightened with sharp yoghurt. There are enough vegetables included to make you feel it’s good for you and will not weigh you down as potato-heavy salads are wont to do. All ingredients are cut quite finely, which makes it more elegant than most potato salads. It’s perfect with that carp on Christmas Eve and even better on New Year’s Eve open face sandwiches. My mother also makes it at other times of the year when cooking for a large group – it can be made in advance, everybody likes it and it goes with roast chicken as well as with any vegetarian patties we make. But as far as I am concerned, it’s good enough to stand on its own.
My mother’s potato salad
Now, my mother is an intuitive cook and responds vaguely to inquiries about weights and measurements, but for your sake I pressed her to be a bit more precise than “mayonnaise to taste”.
2 kg waxy (boiling) potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed
250 g celeriac, peeled
2 medium carrots. peeled
200 g peas (frozen)
3 onions (white or red), finely diced
350 g gherkins (one large jar), finely diced
250 g mayonnaise
250 g yoghurt
Cook potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until fork-tender, about 25 minutes, or until done. Drain. Peel the potatoes as soon as they can be handled, it is easier to peel them when they are still warm. Let cool completely. Cook the carrots and celeriac in salted water until fork-tender. Let cool. Blanch the peas in boiling water, drain.
Dice the potatoes quite finely ( 8mm to 1 cm) and put them in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt as you add the potatoes. Dice celeriac and carrots even finer (about 5 mm) and add them to the bowl. Add peas, diced gherkins and onions.
Mix the mayonnaise and yoghurt, add to the bowl and mix everything gently. Taste and add salt if needed.