If you, like Lady Gaga, are partial to living ‘On the Edge of Glory,’ I have a doozy of a potato salad for you. This roasted red pepper and bacon potato salad is spectacular because it has, but of course, bacon drippings! Sure, the slightly tart, peppery freshness of the roasted red peppers helps to make this salad unforgettable, as does marinating the potatoes, but the bacon is where it’s at. Come to think of it, they all contribute to making this a BBQ side dish you can’t live without.
I am so glad to be sharing this recipe with you, and not just because it’s going to make your palate sing and your disposition happy. I just couldn’t let the heat and pool-side moments pass us by without including at least one recipe, since a good potato salad IS the food lubricant of any good ol’ fashioned summer BBQ.
Man, woman and child cannot survive a perfectly social day out in the elements on hotdogs, burgers and grilled chicken alone. Provisions must be made to include a side dish or two, and any self-respecting host and hostess knows that potato salad must be on the invite list. Otherwise, it is like offering up an orchestra ensemble to your guests but forgetting to include the violins.
And yet, some people go without. Take this rather bleak story I read the other day.
It told of a woman who, growing up, used to go to about 12 cookouts every summer without ever being allowed – not once! – to eat any potato salad. The woman had a mother who apparently was afraid that her entire family would die of listeria poisoning if the tempting dish had sat in the sun too long. Imagine. Those bowls of enticingly creamy potatoes laced in mayonnaise and a variety of tasty flavoring agents like pimientos, olives or paprika, and not one tiny taste to be had.
Still, to the mother’s credit, no one in her family ever did die of listeria, or even get sick for that matter. Then again, no one in my family has either, even while continuing to indulge in one of the tastiest side dishes around.
Granted, we tended to eat potato salads of the Italian persuasion. In chorus with similar dishes from Germany, Austria and France, they used oil, vinegar and onions instead of mayonnaise. (I’m being tongue in cheek here, of course. It is the bacteria in the actual potatoes that generally can make people sick, NOT the mayonnaise.) But my mom and I in particular had, and still have!, a soft spot for mayonnaise and we slid in this creamy, decadent version as often as my non-mayonnaise loving father would tolerate.
Ultimately, regardless of the flavoring vessels used, the key to outstanding potato salad is the flavor and texture of the potato itself. If it’s too mushy, hard or watery, even the most delicious condiments won’t save it. I was lucky enough to learn some fabulous pointers from my former German neighbor Helga, whose marked, authoritative accent was thick with expertise. Allow me to share two with you.
First, boil the potatoes whole and with their skin on and cut or slice them only after they have fully cooled. Doing this ensures that, once you cut them into cubes or slices, they will retain their beautiful geometric shapes perfectly.
Second, add warmed dressing to the cooled potato pieces or slices. This technique functions similarly to adding cold dressing to warm potatoes, since it makes it easier for the potatoes to absorb the condiment and become really tasty. The only difference is that Helga’s way prevents potato cubes from disintegrating in the water in which they are cooking and also offers a reprieve from burnt fingers when handling the whole ones.
Finally, and this is my own pointer, pre-dress your potatoes for extra flavor. I’ve taken to adding a lighter, water-based condiment to the potatoes the night before I plan on serving the potato salad. Doing so flavors even the deepest recesses of each piece of potato and makes every single bite more intense and satisfying. But I warn you…it could just steal a little thunder away from the grill.
making roasted red pepper & bacon potato salad
Place 3 pounds of thoroughly washed little red potatoes in a large pot of cold water along with a handful of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook for approximately 30 minutes, or until a skewer easily passes through an entire potato. Spoon the potatoes onto a baking rack set over a sink.
Once completely cooled, slice them any way you see fit.
Prepare the pre-dressing by placing 3/4 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, 3 teaspoons of kosher salt, a few slivers of roasted red peppers, and 2 teaspoons of freshly-cracked pepper in a small pot.
Bring to a gentle boil. Allow to cook for a minute or two and then add ½ cup of minced white onion. Return the mixture to a gentle boil for no longer than a minute or so and then immediately remove from the heat. Add the warm dressing to the cooled potatoes and fold gently but thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, remove the bowl of potatoes from the refrigerator. Pour the potatoes into a colander that’s been placed on a plate or in the kitchen sink to drain the pre-dressing. Once well drained, place the potatoes back into the bowl and then add 3 stalks of thinly sliced celery, 1 finely chopped small red onion, 2 thinly sliced green onions, and 1 8-oz. jar of roasted red peppers that have been cut into slivers.
Cook 10 slices of bacon that have been cut into 1-inch pieces in a skillet on medium-low heat until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons’ worth of the bacon drippings from the skillet, and pour the rest out. Now add ¾ cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, and Kosher or sea salt to taste the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet and whisk to combine. Heat for 2-3 minutes on low heat.
Pour the warmed dressing over the ingredients and gently fold with a spatula to evenly coat.
Lastly, stir in the bacon. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. Reserve a few of the bacon pieces to place on top of the serving bowl when ready to serve. Makes 8 servings.