Potato salad is a classic picnic salad. It fits perfectly on the communal table with baked beans, other salads, and all sorts of main dishes including ribs, barbecued chicken, grilled steaks, burgers and dogs.
Traditional American potato salad is dressed with mayonnaise and that can cause problems at parties where the food sits out for a while. Mayonnaise-dressed salads need to be kept cool or bacteria can grow and make eaters sick. You can help avoid this problem by adding vinegar and/or lemon juice to the dressing. The acid can kill pathogens. (Still, it’s a good idea to keep a bowl of mayo-dressed potato salad on ice.)
Better yet, make German Potato Salad which is meant to be served warm or at room temperature. It has no mayonnaise at all. Being the daughter of a German immigrant, I was introduced to “kartoffelsalat” at a young age. My Tante Margaret worked at a busy German deli in Brooklyn and could only make salads in 10-pound batches. Oh, the buckets of side dishes we ate!
Warm German potato salad is a product of southern Germany. In the northern part of the country, the potato salad is dressed with mayonnaise. Both are often served with sausages and lots of brown mustard.
The dressing for German potato salad is vinegar and oil with a bit of sugar plus chicken stock. Put it on when the potatoes are warm so that they soak up the dressing. I add fresh chopped dill and parsley, and lots of crumbled bacon bits. I simmer the potatoes in their skins and then peel when they are cool enough to handle. DO NOT overcook the potatoes or they will break apart even when you gently stir in the dressing.
Save some bacon bits and herbs to sprinkle over the top just before serving. The longer the bacon crumbles are in contact with the dressed potatoes, the soggier they get. I like crispy bits.
I don’t know what Tante Margaret would think of this, but I use Japanese rice vinegar mixed with red wine vinegar. The rice vinegar mellows the tang a bit. I refrigerate the leftovers but let them come to room temperature before serving again.
- 5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- ½ pound bacon strips
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- ¾ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup Japanese rice vinegar
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- Boil the potatoes in their skin in salted water until fork tender about 20 minutes. Begin checking at 15 minutes because smaller potatoes could be done sooner. Drain and allow to cool so that they can be handled and peeled.
- In a skillet, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain bacon on a paper towel and save about 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat. Chop the cooked bacon and set aside.
- While potatoes are cooking, dice onion and chop dill and parsley.
- In a separate bowl, mix stock, sugar, salt, pepper and vinegars.
- Peel potatoes and cut in half, then in ¼-inch slices. Place in large mixing (or serving) bowl. Pour the vinegar mixture over the potatoes and stir gently to incorporate. The warm potatoes will soak up dressing.
- Add the bacon, onion and herbs. Add the reserved bacon fat and stir gently again.
- Let sit for about 5 minutes, then add oil. Start with ¼ and fold in gently. Then add remaining oil. The mixture will be soupy at the bottom but over the next 15 or 20 minutes, the potatoes will soak it up.
- If you’ve saved any parsley or bacon bits, sprinkle them over just before serving.
- German potato salad is best served warm or at room temperature.