~ A Summer Comfort Food: German Potato Salad ~
Every now and then, my world, or the world in general, gets stressful, overwhelming, and, just plain crazy. When that happens, I head into my kitchen to cook something that makes me happy. It has been such a week here at Kitchen Encounters. Retreating into my kitchen to cook comfort food is easier to do in the Fall and Winter months, because I have a long list of comforting casseroles, soups and pasta dishes in my repertoire. Today, I decided to put some nice thick pork loin chops on the grill and mix up a batch of warm and comforting German Potato Salad, "just like my grandma used to make"... sort of:
When I graduated from high school, my fiance's grandmother, who lived in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, specifically South Tamaqua, regularly made German Potato Salad throughout the Summer months. Nana was Pennsylvania Dutch, which culinarily is similar to Amish, but religiously is not. While I never wrote down her specific recipe for this potato salad, I often helped her slice, dice, chop and boil, then watched her saute the ingredients in a large, cast-iron skillet, in a very specific order. Near the end, she'd mix up a thin slurry made from flour and water, to thicken the mixture, add some vinegar, and, voila: German potato salad. So, when it came time for me to come up with my own recipe, "it wasn't rocket science". Aside from some celery seed, Dijon mustard and a couple of proportions, I'd say my recipe is probably 95% the same as hers!
A bit about German potato salad: German potato salad is a delightful, bacon-studded, sweet & sour, vinegar-based salad made using boiled potatoes, bacon, bacon fat, vinegar, simple seasonings and sugar. Common additions are onion, celery and seasonal, fresh, mild herbs, like parsley or chives. Typically enjoyed warm, it can be served hot or cold as well (although I like it warm the best). Technically it's called a salad, but it is almost always served as a side-dish to German sausage or pork (and, like Nana, I almost always serve mine with pork chops)!
There are dozens of varieties of potatoes available nowadays, but the low-starch, waxy red potato is best suited for German potato salad because it stands up to the rigors of boiling, sauteing, and stirring. And, something every potato salad cook should know: the unpeeled potato contains more nutrients, retains its shape better and absorbs less water (when boiled)!
Tip from Mel: Don't boil the potatoes. Microwaving the potatoes insures no water absorption. Your potatoes will be the perfect texture for potato salad each and every time! For my recipe, you'll need:
3 pounds, whole, medium-sized, red skinned potatoes, about 4-5 ounces each, rinsed
~ Step 1. Rinse potatoes, and, using a fork, pierce each one in 1-2 places. Microwave, in 1-2 batches, until just cooked through. In my microwave, I am able to do this in 1 batch, and, it took 12 1/2 minutes. Do not overcook the potatoes!
Note: For this, potato salad, the potatoes are done when they can be pierced with tines of a fork, but not easily pierced. They should show a bit of resistence in the center, because, they are going to continue to cook as they cool.
~ Step 3. Slice into thick, 1/2" slices. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Meanwhile, prep the remaining ingredients as directed.
Note: Potatoes can be prepped several hours (4-6-8) in advance, but, do not be inclined to refrigerate them, as they tend to get gray looking. Just cover them with plastic wrap and leave them on the countertop at room temperature.
For the German potato salad:
3 pounds, medium-sized red skinned potatoes, prepped as directed above
1 pound thick-sliced bacon, the best available, sliced into 1/2" pieces
1 pound yellow or sweet onion, halved pole-to-pole and thinly sliced, about 1/4" thick
8 ounces diced celery
1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Note: Bacon can be fried hours in advance of making the potato salad. Turn heat under drippings off and cover the pan. Reheat drippings prior to proceeding:
Continue to saute, over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and translucent and just short of beginning to brown, about 15 minutes, with how it looks being more important than time.
~ Step 3. Add the sliced potatoes to the onion mixture. Over medium-high heat, continue to saute, stirring frequently, until the potatoes and onions are beginning to brown, about 15 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary, to prevent scorching. While potatoes are cooking:
Add the 1/2 cup cold water and whisk until a thin, smooth "slurry" has formed. Set aside.
~ Step 6. Reheat the potatoes over medium heat. When steaming:
Stirring constantly, continue to cook until the slurry is thickened, the potatoes are coated in the mixture and the bottom of the pan is almost dry. This is only going to take about 30 seconds.
Stirring constantly, continue to cook until the mixture is thickened, the potatoes are coated and a sauce has formed in the bottom of the pan. This is only going to take about 30 seconds.
Note: While the German potato salad is technically ready stir in the bacon and eat it, it will be at its best if you cover it and set aside for 1-3 hours.
Whenever you decide to serve it (hot, warm, or, at room temperature), always stir in the crunchy bacon at the very last minute! Enjoy!!!
Special Equipment List: microwave oven; cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; slotted spoon; paper towels; 1-cup measuring container; small whisk
For a more traditional recipe, ~ GrandMel's Creamy Potato and Egg Salad Recipe ~, which is mayo-based, just click into Categories 4, 10 or 17!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)