This is a variation of what my mother always called "German Potato Salad,"one of my favorite dishes when I was growing up. What I've always loved about potato salads made this way is their strong vinegar flavor. I put vinegar on and in just about everything. The more you can taste the vinegar (usually), the better. I've included a recipe for Fennel Relish here, but you could also use quick pickled chard stems or (my mouth is watering as I write this), chopped sauerkraut. Whatever you do, be sure to use the flavorful brining or pickled liquid to make the dressing. This recipe serves four, but can be doubled, tripled, or made in even larger quantities. Serve it warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!! ;o) - AntoniaJames
Test Kitchen Notes
This salad is packed with appealing flavors -- bacon enriches the dressing, the fennel relish lends tartness and crunch, and the herbs and sauteed celery soften the edges. AntoniaJames has thought through every detail, devising a cooking method that yields a very satisfying, full-flavored potato salad. - Kristen —The Editors
The Potato Salad
One recipe of Fennel and Shallot Relish (or one of the options suggested in the headnote)
1/4 cup finely diced celery (optional), plus a few celery leaves, chopped
1 pound of small red and/or white potatoes
slices natural bacon
Olive oil to taste (optional)
coarse brown mustard (Dijon also works well.)
teaspoons maple syrup (if necessary)
Salt and pepper to taste
finely chopped parsley or minced chives, or both (including bright green parsley stems, if desired)
tablespoons vinegar, to taste
Fennel and Shallot Relish
small fennel bulb (large enough to make one cup when finely chopped)
cup champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar, if you prefer)
Scrub and put the potatoes, unpeeled, into a pot that's large enough to cover them with 4 inches of cold water. Cook until just tender.
When the potatoes are cooked, turn off the heat but leave them in the pan with the hot water. Take them out, one at a time, to do the following: Cut each potato into slices that are about 1/2 inch thick. They should be hot while you are cutting them. (Using a small spoon in my left hand to hold each potato steady, I cut them on a large dinner plate and leave them on the plate while slicing the others.) Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of vinegar on the slices after each potato has been cut. This allows the potatoes to absorb the vinegar while still hot. I use a tiny pitcher or my OXO 1/4 cup measure for this. Some of the peel may come loose, but don't worry about it.
While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the bacon in a skillet large enough to hold the potatoes and the fennel. While the bacon is cooking, chop the herbs.
When the bacon is done, remove it from the pan and drain all but two or three tablespoons of the bacon fat. (You can remove it all and use olive oil, if you prefer.) Coarsely chop the bacon into 1-4 to 1/2 inch pieces.
If you are using celery, add it to the skillet and heat very briefly. Deglaze the pan over low heat very briefly, using 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar from the fennel relish. If you don't have that much left after sprinkling it on the potatoes, add some fresh vinegar. Turn off the heat.
Add mustard, to taste, and stir. If the mustard or the vinegar from the fennel is too sharp for your taste, add a teaspoon or two of maple syrup. Be careful not to cook this mixture too much, as it will be the dressing for the potatoes, so you don't want much to evaporate.
Add the fennel relish and stir well over a low heat. Add the bacon and parsley (plus the chopped celery leaves and fennel leaves, if you are using them). Toss to combine. Turn off the heat.
Test for salt and add some, if necessary. Add freshly ground pepper, if you like.
Finally, add the potato slices and very gently toss. They'll be rather fragile, so please be careful.
Serve warm or at room temperature. You can make this ahead, but just make sure that it's at room temperature when you serve it.
Fennel and Shallot Relish
Peel, remove the tops and hard bottom from, and finely chop the fennel bulb. You should have about one cup, chopped.
Chop the bright green leaves of the fennel, if there are any, to add with the fresh herbs in the potato salad, and set aside.
Put the chopped fennel in a small heavy saucepan with the remaining ingredients.
Simmer for about four minutes, then turn the heat off and let sit for another ten minutes or so.
Drain and reserve the vinegar, to use in the potato salad.
When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)