The perfect potato salad is most likely the one you ate while growing up. For instance, my mom always added chopped hard-boiled eggs and pickles to hers, and thus I find that any American-style potato salad without those ingredients is just, well, lacking. My SO, however, believes that adding pickles and hard-boiled eggs to American-style potato salad is pure heresy, and prefers the classic with just mayonnaise, onion, and parsley.
We have, however, found a potato salad that circumvents these silly debates: Joy of Cooking's German potato salad. Instead of slathering boiled potatoes in mayonnaise (or other creamy fats), German potato salad is made by mixing hot potatoes with fried onions, bacon, vinegar, and spices. The salad is warm, refreshingly tangy, and a nice change from the constant barrage of variations on American potato salads. Since we just made this for dinner Sunday night, it's this week's end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.
2 pounds potatoes, whole, with skins
1/4 pound bacon, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste; plus an extra ~1 tablespoon for the potato cooking water)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Cooking the potatoes:
1. Wash the potatoes and trim off any bad spots.
2. Add the whole potatoes (skin on) to a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil.
3. Simmer the potatoes until they are tender throughout; test by piercing with a fork or knife. This will likely take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the potato; we check the potatoes about every five minutes once they've been cooking for 20 minutes. Remove any small potatoes that finish cooking before larger ones.
4. Drain the potatoes and let cool to a comfortable handling temperature (but do not refrigerate).
5. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces and put into a heat-proof bowl. Have the potatoes chopped by the time the bacon and onion mixture is finished.
Making the dressing:
We often start cooking the bacon immediately after the potatoes have finished cooking.
1. Cook the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the bacon has become firmer in texture and the edges are well-browned (a stage where you'd be comfortable eating it).
2. Add the onions to the bacon, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and have started to turn golden (~5 minutes).
3. Add the chicken stock, vinegar, sugar, paprika, mustard powder, salt, and black pepper to the bacon and onions, mix well, and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat.
1. Pour the bacon mixture over the potatoes, and stir gently to mix.
2. Top with chopped parsley, if desired, and serve warm.
Vary the amount of vinegar to suit your tastes; Radagast often likes to add a little extra vinegar to his bowl. We use rice vinegar (4.5% acidity), primarily because it's what we regularly have on hand. Cider or wine vinegar would probably work just as well.
We typically don't worry about the variety of potatoes we use; it seems to taste good with every kind (though in general waxier potatoes hold their shape better).
Slightly modified from Rombauer et al. 1997 (our primary changes were removing pickles and celery greens, as well as changing the cooking order).
Rombauer, I. S., M. R. Becker, and E. Becker. 1997. Joy of Cooking. Scribner, NY.