I’ve never been one of those girls who sits on the sidelines. Usually when something interests me I leap in exuberantly. Because of that, I have no idea why I’ve waited to so long to join the Daring Kitchen. I’d seen some of my favorite bloggers post impressive and creative monthy entries for the Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks, but for some reason, I never got around to joining.
This month I decided to put a stop to that and participated in the Daring Cooks for the first time. Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!
This challenge appealed to me because I love potato salad. To be honest, I’m a sucker for any creamy, mayo-based side salad so come BBQ season, I’m in heaven! I don’t even need a portion of the main dish. It also seemed like due time, because although I’ve featured a lot of pasta salads (including my Turkey Dried Cherry Pasta Salad, Honey Mustard Cashew & Tofu Pasta Salad, Almost My Father’s Pasta Salad, and Verde Pasta Salad with Crab) on my blog I’ve yet to feature potato salad, save for a Sweet Potato Salad I posted about all the way back in 2008 when I first started writing. So yes, it was time and I’m glad that the Daring Cooks gave me an excuse to do so. I’m also sure that my waistline was happy the challenge called for a healthy version.
After brainstorming a bit I fell in love with the idea of morphing my Easy Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Dip into a potato salad. I knew these flavors would work well as part of a lightened salad because the caramelized onions add a lot of richness and depth without a ton of calories or fat and most blue cheeses are so pungent that a little goes a long way.
When people think healthy eating cheese is often one of the first things that goes out the window, but I swear it doesn’t have to! It’s just about choosing cheeses that are very flavorful so you get more bang for your calories and can get by using just a little. Think Parmigiano-Reggiano, cave-aged cheddars, and of course, pungent blue cheeses. For this recipe I chose Rogue River Creamery’s Crater Lake Blue because I wanted something that would be robust enough to carry the blue cheese flavor throughout the dish and that also would be substantial enough in texture that it wouldn’t disintegrate when the salad was tossed. However, you could easily substitute another good quality, pungent blue cheese. (Though their flavors and textures are slightly different, I also love Bayley Hazen Blue, Grevenbroecker, and Gorgonzola Dolce. And any of the Rogue River Creamery blue cheeses would work well here. I’m always impressed by their fantastic selection.)
I folded the caramelized onions and blue cheese into what has become my go-to lightened salad dressing base, a mixture of fat free Greek yogurt (I’ve used fat free plain yogurt as well and while it comes out well, I love the body the Greek yogurt gives the dressing), low fat mayonnaise, mustard powder, vinegar, and honey. I seriously LOVE this base. It tastes so much like the real thing to me that I use it consistently even when calories and fat are not an issue. It tastes deliciously mayonnaise-y to me and slightly sweet, but without being too rich or heavy. And because I’m cutting back on the calories by swapping out some of the mayo for greek yogurt (One ounce of fat free greek yogurt has only 17 calories and 0 grams of fat vs. the 94 calories and 9 grams of fat in light mayo) I don’t feel the slightest bit bad about including some crumbled bacon. I find that 2 tablespoons goes a long way to add a hint of smokey, porky flavor to the salad.
And for the potatoes in the salad, I went with some gorgeous fingerling potatoes that I found at Green City Market. I forget the exact name of the variety but with their creamy, buttery flesh I knew they would be a perfect addition. And they were perfect. Using a technique from Ina Garten they cooked up beautifully.
And in this potato salad I think I’ve found a new addiction. I love how the caramelized onions make the salad ever so sweet while the blue cheese adds a slightly piquant flare. Both make for an upscale and slightly grown up twist on a classic. And the bacon, can a bad thing ever be said about a dish that includes it? (This recipe also yields a little extra bacon, just incase you needed it for something, like oh say, Brioche Donuts with Maple Frosting and Bacon Crumbles.) Best of all, I love that this dish shows that cheese and bacon don’t have to be on the ‘no-no’ list when they are used smartly and in moderation.
-2 pieces Black Forrest Bacon
-1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
-1 2/3 pounds fingerling potatoes
-1 cup fat free greek yogurt
-1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
-1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
-2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
-1 tablespoon honey
-1/4 cup good quality crumbled blue cheese (I used Rogue River Creamery’s Crater Lake Blue but any robust, blue cheese will do.)
Coat a skillet with cooking spray. Lay the pieces of bacon in the skillet side by side with space in between. Place the skillet over medium heat and cook the bacon until crispy on both sides.
Once cooked, remove the bacon from the pan and place on place it on a plate covered with paper towels to drain. Once drained crumble.
Meanwhile, pour off the the grease left in the pan so only a thin coat remains. Place the pan over medium-high heat and add the sliced onion. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently or until onions are lightly browned.
Reduce heat to low and give the pan a generous spray of cooking spray. Cook 25-30 minutes or until onions are completely browned, stirring occasionally to prevent burning or sticking.
While onions are cooking, prepare the potatoes. Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
Whisk together the greek yogurt through honey until smooth. Gently in the caramelized onions and blue cheese and two tablespoons of the crumbled bacon reserving the rest of the bacon for another use.