May it Please the Palate: German potato salad

 The New York Times recently featured “The United States of Thanksgiving.” They wrote, “We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico).” 

I had two thoughts. One was, “Why no dish for Guam?” The other was, “What’s up with ‘Baked German Potato Salad’ at Thanksgiving?!”  
Yet this was the dish that the Times pegged as the Mitten State’s iconic dish. Quoting Priscilla Massie, a co-author of “Walnut Pickles and Watermelon Cake: A Century of Michigan Cooking,” the European families settling here “liked to stick to their ethnic traditions,” and the Germans in particular embraced Thanksgiving, adding their own twist to holiday fare.
If you foolishly omitted German Potato Salad at your own Thanksgiving feast, no worries. This is something you can make all year round. If you’re like me, any meal is an occasion to gussy up the humble potato. And in this recipe, the bacon is bonus.
 
Baked German Potato Salad
Instructions
3 ½ pounds red potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (about 8 cups) 
Salt 
¾ cup diced bacon (5 to 6 slices) 
Olive oil, if needed 
1 cup finely chopped celery (3 to 4 stalks) 
1 cup finely chopped onion (1 onion) 
3 tablespoons flour 
1 cup cider vinegar 
1? cup sugar 
½ teaspoon celery seed 
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard 
½ teaspoon black pepper 
3 tablespoons chopped parsley 
 
Directions
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water; season with salt. Bring potatoes to a boil, then cook until they are just tender but not falling apart, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often, about 8 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon and toss with the potatoes. Measure the bacon fat left in the skillet, adding olive oil if necessary to equal 1/4 cup, and return to the skillet.
3. Set skillet over medium heat and add celery and onion. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in flour until incorporated. Slowly add 1 1/3 cups water and the vinegar, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, celery seed, mustard, pepper and parsley. Pour over potatoes and bacon and gently toss to coat.
5. Transfer potatoes to a 3-quart baking dish; cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
German Potato Salad is especially versatile. You can serve it with roasted turkey, or as a stand-alone dish. Or – if you’re weirdly into contrasting food textures like me – try it as a dip for potato chips. Yes, readers, I can devote an entire column to using different potato salads as potato chip dip. Chop the potatoes a little more finely. German gives you that vinegar tang, but I also like mustard-enhanced potato salads.
Put that one in your holiday cookbook, New York Times. You can even tell them it’s an ancient Greek recipe.
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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He can be reached at nroumel@yahoo.com.  His blog is http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.

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