Potato Salad

Potato salad is one of those polarizing side dishes that people either love or hate. I’m in the love category. However, I can see how eating the sticky yellow store-bought stuff could turn someone away forever. This year I put my own spin on this controversial dish when a friend requested that I bring potato salad to an Independence Day party. I am so glad that I did. The potato salad I created showcased some of Austin’s best summer produce with bold flavors and a more appetizing texture than store-bought salad.

I started developing my recipe with the proportions from my Grandma’s potato salad: 1-3/4 cups dressing and and 1-1/2 cups diced vegetables for every two pounds of cooked potatoes. (See similar recipe here.) I made significant changes from her list of ingredients, though, to reflect my friends’ contemporary tastes and the array of great ingredients available here in Austin.

Grandma’s recipe called for peeled potatoes. I chose red potatoes from Acadian Family Farm*, which hold their shape after cooking, and left the tender skins on. Instead of generic yellow mustard in the dressing, I used Dai Due’s famousFireman’s Four Mustard. Austinite Jesse Griffiths makes this hot and tangy mustard using Real Ale’s Fireman’s #4 brown ale and sells it through Greenling Organic Delivery and in person at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown every Saturday.

For the crunchy elements of the salad, I strayed even further from the standard deli recipe, with red onions from Gundermann Farms and radishes. Red onions add a ton of color, crunch and a hint of sweetness to the salad that white onions just can’t match, while radishes add bite. My secret weapon in making the potato salad crowd pleasing was lots of applewood smoked peppered bacon. The smoky flavor of crisped meat, along with the heat from the peppercorns, really kicked the intensity of the salad up a notch. I finished the salad with a handful of chopped fresh parsley from Pure Luck Farms. The green parsley popped against the creamy potatoes and their flavor brightened the dish.

I don’t think that my version of potato salad is healthier than the original by any stretch, but it is more adventurous. I didn’t have to worry about it spoiling in the heat at my friends’ cook-out, either. It was all gone in the first 15 minutes.

Potato Salad (serves 8 )

6 medium-sized red, blue or yellow potatoes (about 2 lbs.)
4 slices applewood smoked peppered bacon
1 medium red onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
10 small radishes, diced (about 3/4 cup diced)
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Dai Due Fireman’s Four Mustard (substitute another spicy mustard if you have a Gluten intolerance)
1/4 cup chopped parsley, half reserved for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place whole potatoes in a few inches of water in a 3-quart saucepan. Heat the water until it is boiling, then cover and cook the potatoes for 20-30 minutes, until they are tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool.

While potatoes are boiling, fry the bacon: separate bacon slices and place them side by side in a large skillet. Heat the skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Once the bacon becomes limp and begins to render fat, use tongs to turn the slices over. Leave the bacon undisturbed as it shortens and begins to crisp. Once the slices are a deep brown on that side, turn them again to crisp up the first side.  The bacon will be finished cooking when the edges on both sides are a deep brown (not black!). Remove the bacon from the pan and set it to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve the bacon fat for another use.

Combine diced onions and radishes in a large mixing bowl with mayonnaise, mustard and half of the chopped parsley. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, chop them into bite sized pieces. The skin will likely peel away from some potatoes; just toss that along with the diced potato pieces into the bowl with the salad dressing. Next, chop the crispy bacon into very fine pieces and add about half of it to the potato salad. Use a spatula to gently stir the potatoes, bacon, and dressing together until all the potatoes are covered in dressing and the bacon is distributed evenly throughout the salad. Transfer salad to a serving dish, then top with reserved parsley and bacon bits.

*Sadly, Acadian Farm recently moved from Moulton, Texas, to just outside Norman, Oklahoma. Check out Tecolote and Massey Farms for potatoes once local stores of Acadian’s run out.


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