I will write my next I Tried It about trying not to write about beer and cheese for a week, I promise.
This week, however, I am telling you all about the beer, bacon, and blue cheese potato salad recipe I made courtesy of The Beeroness. If you're not familiar with The Beeroness, please take a break for a moment to visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter while you're there.
I'll wait. I'll think about how good my potato salad was while you're gone.
One thing I've learned how to do as a vegetarian* who likes to cook but is also picky about some standard vegetarian ingredients (portabella mushrooms, red peppers, squash, and zucchini are all on my "no thanks" list) is to take familiar recipes and make them vegetarian. Sometimes, when the meat is the focus of the dish, I deconstruct the elements of the meat's preparation to see which of those elements I can incorporate into my cooking. I've learned that one of the most recognizable elements of meats are the spices used in their preparation. For example, when I'm looking for an Italian sausage flavor in my meat substitute, such as tofu, I can create a spice blend to approximate the flavors.
Oftentimes, making a recipe that calls for meat simply means I leave the meat out of the dish or use tofu or another meat substitute. For this recipe, I substituted veggie bacon from Morningstar Farms. I've used veggie bacon before as a substitute in dishes, particularly when the bacon imparts its flavor but is only one component of the dish.
You can get the entire Beeroness recipe here, but the main ingredients are (duh) bacon, red potatoes, blue cheese, and beer, specifically IPA. Since I had just gotten my Chicago beer supply restocked (and because I wanted an excuse to open it), I used Space Station Middle Finger from Three Floyds. And yes, I know, I know - Space Station Middle Finger is technically a Pale Ale, but c'mon.
Because undercooked potatoes are one of my biggest gross outs and because I like to be needlessly meticulous about things, I used my handy vegetable dicer to make sure all my potatoes were the same size. The recipe calls for the potatoes to be tossed in the bacon fat before roasting, but veggie bacon doesn't have the same kind of fat that bacon does, so I tossed the potatoes in high quality olive oil instead.
Since I was a kid, I have always loved blue cheese dressing. Not to toot my own horn, but I also make one of the best homemade blue cheese dressings, which gets consumed in my house at a record speed, particularly since my husband introduced me to the upstate New York practice of dipping pizza crust in blue cheese dressing. Because I had just hosted my beer and cheese pairing a few days before, I had some leftover blue cheese that I crumbled up. For my spices, I had a roasted or smoked version of almost every spice for which the recipe called, so I used those instead of regular spices.
Potato salad is a dish that I haven't enjoyed until very recently and I had never had warm potato salad before. I think it's a mayonnaise thing, because in the past couple of years I have started LOVING potato salad, coleslaw, and deviled eggs, all of which I never liked before. That being said, this recipe has no mayonnaise in it, but rather has sour cream. As a side note, I started using nonfat plain Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream a couple of years ago and think it's a really good substitute for sour cream...until I have sour cream and then I'm like, "Why did I ever think there was a substitute for this creamy deliciousness?!?"
Anyway, I roasted the potatoes a little longer than the recipe called for because of the whole undercooked potatoes phobia. After they were browned to my liking, I crumbled up the veggie bacon (which I microwaved) and the blue cheese and mixed everything together.
The end result was fantastic. The blue cheese was really the star of the dish for me because it was so pungent and creamy. The bacon and spices added a nice smokiness to the entire dish. Everyone proclaimed that it was delicious, so much so that we divided up what little bit remained and it was all eaten by the next day.
Making a vegetarian version of this warm potato salad was a success and a relatively easy one. Sometimes I've gone to a lot of trouble and hassle to make a vegetarian version of a dish that turned out not to be worth it. However, the only way to know for sure is through trial and error. Don't be afraid to try making a dish vegetarian, whether it be by leaving the meat out, substituting the meat, or adding spices or textures that the meat component lends to the dish.
*Standard Questions Every Vegetarian Gets Asked By Everyone: I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12-years-old. I’m sure I had a noble, 12-year-old reason for doing so. No, I don’t eat fish. Yes, I eat cheese. Yes, I eat eggs but not usually by themselves because I don’t care for the taste. No, I’m not a vegan. Yes, my husband eats meat. No, I don’t cook it for him, but only because I don’t know how to cook meat well and he does, not because I judge him for eating meat. No, it doesn’t bother me when people eat meat in front of me. Also, I don’t need to hear how you could probably be a vegetarian because you “don’t really eat that much meat” – it’s a personal choice and I don’t care whether you eat meat or not.