Growing up, we had a great little delicatessen in town. It was one of those places that you could drop by any time of day, see at least five people you knew, and get something good (and quintessentially “Jersey”) to eat. From Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese sandwiches for breakfast to “Sloppy Joe’s” for lunch (turkey and/or corned beef on marble rye with swiss, Russian dressing, and cole slaw—so good!), there was something on the menu for everyone. My favorite offerings were always the sides, the leader of the pack being the Bacon Cheddar Potato Salad. I can’t even imagine how many containers of this stuff I must’ve consumed between the ages of 11 and 18 (thanks, adolescent metabolism!), but man, was it good.
I eventually left my little hometown to attend college out of state. One break, I came home with a craving for the standard deli fare I loved so much (and, unfortunately, found was not so “standard” outside of the Garden State—who knew that ordering a “Buttered [Kaiser] Roll” for breakfast is a regional thing?!). Except, the deli was gone and a convenience store had moved into its space. Thoroughly disappointed (I had thought about that potato salad all the way up I-95), I decided to try making Bacon Cheddar Potato Salad at home. Several incarnations later, I had a recipe that has become a staple on our summer barbecue menus.
When it comes to potato salads, I’m an equal opportunity eater. I love making different varieties that evoke different regional cuisines (tangy German served warm; French with tarragon, Burgundy mustard, and capers; Scandinavian with red onion and dill—all delicious.). In choosing a side for a 4th of July party, though, I usually gravitate toward Bacon Cheddar. Really, when we think of foods that scream “Americana,” the Loaded Potato concept is right up there with Apple Pie. With cheddar cheese, bacon, scallions, and sour cream in every bite, it’s celebratory comfort food at its best.
Bacon Cheddar Potato Salad packs a solid flavor punch, but also plays well with most picnic foods—ribs, hamburgers, barbecued chicken, you name it. The best part (aside from the bacon and cheddar, of course) is that the salad can be made a day or two in advance of serving, making it a low-stress dish for summer entertaining. I hope you’ll give it a try and that your guests enjoy it as much as mine!
Bacon Cheddar Potato Salad
- 2-1/2 pounds Red Bliss potatoes
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked crisp, drained, and crumbled
- 3/4 cup grated cheddar
Clean potatoes (don't peel) and place in a large pot with enough water to cover by 1-2 inches. Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, until potatoes just start to become tender in the center when pierced with a knife or skewer. Remove from heat, drain potatoes into a colander, and return the potatoes, in the colander, to the pot. Cover colander with a kitchen towel and the pot's lid, and let the residual heat steam the potatoes for 15-20 minutes. Remove lid and towel and let potatoes stand at room temperature until cool enough to handle.*
Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking together mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Add scallions, parsley, and about 3/4 of the crumbled bacon (reserving the rest for garnish), and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cut potatoes into about 1-inch cubes and add to dressing, gently tossing to coat. Gently fold in cheddar cheese. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Refrigerate at least an hour and serve, garnished with remaining bacon, and additional sliced scallions and grated cheddar, if desired.
*If there's any trick to making potato salad, it's determining the right amount of time to cook the potatoes. Too long of a boil and the potatoes will break up upon assembly. Too short, and your guests will crunch on undercooked interiors, which ruins the potato salad party just as much as a mushy spud. Over the years, I've found Ina Garten's technique for cooking potatoes to be pretty consistent in its results. For even cooking, choose smaller potatoes from the bin that are roughly the same size. Boiling times will vary. Large potatoes can take up to 25 minutes on a gentle simmer before their centers start to become tender.