Salads

purple potato salad with gorgonzola and bacon

purples and blues in a whole new way ::::

Joblessness has afforded me three things: 1) impeccable dental hygiene; 2) an uncanny ability to recite, from memory, the items in and position of said items in my pantry; and 3) getting to know my neighbors on more than just a “hello” basis. As I brush, floss, fluoride rinse, and rinse again, I often consider my options. I have a pound of dried garbanzo beans on the second shelf of the cupboard to the right of the stove and a bunch of fresh Italian parsley in the crisper. There are four pounds of purple potatoes waiting to be mollycoddled. Gorgonzola in the cheese drawer.  Maybe mix in some salty bacon and we’re in business for dinner! And we’ll have guests!

 

We are lucky that we have friends living mere steps away. Growing up, I remember this was commonplace in our neighborhood. Kelly, two years older than me and front-yard gymnastics mentor, lived diagonally and across the street. I’d just skip down the street and ring her doorbell, often greeted by her always sunny mother or friendly father. Except when the HUMONGOUS Golden Garden Spider that I was convinced was some direct relative of the Black Widow sat next to the doorbell, then I ran quickly home.

Debbie and Brandy’s grandmother lived across from Kelly, and they often visited. I would often ring their grandmother’s doorbell, greeted at the screen door by her asthmatic dog Ben, part chihuahua part pug, barking and wheezing the longer I stood waiting. The more I waited, the more aggressive the wheeze. I was convinced that I would watch him die one day, gasping for air, as Debbie’s and Brandy’s grandmother stubbed out her cigarette before answering the door. Behind us lived my brother’s friend Clay, enveloped in a cloud of Star Wars action figures and a booming, almost socially-inappropriate laugh that always stopped me in my tracks.

 

We may not have such colorful neighbors now as I did when growing up, but color we have in our homes. These purple potatoes certainly can brighten a kitchen as my childhood neighbors brighten my memories. Placing such brilliant dish on the table provokes immediate conversation, as it did when I served it recently to some dinner guests. Some of that conversation can be used to cajole suspicious children to taste the salad. Convince them it is otherworldly, it is “space food” or “dinosaur food.”  You can also convince adults of its otherworldliness with the blue onions. No, not purply-red, actually blue.  If you want to get a head on start on prep, cook the onions and boil the potatoes (with skins on) as the recipes cites. Cool the potatoes slightly to skin them, cut into bite sized pieces, add the salt, pepper, and olive oil while still warm, and mix in the onions. In hours (and even overnight), you will have the brilliant amethyst potatoes dying your translucent onions a neon blue. A step further: add the mayo and you’ll have a lilac-colored mayo coating on your potatoes. If you want to forego the bacon for vegetarian guests, add a little more salt. My salad may not be quite as colorful as my childhood neighbors but it comes a close second.

 

purple potato salad with gorgonzola and bacon
Author: 
Recipe type: salad
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound sliced meaty bacon*
  • 2 yellow or sweet onions, diced
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, perhaps a little more
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds purple potatoes, scrubbed**(skins on or off, you decide -- see note)
  • ½ cup good-quality mayonnaise
  • ½ pound blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola, crumbled (a good goat cheese could work here, too)***
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the bacon slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until they are brown and crisp, about 15 minutes (watch carefully). Transfer the bacon slices to paper towel-lined plates to drain. Crumble or cut into ½-inch pieces. Taste test crispness. Perhaps frequently.
  2. "Grill" your onions: Heat a pan on the stove top over high heat with approximately a tablespoon of olive oil (enough to cover the pan) to almost smoking. Cook onions, untouched, until just starting to char. Mix and char a little more, watching carefully, so all onion pieces have some blackened bits on them. Add a sprinkle of salt, turn heat to med-low, cover and allow to soften for a few minutes.
  3. If you want blue onions start this step hours to the night before. In a large pot of salted cold water, bring the potatoes to a boil. Simmer until they are beginning to get tender, (this depends on the size of your potatoes, so check with a fork). Drain the potatoes. Cool (but still warm) until okay to handle and skin them. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes while still warm with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. (Remember, you will add the bacon later, which is also salty, so don't over-salt this step.) Add onions (and place in fridge if making ahead and wanting blue onions).
  5. In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the gorgonzola cheese. (I also save a few crumbles to add on top of the dish, as my photo shows.) Add the bacon and potatoes and toss to coat. Transfer the salad to a clean bowl and serve.
Notes
* Meaty is better than too fatty. The fat will be crisp to start but as the salad sits, it will become softer. This doesn't affect the flavor but I find the consistency change distracting. Using pancetta is a noble substitute. Crispy prosciutto or speck may even be better. ** If you want a lighter purple salad, peel then boil the potatoes. (And your onions won't be very blue.) If you leave the skin on with boiling, the potatoes retain their brilliant purple color. *** Careful with your choice: don't use a blue cheese with too much of an ammonia bite to it. It will ruin the whole dish. Ask your cheese seller for a mild blue cheese, without the ammonia.

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