I’ve had a soft spot for German potato salad ever since my freshman year of high school, when I volunteered to represent Dr. Schwaggermann’s class on “International Lunch Day” with a big foil pan full of tangy, bacon-flecked kartoffelsalat. It was one of the first things I ever cooked completely by myself, and decades later, I still remember what a pain in the ass it was to peel all those damn potatoes. My poor, frail teenage fingers were so sore after peeling 30 pounds of potatoes, I couldn’t do my German homework for weeks afterwards.
I was hoping to make a bigger impression on my schoolmates with my bangin’ potato salad. I mean, Christ, it had bacon in it. I should have been the Kartoffelsalat Queen of Stuyvesant High School. But it was not to be: my potato salad and I got upstaged by Madame Saltzberg’s stupid French class and their stupid chocolate-dipped cream puffs. Not a single person at that table had hands that had cramped into talons.
That was the first and last time I made German potato salad “for fun.” Without a guarantee that my work will be appreciated, I’m not peeling any damn potatoes. (If I need to contribute a carb-based dish I’ll stick to lemon herb macaroni salad, which doesn’t cause hand cramps.) And yet, I still love and crave German potato salad—so, instead of peeling, slicing, and cooking potatoes, I tried using potato gnocchi instead.
Though it’s not entirely the same as fresh potatoes, packaged gnocchi takes only about three minutes to cook in salted water, which has made it impossible for me to go back to the traditional way of doing things. I prefer the texture, too, which is firm and springy instead of soft and mashable.
The recipe below makes enough German potato salad for two people to enjoy, but if you’re serving a crowd, you can easily double, triple, or octuple it. Make sure whomever you’re serving appreciates your hard work, even if you didn’t peel potatoes to make it. Ungrateful people don’t deserve to reap the benefits of others’ potato salad.
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1 large onion, cut into thick slices
- 1 lb. gnocchi
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. good quality mustard (I like brown horseradish)
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. celery seeds
- Roughly 1/2 cup chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large roasting pan, scatter the onion slices and lay the bacon slices over them, then slide into the oven. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is ultra-crispy. (The amount of time will depend on the thickness and fattiness of your bacon.) While the bacon and onions are in the oven, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
Remove the pan from the oven. Use tongs to remove the bacon to a plate and pour the excess bacon fat into a small bowl. Boil the gnocchi according to package directions, drain, add to the roasting pan, and stir with the onions, adding 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat back into the pan to coat. Return the roasting pan to the oven for 5 minutes.
Stir the vinegar, mustard, salt, sugar, pepper, and celery seeds together and add to the gnocchi and onions, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Roughly chop the bacon and add to the pan with two-thirds of the parsley and toss well, then taste for seasoning, adding additional bacon fat and/or spices as you see fit. Move to a serving bowl, sprinkle with remaining parsley, and serve immediately.