Friday, 13 February 2015

Tartar Sauce

This is a pretty simple recipe, but it has been a bit of a revelation to me this winter. I have always been under the impression that I hated tartar sauce. However, one day I was serving some pan-sautéed fish with steamed potatoes and vegetables and thought it sounded thoroughly dull, so I looked at a few tartar sauce recipes, and whipped up my own interpretation. Wow! It was good! I've been making it again and again all winter.

There are two problems with most iterations of tartar sauce, in my opinion. The first is the tartar sauce itself, which consists of uninspired white flop full of sugar and unidentifiable lumps of dubious origin. The second is that it gets served with deep fried fish. I have never understood the impulse that says, here is a lump of very greasy dough; what could be better with it than more fat emulsified with egg yolks? No thanks; pass the lemon juice or even vinegar in a pinch. So I've been serving my tartar sauce with baked, poached, or pan sautéed fish, and... not putting any sugar in it. There, that wasn't so hard, was it?

I guess, though, if you like a sweet note in your tartar sauce, you could use bread and butter pickles or chow chow instead of the pickle. You want about 1/3 cup once diced, although I just use a big fat pickle and don't worry about the exact volume. A little lemon juice helps it, but if you don't want to cut open a lemon for a teaspoonful of juice, use a little pickle brine instead. On the other hand, if you are also going to pass lemon wedges, use lemon juice.

Interestingly, tartar sauce was not devised to serve with fried fish (see! see!); it was devised for steak tartare. Huh! That makes sense! I would also serve it with shrimp (a different shrimp cocktail!) How about sliced avocados, or baked potatoes? I enjoyed it in a chicken sandwich, but thought it fought too much with tuna. I know a lot of people like tartar sauce with french fries, but again, I will pass on extra fat with my grease. Except I would probably turn around and put it on a hot dog, if I ever ate hot dogs any more, which I don't. A good sausage on a bun, then. Or even tofu. Where do you like your tartar sauce?

5 to 10 minutes prep time
4 to 6 servings

Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise (low fat is fine)
1 large dill pickle
a sprig of fresh dill, parsley, or chives if possible
OR a teaspoonful of some mixture of the above, dried
1 teaspoon pickle brine or lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
a dash of hot sauce, if desired,
OR a little horseradish, ditto

Put the mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl. Chop the dill pickle quite finely, and add it. Finely mince the fresh herbs, if you can round them up. Add them or the dried substitutes to the bowl, along with all the remaining ingredients. Mix well, and transfer to a serving dish.

Last year at this time I made Beet, Bean, Apple, & Belgian Endive Salad


Megan said...

Makes sense. I often do a version of this when I make fish cakes. Except I lighten it a little by replacing some of the mayo with yogurt. Chopped capers and a bit of ketchup for colour are also good additions. But once the sauce is pink, I guess it's not called tartar anymore.

Ferdzy said...

Don't see why not, Megan! Fish cakes sound like a good plan.