Do you recognize these babies? They’re potatoes. They haven’t been on the scene much lately, having taken a multi–decades beating from low-carb advocates, some of whom put potatoes on the same level as sugar. Indeed, they’ve gotten themselves an unfortunate reputation. All this is probably not helped, mind you, by the fact that the lionshare of potatoes in this country come out of deep fryer in the form of chips and french fries.
I’d sort of forgotten about potatoes myself, busy exploring other starches for my “Year of Whole Grains” series. So when a pound of Yukon Golds showed up in my CSA box recently, I peered in and thought, “hey there, stranger.” I piled the potatoes straight away into a saucepan to cook. Once drained, I made a warm salad with shallots, Dijon, vinegar and olive oil. It was perfection that I ate standing up — fork to pot to mouth, repeat (don’t tell my kids) — thinking all the while, “why have potatoes become the bad boy of the farmers’ market?”
They’re not “fattening” as they’re perported to be. In fact, they have very little fat at all. What they are is a good source of potassium, vitamic C, and if you keep the skin intact (and you should), fiber. Are they as superfoody as kale? No. As low-cal as lettuce. Nope. But prepared well and eaten in moderation, potatoes are warm and wonderful; they will fill you up and sustain you in a way that a leafy green just can’t. Indeed, potatoes have nourished entire populations the world over for centuries. Two weeks after the “potato salad in a pot” incident, another bag of spuds showed up in my CSA, a pound of fingerlings. This time I added just-ripe cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and crumbled bacon to my original mix. And this time, I managed to get the salad into a bowl and myself into a chair before digging in.
I know, civilized.
The result is this Warm BLT Potato Salad. It’s excellent on its own for lunch or as a light supper along with hard boiled eggs, tuna, chicken, or some other boost of protein. It’s best warm, but makes for great picnic fare at room temperature as well.
One bite in and I promise, you’ll find yourself not just saying, “hey there, stranger,” but, “I missed you, old friend.”
Warm BLT Potato Salad
1 pound small waxy potatoes such as red skinned, yukon gold, yellow finn, or fingerlings
2 slices thick-cut bacon (or 3 slices regular bacon)
2 tablespoons diced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon water
3/4 cup halved ripe cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
8 to 10 crispy Romaine lettuce leaves
Cut the potatoes as needed so they are in 2-bite pieces. Tiny potatoes won’t need to but cut at all, larger ones can be quartered. The key is that the pieces are all uniform in size so they cook evenly.
Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover by 2 inches with water. Salt the water generously enough so that it tastes like the sea. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, neither crunchy nor mushy. Don’t be shy about spearing one out of the cooking water to slice into it and taste for doneness. Drain immediately.
While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon using your favorite method until crispy.
Make the dressing by whisking together the shallots, mustard, vinegar, oil, and water, until blended.
Once the potatoes are cooked, combine them in a medium bowl with the cherry tomatoes and basil. Crumble the bacon into the salad. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of dressing over the potatoes and toss to coat. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
To serve, set out 4 to 5 salad plates. Lay 2 leaves of lettuce on each plate and drizzle with a couple teaspoons of the dressing. Divide the potato salad amongst the plates. Drizzle on a little more dressing if needed.
Makes 4 to 5 servings.