It’s a bit hard to realize July 4th is just around the corner. We’ve had a slow start to summer between sheer fatigue coming off the end of the school year and cold, rainy weather. Just this week the temperatures are spiking to a norm of 80’s to 90’s and we feel like we are falling into a groove. Poof! June is almost over.
I will admit the prospect of July 4th is pretty thrilling as it showcases grilling as a food prep mainstay. After attending my recent grilling academy with Steven Raichlen I’m restless, finding regular burgers and sausages boring and not a challenge to where I want to go in a grilling-sense. I really wish I could spend most days experimenting with smoking on the grill, being smitten with the opportunity to impart flavors through use of different woods.
I’m also not satisfied with merely smoking meat. My mind wanders, imagining all the different options for smoking, one of which I’m sharing today. There is no more iconic summer salad than a classic Potato Salad, right? No one said classic has to be ordinary. I’ve smoked up a delicious version with smoked potatoes, smoked hard boiled eggs, grilled red onion and bacon prepared on the grill. It’s all very easy and ends with a slightly smoky potato salad that is irresistible.
I did the smoking on our gas grill though it can also be done on a charcoal grill as well. I chose the gas grill for time savings; no waiting while the charcoal heats up in the charcoal chimney and monitoring the temperature is more predictable. A smoking box can certainly be used but honestly I experimented with each a cast iron smoking box I have and a simple homemade method of forming a tray with heavy foil and the foil won hands down for smoke production! It’s put on the hot side of the grill, wood on top (no soaking required) and it quickly begins to smoke and will last the thirty minutes needed to fully smoke the potatoes.
Before starting the smoking I took advantage of heating half of the grill to grill thick slabs of red onion which are later chopped for the salad. I used a little flavoring trick I again learned at BBQU which is after heating and scraping the grill, instead of oiling it with vegetable oil and paper towels, I used long tongs and a piece of bacon rubbed on the grill. It lubricates the grill and adds the flavor of bacon fat oh-so-slightly to the onions.
It’s worth caring out the extra time to make this salad. It’s unlike any other version featured at your holiday picnic and will be hard to keep it around for the flavors!
Grill-Smoked Potato Salad
- 3 pounds New Potatoes , scrubbed (no peeling needed) and cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 medium Red Onion , peeled and but cross-wise into thick ¾ inch slices
- 4 Hard Boiled Eggs , peeled
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 3 thick-cut strips of Bacon
- 1 cup Mayonnaise
- ¼ cup Sour Cream
- 2 tablespoons Grain Mustard
- 2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- 1 cup chopped Celery
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper (preferably freshly ground)
- Grill basket if available; a deeper shake type basket what will fit the volume of the potatoes (if not extra foil to create a homemade grill basket; details below)
- Heavy duty foil
- Apple wood chips for smoking
- Optional garnish: Snipped chives and diced lemon thyme
Bring a large pot of water plus 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add the potatoes, bring back to a boil and then lower the temperature to simmering. Simmer for 15 minutes. Drain in a colander.
Heat one side of a gas grill to Medium or 300 degrees. Coat both sides of the onion slices with vegetable oil or cooking spray. When the grill is at temperature, clean the grill with a wire brush. Using a set of long tongs, bunch up one of the pieces of bacon (so it is compact) and rub it on the prepared grill surface. Place the onion slices on the grill.
Allow the slices to sit on the grill until the onion begins to soften, and develop grill marks. Gently flip the slices and cook on the other side. When done the onions will become soft and more pliable as well as a more translucent; about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Double a piece of foil to make a 10-inch by 7-inch (approximately) foil tray. Bend the edges up slightly. Place the foil on the hot side of the grill toward the back so as to not be in the way. Add a handful of apple wood and close the grill lid.
As the wood is heating to start to smoke, add the drained potatoes to a grill basket or form a basket of double layer foil poking holes in the foil to allow the smoke to penetrate the potatoes. Once the wood has begun to smoke, add the potatoes to the unheated said of the grill (opposite side to the wood) and close the grill.
After 10 minutes, place the hard boiled eggs and the two strips of bacon on the unheated side of the grill and close the lids. The eggs and the potatoes will take on a yellow hue as they become penetrated by the smoke. As the bacon cooks turn it once during the cooking (it will cook through but not become crisp except the edges). Remove the potatoes, eggs and bacon after 20 minutes. Total smoking time for the potatoes: 30 minutes. Total smoking time for the eggs and bacon: 20 minutes. Turn off the grill and allow the foil smoking tray to cool before removing.
As the smoked items cool slightly, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, both mustards in a bowl and stir to combine.
Chop each the grilled onion, smoked eggs and bacon. Add them to a large mixing bowl along with the potatoes and celery; stir to combine. Spoon the sauce into the bowl and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt and 1 teaspoon Black Pepper. Stir to combine all ingredients. Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavors to blend (the flavor does change over that chilling time; the light taste of the smoke becomes more notable). Serve chilled or at room temperature. Note: mayonnaise-based salads should not be left in the heat or set out at room temperature for more than a few hours due to risk of food poisoning.