I’d never made a potato salad before this one.
Well… actually I had made warm salads that include potatoes… but never the dish we traditionally call by that name – new potatoes bound together in a mayonnaise-based dressing.
Several years ago, the American Head of IT where I worked shared his potato salad tips with me, after he hosted the IT summer party in his back garden and I raved about his magnificent potato salad. He’d been a professional chef in his previous career; yes I was surprised at the job change too – for the record, he was very good at both. I wrote his recipe down at the time but mislaid it and by the time I realised, he’d retired and moved back to the States.
But a few tips stuck in my mind.
- Use lots of fatty bacon and make sure you include all the bacon fat that renders as you cook it.
- Don’t stint on the mayonnaise.
- Add chopped capers or gherkins for acidity and crunch.
- Toss the potatoes in the dressing while they’re still warm.
So one of the dishes I was determined to try with our home grown new potatoes this year was a classic bacon-laced, mayonnaise-heavy potato salad. Of the two early potatoes we’ve grown, Home Guard seems better suited to this dish than Red Duke of York, as it holds it shape better when cooked, so that’s what I’ve used here.
And, of course, the potato salad had to live up to my memories of that magnificent lost recipe.
In the end, I made up the recipe on the spot, and by very good fortune, it came out perfectly.
The photos really don’t do this justice at all, which is totally my fault as I decided to make my first ever potato salad less than an hour before we headed out to the annual summer barbecue at our allotments and I only grabbed a couple of snap shots of the finished dish, in the box I mixed (and transported) it in. I should have spooned a neat pile into a small clean bowl to show it off better but instead you’ll just have to take my word for it that this recipe is worth trying.
I’m calling it Heart Attack Potato Salad because of the ratio of dressing to potatoes and the amount of fat in the dressing!
Heart Attack Potato Salad
Optional: 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
500 grams firm new potatoes, scrubbed but skins on
100 grams streaky bacon, chopped
125 ml Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise
2 medium pickled gherkins, finely diced
Note: Kewpie mayonnaise is made with egg yolks rather than whole eggs, which makes it much richer than typical European commercial mayonnaise brands. The apple and malt vinegars give it a slight sweetness and the MSG creates an umami richness. If you can’t get it, either make a rich home-made mayonnaise or substitute with regular and add a small pinch of sugar.
Note: I like the sweet style pickled gherkins rather than the very sour type or the dill pickle ones, so that’s what I used here.
Note: Bacon doesn’t need any additional oil to fry, but adding a touch of extra oil at the beginning lets it take on lots of bacon flavour, to add to the dressing if your bacon doesn’t render much out. For a very slightly healthier version, omit the vegetable oil.
- Chop your new potatoes in half or quarters, depending on size, and put them on to boil. My preference is for bite size pieces in a potato salad, though some people prefer much smaller dice.
- Add a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan (if using) and gently fry the chopped bacon. I don’t like bacon fried until it’s crunchy, so I fried mine until it showed a little browning but was still soft.
- Allow the bacon to cool a little, then combine bacon, bacon fat / cooking oil and mayonnaise and mix well. You’re adding a lot of extra fat to the mayonnaise emulsion so it may take a bit of effort to mix it into a smooth dressing.
- Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain and leave in the pan to steam and dry a little further.
- While the potatoes are still warm, mix thoroughly with the dressing. If you like, you can do this by putting potatoes and dressing into a sealed container and gently shaking and turning.
- Serve warm or cold.
As a potato salad novice, I’d really like to hear about your favourite potato salad recipes or tips. I was utterly delighted with the tastiness of my first attempt, which I’ve shared here, but now I’ve dipped my toe in, I’m keen to discover more excellent home-made potato salad recipes. All advice welcome!