Thursday, June 12, 2008

It Summer... Time for some Potato Salad -warm?

Summer yeah summer… Man is it hot. I was home in Florida the other day, got on a plane and landed in Buffalo and it’s still hot!!!! Then on the news, I see that there is snow in the northwest –IN JUNE!!!!! How do you plan a seasonal menu around that? Well I’ve been thinking about that folks, and to remove the burden from you, I have the answer. German Potato Salad. It can be served warm or cold and defies any seasonal stigma. Thank you Germans and thank you potatoes. So then I was wondering where German Potato Salad came from. A little research produced the answers. At the turn of the 20th century, potatoes were a major staple in the diet of most Americans. German Potato Salad was associated with German-American immigrants and hence the formal name was born.
Potatoes (a new world food) made their way to Europe thanks to the Spanish in the 1600’s. I would think that gave those vinegar loving Germans ample opportunity to hone their skills with these spuds producing something akin to what we love today. A bit Googling produced the following snippet from a larger article devoted to potato salad in general:
“There seems to be no dogma concerning the origins of potato salad, but Germany is a good place to begin. As a country with lots of potatoes and lots of recipes for potatoes, Germany almost certainly was among the first to look at cooked small new potatoes or cut chunks of larger spuds and imagine them blanketed with dressing. The dressing they came up with was a classic. Kin to the heated dressing used to wilt spinach salad, this one thrilled German taste buds, raised as they were on sauerkraut and sauerbraten with vinegar bite. Some versions featured a little coarse mustard, others cut the sour with a little sugar, and most added bacon and even its flavorful drippings.”
---"A world of potato salads; Labor Day tradition gets global makeover," John DeMers, The Houston Chronicle, August 29, 2001 (Food: p. 1)
The following recipe was adapted from an episode of “Boy Meets Grill” on the Food Network. I seem to enjoy just about everything Bobby Flay cooks. I made this recipe from memory after watching the show but when I went to look up the recipe from the show, I don’t recall it being the same prep. From the website, it looks like they made their own mustard, while on the TV program Bobby uses a jar of mustard. While I give Mr. Flay the credit for this inspiration, this adaptation is my simple version. I loved it. It’s more mustardy than vinegary so if that’s not appealing, I would shoot for a more traditional version. I also added some capers. Another tip is to use a high quality bacon. I tend to like thick cuts and bacon is one of those foods that I’ll pay a lot more for if the quality is right.
Lastly, cut the potatoes while they are hot. This can be tricky. Use a towel or potholder if necessary. Mixing the ingredients while they are hot gives the mustard mixture the opportunity to permeate the starchy little spuds and infuses the flavors throughout.
So with no further ado:
German Potato Salad ala Bobby and Louis (I gave him top billing –how generous)
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1 yellow onion, quartered
1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 large red onion, diced
2-3 tbsp Dijon Mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp capers

Place potatoes in a large pot with the yellow onion and cover with cold water. Turn heat to high and cook until fork tender. Drain, discard the onion, and cut the potatoes into slices when cool enough to handle. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and cover to keep warm.
Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the red onions to the rendered bacon fat and cook until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the mustard. Add the hot dressing to the potatoes and toss gently to coat. Fold in the green onions, capers and parsley. Drizzle olive oil. Gently mix thoroughly taking care not to damage the potatoes. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste.

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