It’s picnic season, a time when we congregate at long tables laden with hearty mains and their humble sidekicks. And the heavyweight among the latter is undoubtedly potato salad, its lustrous bulk crushing limp-noodled macaroni salads and insipid slaws alike. Indeed, the dressed spuds are best buds with all kinds of edibles, like burgers and fried chicken and, of course, barbecue. And though there are many excellent varieties of this “salad”—tubers that wallow with bits of egg in creamy mayo or bathe in yellow mustard and sweet pickle relish—there’s one that’s especially good with our beloved briskets and sausages, one that, appropriately enough, came to us from the same German immigrants who pioneered the Central Texas style of ’cue we hold above all others. In Kartoffelsalat, the potatoes get doused in a warm, tangy-sweet, vinegar-based dressing and tossed with chunks of bacon, resulting in a plate mate that both complements and stands up to that salty smoked meat.
As with any treasured recipe, people can be starchy about authenticity. So a word of advice: Don’t be a tater hater. If you think this recipe is half-baked, consider that you may have a chip on your shoulder. Don’t fritter away time pointing fingerlings. After all, you say “puh-tay-toe . . .”
German Potato Salad
6 large red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
6 slices of bacon
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
coarse ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider or white-wine vinegar
chopped chives, for garnish (optional)
In enough boiling salted water to cover them, cook potatoes until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain, peel, and slice (or cut into chunks, if you’re a tuber cuber) and set aside.
Meanwhile, fry bacon until crisp, then remove from pan (reserve bacon grease) and crumble. Add bacon to the potatoes.
Sauté onion in bacon grease until golden, then add flour, sugar, salt, celery seed, and pepper to the pan. Combine water and vinegar and add slowly to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until liquid boils. Boil for one minute, then pour over potatoes. Mix gently and garnish with chives. Serve warm.
Adapted from Cuisine, Texas: A Multiethnic Feast, by Joanne Smith and Mary Faulk Koock (Copyright © 1995 by The University of Texas Press). Used with permission.