Potato salad

Of all the little pearls of culinary wisdom I’ve collected over the years — pasta water must be salted, a salad must include crunch — the tip I think about the most often… 

…especially this time of year, is one I heard from Bobby Flay while watching one of his cooking shows in the 90s. And that is this: When making potato salad, toss your potatoes in the dressing while the potatoes are still warm and therefore optimally absorbent. It makes such a difference in terms of overall flavor and depth especially when you’re making a vinegary potato salad (my favorite kind) and not a mayo-based one. This Potato Salad with Bacon and Dill below is the perfect way to see for yourself.

Potato salad

Also good to remember? For prettier presentation, wipe the inside rim of the bowl, and reserve a handful of the mix-ins for garnishing after the tossing. That one goes for all salads — don’t you hate how all the goodies sink to the bottom of the salad bowl post-tossing?

Potato salad

Potato Salad with Bacon and Dill

I make this salad on repeat all summer long. Sweet and tangy, herby and bright, it’s my favorite part of any cookout spread. If you omit the bacon, add an extra 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the dressing. (This recipe first appeared in my book How to Celebrate Everything.) Serves 6-8

3 pounds unpeeled small firm potatoes (red, white, Yukon Gold), quartered
5 slices bacon (optional)
⅓ cup white wine vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
⅓ cup good-quality olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 bunch of scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped (about ¼ cup)

Add the potatoes to a large pot, cover with water, and generously salt the water. Bring to a boil and boil gently, until a knife slides through the potatoes easily, about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are boiling, fry the bacon in a skillet until cooked. Drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Crumble the bacon. Add the grease to a large bowl and let cool slightly. Whisk in the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper, and olive oil. 

When the potatoes have finished cooking, drain, then immediately toss them in the dressing in the large bowl to allow them to absorb the dressing. Reserve a handful of the the bacon crumbles, dill, and scallions, then toss the rest with the potatoes to combine. Garnish with reserved goodies and another drizzle of olive oil if you’re feeling it.

P.S. Nine rules for better salads and ten quick dinners perfect for this time of year.