My husband likes to joke that I am a Potato Salad Purist. If I had my way, potato salad would be potatoes, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and a splash of vinegar. I like to think of it as the Mashed Potato Theory in practice: if potatoes are paired with something creamy, something salty and something peppery, they don’t need any other help. (I am aware the vinegar is not addressed but willing to overlook it if you are.) A quick glance at Pinterest or a flip through any summer issue of a cooking magazine shows you that most others would not, apparently, fall into the purist category; I’ve seen potato salad recipes with everything from the hard-boiled eggs, celery and onions of my youth to yogurt and cucumbers, anchovies, salad turnips, pickled beets, pulled pork… In other words, the sky’s the limit for your ingredient list. I like to think I moved closer to this group of Potato Salad Adventurers when I put together the recipe I’m sharing today; it was a daring leap for me and one I’ll never regret.
Bleu cheese and bacon are not unusual ingredients in a potato dish, and they make for an absolutely mouth-watering, fairly decadent, rich and flavorful potato salad. My inspiration was a Cobb salad, and though you can see that I didn’t put all the traditional ingredients into my potato salad, I think you could continue my vision a few steps farther and get there. Cherry tomatoes would work, as would cucumber (I would take out any seeds first), and though I don’t care for eggs in my potato salad, they’d certainly get along well with the other ingredients. I serve this bleu cheese & bacon potato salad alongside grilled chicken or pork, generally, so I might not add chicken if doing that– but what a stellar dinner salad you could make if you did! Back to what I did put in my potato salad– the combination of salty, crispy bacon and tangy, crumbly, creamy bleu cheese (I used Salemville again) is just shy of perfection in a potato dish, and though this won’t replace my plain ol’ purist-style potato salad– it’s too rich to have often– it will become a special addition to the dinner table a few times each year. Every purist should become an adventurer now and then!
Bleu Cheese & Bacon Potato Salad
- 1 lb. red potatoes, boiled and cooled completely, preferably chilled
- 1 T. apple cider vinegar
- 2 slices of good-quality bacon*
- 2 T. mayonnaise
- 2 T. sour cream
- 3 T. buttermilk
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- several cracks of freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 oz. crumbled bleu cheese
- pinch of kosher salt (optional)
- snipped chives or scallions to garnish
Start by boiling your potatoes in lightly salted water (for 25-35 mins., depending on the size), which can be done 1-2 days in advance, and should be done at least 4 hours before you want to make and serve this salad. I look for firm, relatively unblemished potatoes of a uniform size, so they cook at the same rate. I keep the potatoes whole and leave the skins on; I would recommend cooking them whole and peeling after they are cooked if you want them peeled, which isn’t necessary for most thin-skinned reds. I also recommend refrigerating the cooked potatoes until they’re needed, since cold potatoes are easier to cut and less likely to crumble.
When you’re ready to make the salad, start by cooking the bacon in a skillet or in the oven, whichever method you prefer, until crispy. Remove from the pan and allow some of the excess grease to drain on a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate. When it’s cool enough to handle, chop the bacon roughly into small pieces. Cut your cooked potatoes into 1/2″ cubes and put into a large bowl; sprinkle with cider vinegar and toss to distribute. Add half to three-quarters of the (ideally still warm) bacon to the potatoes and combine gently.
In a smaller bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and cayenne, if using. Add the bleu cheese and stir until combined, trying not to completely blend in the cheese; a few larger chunks are nice. Pour over the potatoes and gently mix until all potatoes are coated in sauce. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and maybe a little more pepper. Serve immediately, or cover the dish and refrigerate for up to a day. Garnish with the remaining bacon and fresh chives or green onions before serving.
*I genuinely felt like this was enough bacon, with a lot of other rich elements in play, but you could certainly add more. Just remember to add salt sparingly until you taste the salad with bacon, as some versions or brands are saltier than others. Alternately, leave it out, or serve alongside as a garnish, in consideration of your vegetarian guests.