June 04, 2012

Blue Cheese & Bacon Potato Salad

In my house, potato salad is a summertime staple.  However, I really hate the stuff that you buy at the grocery store.  I can't think of one instance where I've ever said "mmmm, that's good!" to the store bought stuff.  Growing up, my grandma always made hers from scratch and I've never found a comparison that even comes close.  Since then, I've been a firm believer in making my own.  There just is no other way to do it.  Over the years I've gotten pretty darn good at perfecting her recipe, but two summers ago I decided to try something new.  So I came up with my Blue Cheese & Bacon Potato Salad recipe.  It takes a little bit of time to prepare, but it is so worth it in the end.  Not to toot my own horn, but everyone (and I mean everyone) who has tried this salad has said it was the best potato salad they've ever eaten.  With compliments like those, I have no problem putting in the time to make it for my favorite people.  We had our friend, Andy over on Sunday evening and while the hubby was busy smoking up some of his famous baby back ribs I whipped up a batch of tater salad. 

The great thing about this recipe is that it's very forgiving.  The quantities used don't have to be precise; it's all about adding things "to taste".  So with that said, I will tell you how I make mine, but feel free to fudge with the amounts as you go if you'd like more or less of something.

I start with scrubbing 3 lbs of  red potatoes, leaving the skins on (if you want them off, we'll do that later).  Place them in a large pot filled with water leaving at least 2 inches at the top. 

Cook over medium-high heat until they are "fork tender", meaning once you stick a fork through them and it doesn't feel like they are still raw in the middle then they are ready to be drained.  Just make sure you don't cook them to the point where they are so soft that they are falling apart.  Drain the potatoes and put them back in the pot, fill it with cold water along with a couple of ice cubes so they will cool down quickly. 

Meanwhile, in another pot, make 6-8 hard boiled eggs.  A good rule of thumb would be to add 2-3 eggs per pound of potatoes.  If you've never hard boiled eggs before, it's very easy.  Let your eggs sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes so they don't crack once they hit the water.  Bring a pot of water up to a boil and using a spoon, very carfully place your eggs in the water (being very careful not to let them drop).  Turn the heat down to medium and cover the eggs for 15 minutes.  You want your water simmering, not boiling for this time.  When the 15 minutes are up, drain the water and fill the pot back up with cold water.  Let the eggs sit in the water until they've cooled.

Next up is the bacon.  Cut 8 strips of your favorite thick cut bacon in to bite size pieces. 

Cook over medium high heat in a saute pan until they are to your preferred level of crispiness.  Place the bacon on a plate lined with a paper towel to let the grease drain when it's done. 

Now it's time to let everyone get acquainted with each other.  Once the potatoes have cooled, you have a decision to make.  Skins or no skins?  It's really just personal preference and I've made both versions which were equally delicious.  If you choose to have no skins, now would be the time to peel them.  For this batch, I decided to leave mine on.  Chop the potatoes into small cubes and place them into a large bowl. 

Next, peel your cooled eggs and chop into small pieces.  If you have one of these handy egg cutters, use it.

Major time saver this thing is, and it makes your eggs all uniform in size.  It's all about equality people.  Add the eggs to the potatoes along with the bacon.  Now, take 5 scallions and slice them into thin pieces.  You'll want about 3 tablespoons total. 

Do the same with some chives.  Save some if you want to sprinkle them over the top when your done for presentation purposes. 

Measure out roughly 1 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. 

Be careful when adding this.  There is a fine line of pouring too much so all you taste is the vinegar.  Yuck.  If you're concerned, start with a small amount and add more as you go.  Next, add 1 1/2 tablespoons each of garlic powder and onion powder along with black pepper to taste.   Finally, it's time for the blue cheese dressing.  I highly recommend you don't skimp on this part and pop for the good stuff.  Or better yet, make your own.  Either way, make sure it has blue cheese chunks in it.  You'll thank me later. 

The thing with the dressing is that it's all "to taste" at this point.  I've made batches where I've only used half the bottle and it was great.  For this batch, I ended up using the entire thing.  Like with the vinegar, start small and add as you go.  You want the dressing to be one of the flavor components, not the only thing you taste. 

Once you have all the ingredients in the bowl, carefully mix everything together.  To do this, run your spoon down the side of the bowl to the bottom and pull the ingredients up to the top.  This is the best way to ensure you don't mash the crap out of the potatoes.  Move the salad to an airtight container and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours.  This is also a great one to make a day ahead of time.  Once you're ready to serve, add some of the reserved chopped chives to the top and viola!  The best potato salad you've ever had.

Blue Cheese & Bacon Potato Salad

3 lbs red potatoes
6-8 hard boiled eggs
8 strips thick cut bacon, cut up
3 T scallions, sliced thin
3 T chives, chopped
1 1/2 T white wine vinegar
1 1/2 T onion powder
1 1/2 T garlic powder
black pepper, to tase
1 bottle chunky blue cheese dressing

In a large pot, cook the potatoes to "fork tender".  Drain the water and fill pot with cold water and some ice cubes.  Meanwhile, in a saute pan, cook the bacon and let drain on a plate lined with paper towels.  Once the potatoes are cooled, cut into cubes and place in a large bowl, with the drained bacon.  Peel and chop the eggs, place in the bowl.  Add all the remaining ingredients except for the dressing.  Start by pouring in 1/2 the bottle of dressing and mix well being careful not to mash the potatoes.  Do a taste test and add more dressing if needed.  Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.