This potato salad has become an absolute summertime staple amongst my little group of island dwelling friends. If there’s a barbecue or a get together, someone has to make it (usually me ????), and if they don’t, there will be a riot. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. They probably won’t go that far (who’s to say?), but they will be gravely disappointed, because, seriously, it’s that good.
Remember my friend Nina? This is actually, quite ironically, her recipe. She introduced my friends and me to it a few years back, and we’ve all been
mildly crazy obsessed with it ever since. In fact, we don’t even call it “warm potato salad with bacon and long hots,” we just call it “Nina’s potato salad.” Being that she’s now vegan and all, Nina no longer consumes most of the things that make this salad so damn delicious. She’ll tell you that she totally doesn’t care (the inflammation!), but I think she knows, that we all know, that deep down, she really does. ????
So what makes this so special, you ask? We’re talkin’ warm, waxy and well seasoned potatoes. Fingerlings preferred, but yukon golds get the job done just fine. We boil them first in heavily salted water, which allows them to absorb the seasoning so they taste good from the inside out. There’s no mayo in this potato salad, which will make a lot of folks I know happy (hi Uncle Joe!). We get flavor and creaminess from olive oil, and if you’re a rebel, a little bacon fat, too.
Crumbled salty bacon and freshly cracked black pepper – always a solid combo. Then, the long hots. Are long hots a thing where you are? Because they’re definitely a thing here in New Jersey. I don’t recall seeing them in many other parts of the world, though. These peppers are – I believe – Italian in origin, are long in shape and, well, obviously quite hot.
Like most chile peppers, these can range from not-all-that-hot to totally-blow-your-mind-hot, and usually fall somewhere in-between. But, I’d argue most lean towards the latter. We love hot in this household, and strangely, just about every single one of my friends does, too. I’m talking like, eyes watering and cheeks sweating hot. I know, we’re anomalies. So if you don’t love hot like we do, you can totally substitute long sweets, which are essentially the same peppers minus the heat (I’ve found them at both the Margate and Brigantine farmer’s markets for all my locals). But really, any combination of hot and/or sweet peppers you have will work just fine.
This technique of slowly cooking the peppers in olive oil is one I learned from Nina’s dad, Tony, who hails from Calabria, Italy, a town famous for their chiles. Growing up, they always had a batch of these slow cooked hot peppers in oil on the table, and now they’re something I always keep around in my fridge. I talk about this technique a little more in depth here, and show how it’s done in the video. The peppers absorb the oil and get buttery soft, while the oil absorbs the pepper’s capsaicin and gets fiery hot. If you’re a fan of spicy, be sure to make a triple batch of these peppers and keep them in the fridge to slather on pizza, sandwiches and anything else that needs a little kick.
Chopped fresh chives give a mild oniony bite that I love in so many dishes, but especially in this one. Sour cream is quite literally the icing on the
cake salad. Don’t skip this part! There is no better contrast to the warm, spicy potatoes than a big dollop of cold sour cream right on top. It melts into the nooks and crannies and helps put out the fire from the long hots.
This potato salad is summer side dish perfection, and you need to try it before the season ends. I suppose you can make it any time of year, but it’s just not the same. The peppers in my garden are going bonkers right now, so I’ll be whipping this up multiple times over the coming weeks. You probably should, too. If not, you risk your friends causing a riot, and really, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 5 long hots or long sweets, sliced into 1 inch chunks*
- kosher salt, as needed
- 1 pound fingerling or yukon gold potatoes, cut into large chunks
- 8 slices bacon
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped chives, plus more for garnish
- sour cream, for serving
- Pour the oil into a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the long hots. Season generously with salt, then toss them around every few minutes until they're totally softened, about 25 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the bacon slices in an even layer on a foil lined sheet pan, then cook in the oven until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan and place on paper towels to drain. Reserve the bacon fat (optional).
- Place the potatoes in a medium pot, cover with cool water and add enough salt to make the water taste like the ocean. Bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes, then let them sit in the colander for a few minutes to dry out. Transfer to a bowl, then add the peppers and all of their oil, and crumble the bacon over top. Mix together, mashing some of the potatoes a bit as you go. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed.
- If the salad is a little dry, pour in a little bacon fat, or alternatively some extra olive oil. Add the chives and mix right before serving. Serve warm, with a dollop of sour cream and an extra sprinkling of chives.
- *Substitute your favorite hot or sweet peppers. Use about 3 cups chopped peppers, removing seeds for less heat if needed. Suggested substitutions: cubanelle, fresno, jalapeño or serrano.