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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Feeding the Muse


Recipe • 15-minute German Potato Salad • by Karen Bethke



I love the smell of charcoal in the early evening. It smells like... Hubby’s cooking dinner! Which means that my job is to park myself in a comfty chair, with a good book and a glass of wine, and provide the occasional encouraging word, until—

“Honey? What do we have for a carb?”


Sigh. Maeve will have to wait. If I leave it up to him he’ll make garlic bread again, and while we both love garlic bread, we love it perhaps a little too much. Portion control becomes a problem. After that, Plans B and C are either to microwave some russets or whip up some instant mashed potatoes, but to be honest, there are only so many times you can face up to plain old baked or mashed potatoes before you go crazy.

Therefore today, I am going to reveal a long-kept secret: not the details of this recipe, but the fact that I can whip it together in about 15 minutes. For years, I’ve kept hubby and kids believing it takes hours to make this dish.

Before we get started, though: note that this recipe is for German-style potato salad, which, being German, is more on the sour end of the taste spectrum than your traditional mayonnaise-based American-style potato salad. Also note that it’s meant to be served warm, not cold, and while it’s not exactly a low-fat dish, it is lower in fat than your typical potatoes drowned in mayonnaise. Finally, it’s surprisingly low-sodium and low-carb. This recipe serves four, and depending on how you make it, the carb load comes in at about 20 grams per serving.

Before you begin
You’ll need:
• a medium-sized frying pan
• a large Dutch oven with a lid
• a heavy-duty colander: something that will survive having boiling water and whole potatoes dumped into it
• a large serving bowl: same requirements as the colander
• at least one cutting board
• the usual assortment of knives, spatulas, etc.

Ingredients
• 1~1.5 lbs of small red potatoes
• 3~4 slices of thick-cut bacon
• 1/2 cup diced sweet/mild onion
• 1 tbsp general purpose flour
• 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
• 1/2 cup water
• 1~2 tsp sugar
• 1/3 tsp ground black pepper

Ironically, I prefer my apple cider vinegar unfiltered but my tap water filtered. (Thank you, 3M!) As for the potatoes, try to pick small ones that are all about the same size, as they’ll cook more consistently. I generally try to get ones that are about golf-ball sized. You can speed-up the cooking process by cutting them in half before you boil them, or even by microwaving them, but you’ll get firmer and better-tasting potatoes by boiling them whole.

Preparation
Scrub the potatoes thoroughly, then put them in the Dutch oven, cover them with water, and put them on the stove over a high heat. You want to get them boiling as quickly as possible. They’ll come to a boil much faster if you put the lid on your Dutch oven and resist the urge to keep checking on them.


While the potatoes are going, chop the bacon into inch-long pieces and get it going in the frying pan over a low heat. Personally, I prefer to handle raw meat with a non-porous (plastic) cutting board and one knife and raw vegetables with a different cutting board and a different knife, but that may just be because my sister is a public health nurse and restaurant inspector. Dice up the onion, set it aside, and mix up the cider vinegar, water, and sugar. If your family is averse to sour you can use 2 tsp of sugar, but hubby and the kids, being of German ancestry, like it sour, so I use 1 tsp.


This is also a good time to get the colander set up for action in the kitchen sink. When it’s time to drain the potatoes, you’ll want a clear path from the stove to the sink because you’re going to need to move quickly.

Check on the potatoes from time to time, but not too often, as every time you open the lid you slow the cooking down a little. When you can stick a fork into the potatoes cleanly and with no resistance, they’re done. Expect this to take about ten minutes after they’ve reached boil.

In the meantime, when the bacon is crispy, gently lift it out of the frying pan and set it aside to drain. I use a wooden fork to avoid scratching my frying pan and put the bacon on a folded paper towel on a plate, to soak up the excess grease. After you’ve got all the large chunks of bacon out of the pan, you should have about 2 to 3 tbsp of bacon grease left in the pan, along with some yummy stuff too small to lift out. You can drain some of the bacon grease if you like, but you need at least 1 tbsp of bacon grease in the pan to fry the onions, so I usually just leave it all in there, unless it was exceptionally fatty bacon.

Quickly, before the bacon grease starts to smoke, throw in the onions and cook them over a low flame. You want to cook the onions until they soften; you don’t want them carmelized or fried to a crisp. As soon as the onions are soft, add the flour, and continue to cook over a low heat.


Essentially, you’re making a roux. This is the base for pretty much all gravies: fat and flour, at a ratio of 1 tbsp flour per 1 cup fluid. Cook the onions and flour slowly for about a minute, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn (and to get all those yummy bits stuck on the pan back into solution!). Add the vinegar/water mix, mix it thoroughly and bring it to a boil, and cook for another minute or so until it starts to thicken and become glossy. Then add about a 1/3 tsp of freshly ground black pepper—freshly ground always tastes better—mix thoroughly, turn off the burner, and move the frying pan to a cold burner and let it sit for a bit.

By this point, the potatoes should be done. Test them with a fork. If the fork goes in cleanly and without resistance, they’re done. Shut off the burner, set the lid aside, and—using hotpads!—take the Dutch oven over to the sink and dump it into the colander. Then lift the colander out of the sink, put it on the Dutch oven to drain, and take it back over to your work area.

Now comes the hard part. The potatoes are hot, and there’s a reason why a “hot potato” means what it does. So working quickly and carefully, you want to take the potatoes out of the colander, a few at a time, and cut them up and toss them into the serving bowl, all without burning yourself. If the potatoes are small, you can halve them. If they’re larger, quarter them.


When all the potatoes are cut-up and in the serving bowl, get the roux, and using a rubber spatula, pour it over the potatoes. Crumble up the bacon, sprinkle it on top, gently stir the whole thing to make sure everything is covered with gravy, and then serve it warm.


If I’ve timed it right, this should be ready at just about the same time as hubby is declaring the steaks and portabellas done and taking them off the grill.   

Bon appetit!



Karen Bethke is a wife, mother, grandmother, and 8-year cancer patient. The product of many generations of Italian family cooking, she’s now on a mission to create low-carb, low-fat, low-sodium, and just generally healthier meals that still taste great.

Karen’s sole publication credit is as co-author of “From Castle Dracule to Merlotte’s Bar & Grill” in A Taste of True Blood, but behind the scenes, she’s the real driving force behind Rampant Loon Press.

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