There are surely at least 1000 different ways to make potato salad. I thought I’d pretty well covered my bases on the options in the potato salad department. Then, I moved to a completely different part of the U.S. and realized I was wrong. Very wrong.
If I were to be uncomfortably honest about myself and my vices, I would have to admit that I have a love of barbecue that probably borders on unhealthy. Naturally, when I rolled into Texas for the first time, I started checking out the local BBQ joints. I knew to expect some differences in the meat, but when I grabbed potato salad as a side it was a very different flavor combination than I was used to. It was also often served warm. Total surprise to me.
Now that I’ve been here a bit longer, I’ve learned a few new things regarding this potato salad. First and foremost, this dish has some decidedly German origins. It’s fairly similar to a dish I’m told is common in Bavaria. Second, mustard and onions are ubiquitous in northern Texas cuisine. I’m not sure why. Pickles too. Try getting a Whataburger without these three things. It’s like ordering unsweet tea. Half the time the person taking your order assumes either you misspoke or they misheard. This potato salad definitely shows that tendency.
Third, and most importantly, this recipe is one that’s worth a try even if the flavors seem a bit strong. It pairs particularly well with some some brown sugar sauced, mesquite smoked brisket. The native Texan in residence declared this “pretty close to Grammy’s”, which may not sound like high praise, but it is. If it passes that particular litmus test, I’m considering this one well worth sharing.
The things that really makes this recipe a winner for me are in the details. Before I actually drop the whole recipe on you, let me take a moment to brush on two of them.
The first is potato varieties. There are so many varieties of potato out there and they are not all interchangable. I’ve made this recipe with a few different ones now. Purple potatoes made for a fun and different presentation, but something in the flavor didn’t combine well with some of the more tangy ingredients. Red potatoes didn’t hold up well to all the acidity present. Standard russet baking potatoes were starchier and made for a slightly creamier texture. It was a bit reminiscent of mashed potatoes, even though I tried really hard not to mush them up when mixing. This was not necessarily a bad thing though. I’ve settled on baby Yukon Gold potatoes as my favorite variety for this recipe. They stay firm when mixing, and they have a nice buttery flavor of their own. Both positives, as far as I’m concerned.
The second note is about the onions. I’ll keep this one more short and sweet. If you don’t love onions raw, and I mean absolutely adore them, dice them extremely fine for this recipe. Minced might be the better word. Tiny pieces mixed into the warm potatoes will give the whole thing some onion flavor. Larger chunks will be more like biting straight into an onion flavored apple. I’ve gone from raw onion hater to raw onion tolerant over the years, but coarse chopped onion in this recipe is still a big nope for me.
North Texas Style German Potato Salad
- 1/2 medium sweet yellow onion
- 3-4 strips bacon
- 3 lbs. baby Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1/4 cup stock (chicken or vegetable)
- 2 tbsps. chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 pinch black pepper (to taste)
- 1 tsp yellow mustard
Chop bacon strips into pieces no longer than 1/2" long. Place in sauce pan and allow them to fry for 4-5 minutes on medium heat, until just starting to crisp.
Quarter potatoes if using baby potatoes. If using baking potatoes, cut into roughly 1/2" cubes. After bacon has cooked for 4-5 minutes, add potato pieces to sauce pan with bacon. Let potato pieces fry with bacon for 1-2 minutes, then add stock and cover with lid. Let stock come to a simmer, then cook potatoes until barely tender. This should take 10-15 minutes.
While potatoes cook, finely dice onion.
Whisk salt, pepper, vinegar, and mustard together. When potatoes are start to become tender, pour mixture over potatoes and reduce heat to low. Stir gently to mix, trying not to mash the potato pieces. There should be almost no liquid left in pan at this point. Remove from heat.
Add finely diced onion and chopped parsley to still warm potatoes, mixing gently.
Allow potato salad to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm or room temperature.