Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pat's loaded baked potato salad

I know this isn't the kind of recipe I should be writing about only weeks before swimsuit season, but when have I ever been one for timing?  Or coordination.  Or subtlety.  I digress.  Before you raise your fists to the computer screen, shouting something along the lines of, "Why, Katy, why?" I'd like you to hear me out.  This potato salad is not your ordinary potato salad; in fact, there is no mayonnaise or vinegar in sight.  Instead, it contains ingredients that pretty much guarantee culinary greatness: roasted potatoes, sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, sour cream, butter, and a full pound of crisped bacon... [insert Homer Simpson-esque drooling noises here]  Sorry, I'm fine, I'm fine.

I can't claim credit for this fantastic reinvention of a picnic classic.  A few weeks ago, when we were celebrating a friend's birthday with a cookout and hockey game, a friend of mine, Pat, brought this unorthodox version of potato salad.  I know this is something I shouldn't admit, being a lover of food, but I'm a bit picky sometimes.  I'm one of those people that always asks, "What's in this?" at potlucks, picnics, and buffets.  I didn't waste time talking once I saw this.  You can see every ingredient at first glance and the moment you dig in, you can taste every ingredient.  After asking around, I discovered that Pat made this fantastic dish and I had to get his secrets.

Pat said he found the idea for this potato salad online but made a few changes to "both satisfy [his] cooking snobbery and elevate the calorie count."  Well said, Pat!  Instead of boiling the potatoes, he roasted them.  Also, rather than just mixing the shredded cheese in at the end, he melted some over the potatoes so it would hold up better in the finished dish.  And, Pat warned me in advance that this recipe takes some time with the cooking and chilling, so don't think you're going to throw this together an hour before your office picnic.  Who knew that a lawyer could have such skills in the kitchen?  Thanks for sharing, Pat :)

Pat's Loaded Baked Potato Salad
-makes 9ish cups

4 pounds Idaho potatoes
1 pound bacon, crisply cooked and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 cups (about one 8-ounce block) grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray

(Note: You can pan fry your bacon and drain it over paper towels, or you can cook it in the oven on a wire rack over a cookie sheet at 400F for 20 minutes.  I chose the latter because it's less work for me and the bacon gets done all at once.)

Preheat oven to 425F.  Peel potatoes, rinse, and cut into 3/4-inch to 1-inch chunks.  Distribute potatoes evenly between two quarter sheet pans and coat potatoes/pans with nonstick cooking spray.  Toss with rubber spatula to evenly coat.  Roast in oven for 10-20 minutes, tossing with a spatula about halfway through, until slightly golden.  At this point, check to see that potato pieces are done (fork tender... or let one COOL and eat one).  Remove potatoes on baking sheets to cooling racks.

Toss potatoes and sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over each cookie sheet of potatoes (that's 1/2 cup total, math majors).  Allow cheese to melt and potatoes to cool for 20 minutes.  Transfer cheesy potatoes to a large bowl or plate, cover with foil and chill in fridge for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

In a large bowl, stir together sour cream and butter until relatively uniform mixture is achieved.  Remove potatoes from refrigerator and add to sour cream and toss to coat.  Add remaining 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese, green onions, and bacon and stir until evenly distributed.  Taste for seasoning -- I found that I didn't really need much more salt due to the bacon and cheese, but added a pinch anyway.  I also added 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.  Stir once more.

Chill at least two hours before serving, but I made mine a day before it was to be eaten and, frankly, I think it was better since the flavors were allowed to mingle.  Let sit, covered, at room temperature for an hour before serving.  Enjoy and savor every bite, knowing that a swimsuit could never make you this happy.

Also, my dad requested that I post a little discovery of his from Monday night.  He originally ate the salad cold and loved it, but decided to microwave it for 15-20 seconds the second time around and said it was to die for!...fantastic!...out of this world!  Too bad I left the remainder of the dish at my parents' house.  Tear.  Welp, guess I'll have to make it again.

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