I love potato salad, but not that gross, mayonnaise-laden stuff that typically passes for potato salad around these parts (the U.S. being these parts). Sometimes that mayonnaise-y stuff can be really good, but more often than not, it’s basically disgusting. Tastes disgusting, looks disgusting, IS disgusting, as Coolio might say.
Enter in the vinegar-based potato salad. It’s still the same basic idea (boiled new potatoes), but with none of the weight of the mayo. This particular version is an entirely farmers’ market inspired creation. I knew I was making dinner with a friend that night, I knew that I didn’t want it to be a labor-intensive ordeal. I saw a pint of teeny tiny new potatoes — smaller than I’d ever seen them before — and felt the need to buy them. Which led me to the idea of potato salad. But this potato salad was going to be the star of the show, not an accompaniment. So it needed more.
The basil smelled especially fragrant, so that went in next. Next, some corn, inspired by a dinner with a friend a few weeks ago in which he sautéed the kernels to perfection. The spring onions were beautiful, and any potato salad needs onion of some sort (those are the only two necessary components, really — potato and onion). And lastly, because when does it ever hurt, I bought some bacon.
Originally, I was going to fry the bacon, boil the potatoes, and sauté the corn, and then mix them altogether with fresh basil sprinkled on top. But after frying the bacon and boiling the potatoes, inspiration hit, in the form of lots of leftover bacon grease that I didn’t want to go to waste. I fried up the potatoes, lightly (you don’t want home fries here, just some browning). Then added in the corn and bacon, torn up. And then, and here was the real beauty, added in a good handful or two of basil leaves, making basil an actual component of the dish, rather than just a garnish. I let the basil wilt a bit, and took the whole thing off the heat. A generous addition of white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, and it’s done (the bacon grease is enough fat that you don’t need to add additional olive oil or anything).
In the end, I’m not sure that this officially counts as a salad, but I like to think of it as such. Respect your potatoes!
Warm Basil, Corn, and New Potato Salad
Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are, and what you’re serving alongside
– 1 pint new potatoes (red-skin potatoes)
– 2 ears corn, husked, kernels cut off
– 1-2 handfuls fresh basil leaves
– 4 slices bacon
– 1 large spring onion (can substitute a regular yellow onion), chopped
– white wine vinegar, to taste (several tablespoons)
– salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes, boil until tender (about 10 minutes). Drain. When cool enough to handle, slice potatoes in half.
2. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a medium-size skillet over medium-heat. When cooked through, remove bacon and place on a plate lined with papertowels to drain. Pour out bacon grease into a heatproof container, reserving 3-4 tablespoons in the pan.
3. Add onion to bacon grease. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add potatoes to pan. Cook, turning occasionally, until slightly brown. Add corn. Cook until corn is tender, probably only one or two more minutes. Tear up bacon into medium-sized chunks; add to pan. Add basil leaves, stir to incorporate into vegetables. Cook for one or two more minutes, until basil is slightly wilted. Remove from heat and pour contents out into a large serving bowl.
4. Add 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar to salad and toss to incorporate. Add more vinegar tablespoon by tablespoon, tasting after each, until salad has reached the level of acidity you want. Season generously with salt and pepper.