Cured Meat Is The Secret To A More Robust Potato Salad

Potato salad is a quintessential staple at potlucks and picnics, but there's never a wrong time (or way) to enjoy the comforting dish. Neutral-tasting spuds provide a blank canvas and lend themselves to all sorts of preparations. Whether you coat boiled potatoes in a creamy dressing or toss roasted wedges with a tangy vinaigrette, potato salad only gets better as you introduce more ingredients. Yet, rather than mix in the old standards like dill, relish, or onions, there's an opportunity to multiply flavor tenfold with the help of savory, cured meat.

Sometimes the most creative additions prove to be the most successful. Since charcuterie isn't typically used in potato salad, it provides an unexpected wow factor. And while they add pops of color, the cubes of fatty pancetta, strips of sliced pastrami, or bits of jamón also bring some texture to the dish. Most importantly, however, cured meat delivers big and bold flavors, improving both one-dimensional potato salads and those that simply lack a certain je ne sais quoi.

Potato salad tends to fall short on umami. A vital component in any dish, umami can be introduced by working in a savory addition like wet or dry-cured meat. Teeming with rich deliciousness, these goods also contribute a generous amount of salt and fat that further elevate flavor. Depending on processing, cured meats can impart nuances of herbs, spices, and smoke. With them as your secret weapon, you'll never want to make potato salad any other way.

How to craft a charcuterie-inspired potato salad

Cured meat can be worked into any mayonnaise or oil-based potato salad recipe. What's more, you can use any type of cured meat. Flavorful saucisson, wild boar salami, smoky paio, aromatic summer sausage, spiced cervelat, juniper-laced bauernschinken, fiery 'nduja, or pistacchio-stuffed mortadella will all improve a dull potato salad. As for how to incorporate these meats into your recipe, we've got you covered.

Prior to adding cured meats to potato salad, remember to remove the casing. While fresh sausages can be left as is, a dry-aged soppressata should always be peeled as this outer layer has been in direct contact with the elements. Once removed, the meat can be cut into bite-sized pieces and tossed into the salad. Cured meats don't require any cooking to impart another dimension of flavor or texture, but still feel free to crisp up cubes of guanciale, bits of chorizo, or coins of lap cheong.

Last but not least, think about flavor. Rather than adding just any cured meat to your salad, consider how flavors will work together, and make it a point to create balance. For example, a decadently dressed potato salad might benefit from a leaner meat like savory lachsschinken, whereas a simple salad of warm potatoes tossed in vinaigrette might benefit from a rich and fatty sucuk. Some recipes might thrive from mixing in various kinds of charcuterie — although we'll leave the experimentation up to you!