Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Potato Salad

I never like potato salad.

It was this thick, amorphous substance people bought at the grocery store to serve at barbecue dinners, picnics, and potlucks. It usually involved either over cooked or under cooked potatoes, tons of mayonnaise, and very little flavor. Plus, everyone had a story about getting sick from warm potato salad. I thought, why bother?

Then, I started traveling a lot for work and eating at a variety of restaurants. I finally tried good, homemade potato salad. The kind where you can taste the potatoes, but the dressing just makes the whole thing better. Also, it had bacon. I had to recreate this.

After a couple of attempts I think we got it. Original recipe alert!

Guanciale Potato Salad

Makes enough for 8-10 servings as a side (we make it for parties)

12 medium to small red potatoes (in a pinch any waxy potato would do), scrubbed well
1/8 cup diced guanciale (cured-pork jowl) or bacon or pancetta, optional (if you swing that way)
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
1 teaspoon oregano, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 red onion, finely diced
sea salt
black pepper (freshly grated is preferred)

1. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Salt the water and potatoes generously and bring the water to a boil. Boil potatoes for about 30 minutes or until when poked with a knife the knife enter easily, but with a little resistance. Basically, they will be too hard to mash, but cooked all of the way through.

2. Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet fry the diced guanciale (or whatever) over medium heat until it is crispy. Remove the meat to a paper towel to drain. Reserve 2 tablespoons of pork fat if you can. This sounds gross, but it is a really good idea. Trust me. Allow the fat and guanciale to cool to room temperature.

To make the dressing:
3. Combine the mayo, sour cream, and cooled guanciale fat in a small bowl and whisk until they are mixed.

Add the oregano, chives, mustard, and vinegar. Now add the cooled guanciale and red onion. Taste the dressing and season it with salt and pepper to taste. Be generous! The potatoes need salt to make them tasty. This is also the time when you should add more of any of the ingredients. If you really like mustard, add more etc. The world is your oyster. The potato is your blank canvas.

4. After the potatoes are cooked, drain out the water and let the potatoes cool a little. Now chop them into bite sized chunks and put them in a big bowl.

5. Add the seasoned dressing to the potatoes and mix gently until all of the potato chunks are covered.

This should keep for a couple of days, but ours never lasts that long.

This recipe is not diet friendly. It is a bit of a pain to make. I promise you, if you bring this to a party you will be a hero. People ask us about this dish months later.

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