Many potato salad recipes use mayonnaise to hold everything together and some are really very good, especially those with fennel or celery mixed in to give it a nice contrasting crunch.
However, this version is one of my favorites and has more of an European style to it; crispy smoked bacon gives it real substance and depth of flavor – and replacing the ubiquitous mayo with shallots softened in bacon pan juices, along with good olive oil and a little diced red onion, results in a wonderful and robustly-flavored potato salad. The addition of sherry vinegar might make your eyes water at first – (you throw in onto the hot potatoes and it steams) – but wait and see what happens after 20-30 minutes. All those flavors combine to make this potato salad really stand out from the crowd. You may need to add more olive oil if you use British back bacon – this recipe calls for the American-style (streaky) variety.
I sometimes mix baby white and red potatoes together for color and the addition of grilled sweet red pepper strips is optional but very good. You can use flat or curly parsley but I prefer the flat-leaf Italian variety.
Serve this dish warm or at room temp – but if you plan to make it ahead and chill, you’ll definitely need to bring it back to room temp first to allow the dressing to soften up.
WARM POTATO SALAD with SMOKED BACON, SHALLOTS & SHERRY VINEGAR
2lbs (1 kilo) of baby new potatoes, washed
8 oz (230g) of smoked bacon cut into thin strips
1/2 cup (120ml measure) of finely chopped shallots
1/2 cup (120ml) of sherry or red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons of extra-v olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (120ml) of finely chopped red onion
Optional – 1 roasted and skinned sweet red pepper (DIY or from a jar is fine); stalk, membranes and seeds discarded – and cut into fine strips
1 cup (240ml measure) of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Quarter the potatoes, put them in a large pan and cover with salted cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat slightly and cook for 8-10 minutes or until they’re soft but still have some firmness; ‘al dente’.
While the spuds are cooking, saute the bacon pieces until crispy – remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving the bacon fat.
Saute the minced shallots in the bacon fat until they’re soft – make sure they don’t brown – set everything aside.
As soon as the potatoes are cooked, drain quickly and put in a large bowl. Immediately pour the shallots and bacon fat over them, followed by the sherry vinegar, olive oil and a good grind of black pepper. Gently toss everything together and check the seasoning.
Add the red onion, red pepper strips (if using) and chopped parsley and carefully combine everything. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes and add more olive oil if you think it looks too dry – scatter the bacon over the top.
If you’re making it ahead, cool to room temp then cover and chill. Bring it back to room temperature to serve; adjust the seasoning and oil if necessary, then add the bacon.