For those of you who prefer a potato salad without large chunks of potatoes, this recipe for Mashed Potato Salad is for you. Courtesy of Ms. Campbell, my friend Becky’s momma, this recipe was developed in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains and it comes with a story of a special family and a chance to help the Friends of the Smokies’ Chimney Tops Fire Relief Fund.
I love strong, intelligent, determined women. So, it was a given that once introduced to Rebecca Campbell Arrants (Becky to friends), we’d get along well. Becky has all of the traits I admire in a woman. Not only is she strong and intelligent and determined, she’s funny, really funny; she’s a devoted wife and daughter; she’s an entrepreneur. Becky also loathes cooking, which is something that tickles me to no end.
Becky can cook, I’m sure. She just doesn’t like to cook. She makes a mean guacamole, I mean a really great guacamole. And at her husband’s birthday party close to the Fourth of July last year, she made this potato salad. Her momma’s potato salad. At least, that’s what I thought.
The party was a pot-luck, so people were constantly asking who made what dish. When anyone asked who made the delicious potato salad, I would tell them, so proud for her, that Becky made it! As it happens, she didn’t. Her sister, Melissa, made it. When Becky and I were talking about this error on my part, she replied, “Honestly, P~, I really thought you knew me well enough to know better than that.” *snort* Well, I do! Which is exactly why I was bragging about her having made it! I wanted everyone to know Becky cooked!
Anyway, as I said, this recipe was developed by Becky’s momma, Ms. Campbell. In preparation for this post, I spoke with Ms. Campbell to ask her about her recipe. She told me that she refined her potato salad to cater to food preferences of her family. Who hasn’t been there?
Her husband didn’t care for biting into cold potato chunks, so she mashed her potato salad. Not completely mashed, mind you. There are small nuggets of potato in there still. But the potato salad is more smooth than lumpy. Then, because a son didn’t care for celery, she starting finely mincing the celery, instead of leaving it in larger pieces.
Green onions are also finely minced, because consistency of the size of your ingredients is more pleasing. Next, a sprinkling of caraway seeds adds so much to this potato salad, with their distinct anise flavor. Finally, mayonnaise. Real mayonnaise. Not salad dressing, like Miracle Whip. Southern potato salads use mayonnaise.
Just like most Southern-style potato salads, the ratio of hard-cooked eggs is high. As I said in my Southern-Style Mustard Potato Salad recipe post, eggs are key to an excellent potato salad. Another thing that’s important for this type of potato salad is to use a starchy potato, like a russet potato. Waxy potatoes, like a Yukon Gold, just won’t work as well. You need a potato that will fall apart and a russet is perfect.
As I mentioned, this family is special in these parts, nestled at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Becky’s grandfather was Carlos C. Campbell. Here’s a bit about him:
For more than fifty years, Carlos C. Campbell (1892–1978) worked tirelessly for the benefit of the Smoky Mountains. He received the Horace M. Albright Scenic Preservation medal for outstanding work in the field of conservation. Later, he became the twenty-first person to receive the highest award given to civilians by the National Park Service—that of Honorary Park Ranger. In further recognition of his long and diligent service, in 1981 the National Park Service dedicated in his honor, the Carlos C. Campbell Overlook. In 2016 Campbell was recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential persons in Great Smoky Mountain National Park history. Over the years, Carlos became an avid photographer, making thousands of Great Smokies pictures; a great many of them published in newspapers and magazines, including the prestigious National Geographic.
After the devastating fires in the Smokies and Gatlinburg last November, the family started a fundraiser to benefit the Friends of the Smokies’ Chimney Tops Fire Relief Fund. By purchasing calendars and note cards featuring Carlos C. Campbell’s early photos of the Great Smoky Mountains, you can help with relief efforts in the area. Please check it out.
And make Ms. Campbell’s Mashed Potato Salad! You’ll love it!
- 4 large russet potatoes (about 1½ pounds), peeled, diced 1" cubes and cooked to fork tender (about 25 minutes)
- 4 large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled
- 2 celery stalks, finely minced (about ½ cup)
- 2 green onions, finely minced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- ¾ teaspoon caraway seeds
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- In a large bowl, add the potatoes and the eggs.
- Mash with a potato masher, or large fork, leaving some small lumps of potatoes. You don't want them to be completely smooth.
- Add the celery, onions, caraway seeds and one cup of the mayonnaise; stir to combine.
- Add salt and ground black pepper, to taste.
- Add more of the mayonnaise, stirring and adding more, until the desired consistency is achieved.