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German Potato Salad

Memorial Day means barbecue. Which to first appearance means I don’t have to do any work, because Himself does the grilling. Seriously. I don’t even know how to light the grill.

But appearances are wrong, because barbecue also means side dishes. Lots of side dishes. (Yum!) And lots of dirty dishes. (Boo!) And lots of leftovers. (Yay!) And lots of indigestion. (Argh.)

For years, my barbecue menu has lacked potato salad. I hate mayonnaise, and it’s usually a critical ingredient in potato salad. So no potato salad for me and mine, thankyouverymuch. Then I discovered German potato salad, which has infinitely less mayonnaise and infinitely more bacon. Both pluses in my book.

German Potato Salad

  • 5 pounds red potatoes: cleaned, boiled, and peeled
  • 6 oz. bacon, diced fine
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced fine
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp stone ground mustard
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • chopped Italian parsley, to taste

Clean and boil your red potatoes in salted water until they’re cooked. Drain. When they’re cool enough to handle or about 30 minutes before serving, rub off the skins, and slice. As you stir in the dressing, they will crumble to a large dice. Don’t do this too early, the potatoes retain their heat better in their skins. After your potatoes are sliced, start making the dressing.

In a medium frying pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is golden brown and crisp. Throw in the diced onion and cook it with the bacon until it’s translucent. Stir the flour into the bacon and onion and let it cook for one minute, then whisk in the chicken broth, vinegar, sugar, and mustard. Taste it and adjust the salt – remember this will be flavoring the potatoes, and so the dressing should be salty. But not inedibly salty.

Bring the contents of the pan to a boil whisking constantly, when it thickens remove it from the heat. Dress the potatoes with the warm dressing, and add chopped parsley and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Serve warm or room temperature, but not cold.

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Charro Beans

You have ruined me on charro beans.

– guy in our D&D group.

Okay, I can’t take any credit at all for this recipe. I haven’t experimented with them so much as meticulously followed my husband’s texted instructions. It’s his recipe and he apparently came with it pre-installed – there’s no other reasonable explanation for its existence.

He says that his mom has made beans like this before, and all I can say is that, in twelve years, I’ve never had them.

Anyway, these charro beans are about as authentic as you can get short of the Rio Grande valley. They veer heavily Mex on the Tex-Mex scale and are very much a border food. Serve them as a side, or as a meal in themselves, we use them either way.

  • 1 lb. pinto beans, picked over and washed
  • water
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 lb. bacon, diced
  • 1 lb. roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 yellow sweet onion, diced (~1 cup)
  • 1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (unseeded if you’re brave)
  • 2 cloves garlic*, minced
  • half a bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lime

There are two ways to start these. You can either soak them ~8 hours and then cook them, and they’ll cook in about 45 minutes… or you can just throw the dry beans in a pot with plenty of water and simmer them until they’re done, which takes about 2-3 hours.

We’ve cooked them both ways and they are roughly equal in unfortunate bean side effects, so you can pick the method that suits your timetable. I prefer the no-soak method, which produces deeper brown beans than the presoaked version.

Anyhow.

Presoaked beans:

Combine a tablespoon of kosher salt, about 8 cups of water, and your dry beans in a bowl for 6-8 hours. Rinse them, throw them in a pot with some fresh water and bring to a simmer.

Dry beans:

Combine a half tablespoon of kosher salt, about 8 cups of water, and your dry beans in a big pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the beans are cooked, 2-3 hours, adding more (hot) water if needed.

I know everyone says cooking beans with salt makes beans hard. Everyone is wrong. A hard bean is just an old, dry bean – salt has nothing to do with it. Salting your beans (especially during the presoak) is the only way to actually season the bean. Otherwise, you end up with bland beans and have to salt the cooking liquid heavily to make up for it.

Trust me. We cook a lot of beans.

With that controversy behind us, when the beans are mostly cooked throw in the diced bacon and let things continue to simmer while the bacon and beans finish cooking. About 30 minutes before you want to serve them, add the tomatoes, onion, serrano, and garlic*.

*it is acceptable to substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic. Just sprinkle it in to taste.

About five minutes before serving remove the beans from the heat and stir in the cilantro and juice of one lime. These flavors dissipate with extended cooking, so I always wait till after I’ve turned off the burner before I add them. Give things a few minutes to meld, and then serve.

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