Let me make a confession. I’m not very good at following recipes. On the rare occasion when I actually have a recipe in front of me while cooking, I feel compelled to tinker with it by adding a pinch of this or a splash of that. Or I transform it in more radical ways, by, say, changing most of the main ingredients. For better or worse, any recipe I try to follow is usually the faintest speck in my rearview mirror, never to be seen again, by the time I get done with it.
That said, there are two recipes I follow to the letter each and every time: Joy of Cooking‘s much-loved Brownies Cockaigne and my mother’s hot “German” potato salad, both of which seem to me perfect in their own ways. Mom’s potato salad recipe, which follows, is a delicious concoction of red-skinned potatoes, bacon, onions, celery, and celery greens in a tangy, sweet and sour vinegar dressing. Served hot or warm, this budget-minded, rich, and not at all heart-heathy dish makes a scrumptious addition to an otherwise light dinner.
2 pounds red potatoes, boiled in their skins until tender and drained
4 slices (3-4 ounces) of bacon
1 cup peeled and chopped onions
2/3 cup chopped mixed celery and celery greens
A pinch of celery seed, if available
1/2 teaspoon salt
A generous grinding of black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon unbleached flour
5 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup water
- Cut the cooked potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices and set aside. I prefer to leave their peels on.
- In a large sauté pan or casserole, cook the bacon until just browned and transfer it to a paper towel to drain, leaving the bacon drippings in the pan. When it is sufficiently cool to handle cut the bacon into 1/2-inch dice and set it aside.
- In the same pan used to cook the bacon, sauté the chopped onions in the remaining bacon drippings for two minutes and then add the chopped celery and celery greens. Sauté for approximately three more minutes or until the onions are golden. Add the celery seed (if used), salt, pepper, sugar, and unbleached flour to the pan and stir well for another minute. Gradually stir in the vinegar and water and simmer for an additional couple of minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
- Very gently stir in the sliced potatoes and cooked bacon. Cook for a couple of minutes more until the potatoes are heated through and have absorbed most of the dressing. Cover and set aside for five minutes before serving. Serves 6.