Since moving to body-conscious Southern California, I’ve cut way back on taters, but with Irish roots on one hand and German on the other, I’ve got a double spudlust that makes my knees nearly buckle at the prospect of something so verboten as a bacon-studded German potato salad.
What better time than Memorial Day, though, to bust out a big bowl of the stuff to satisfy my lust for carbs? For weeks, I’d been craving the bacon fat-and-vinegar-laced salad that Philadelphia chef Fritz Blank used to make for staff lunches or special occasions when I would visit. It wasn’t the kind of food he’d serve at his fancy French restaurant Deux Cheminées, but to bolster our holiday grill of bratwurst, burgers, and chicken, it was just the ticket.
Blank, a former Army captain and microbiologist, is meticulous about recipe preparations and his original notes for this salad are worth reading for the amount of precise detail about the recipe. This meticulous scientist makes legions of jigger-wielding nouveau “cocktailians” look downright sloppy. Scroll down for a link to his notes and procedures for his grandmother’s potato salad.
With apologies to Fritz, I’ve adapted his grossmutti’s Kartoffelsalat to my kitchen and tastes. Most notably, I’ve cut the fat by nearly half (but kept every single drop of bacon fat) because I don’t care for an overly slick salad. I also used Yukon Golds, but cut into small slices, somewhere between the coin-shaped slices he calls for and the cubes he reserves for American-style potato salads.
Roll out the barrels, baby: this German classic is good all summer long.
German Potato SaladGoes well with:
5 lbs C or B-sized golden potatoes
1 ½ gallons of water
½ cup salt
¾ lb. double smoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white part only
¾ cup fresh parsley, chopped “medium”
1 level tablespoon freshly cracked black peppercorns
1 ½ tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 cup of rice wine vinegar or a mild champagne vinegar
1 ½ cups oil mix (combined rendered bacon fat plus peanut oil)
Place the potatoes, ½ cup salt, and water into a 16-quart pot. The water should cover the potatoes by about 4 inches. Bring to a full boil over high heat; reduce to a gentle boil and cook uncovered until the potatoes are tender yet firm. Start testing after about 20 minutes. Test by sliding a knifepoint into potatoes: it should go in easily with minimal resistance. Carefully drain placing the potatoes in a single layer onto a tray to cool slightly.
In the meanwhile, render the bacon over medium heat until crispy, but not hard. Drain and reserve the drippings.
While the potatoes are still hot but able to be handled, slice them into bite-sized slices (or the “coins” Blank calls for) into a large mixing bowl. The slices should about 1⁄4-inch thick or slightly more, and should not break apart or crumble.
Add all of the remaining ingredients on top of the potatoes, and mix gently with a large spoon, silicon spatula, or your hands to distribute everything evenly. Do not overmix or break up the slices.
Let the salad sit for a few hours at room temperature to develop the flavors. Taste carefully and re-season if necessary with salt, pepper and/or vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Blank’s original recipe for his grandmother’s potato salad on his message board Ask Chef Fritz.
- A Chef & His Library, an exhibit I curated about Blank’s extensive cookbook collection at the University of Pennsylvania
- Mimi Sheraton’s The German Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking
- Horst Scharfenberg’s The Cuisines of Germany: Regional Specialities and Tradition Home Cooking
- The New German Cookbook: More than 230 Contemporary and Traditional Recipes by Jean Anderson and Hedy Würz
- Karl Friedrich von Rumohr’s The Essence of Cookery (Rumohr, writing in the 19th century, has been called “Germany’s Escoffier.” Take that for what it’s worth).