This, my rendition of tartar sauce, first made an appearance in Beef Served 8 Ways, but it was so successful that I decided it deserved it’s own notice.
Similar to remoulade, tartare sauce is generally known as a French sauce, having shown up in their cookbooks dating back to the 1800’s. However, it is widely known that the idea for tartar sauce was most likely inspired by the culinary creations of the Tartar peoples of the near-ish-by Asian Steppes.
Why does this matter? I suppose it doesn’t. I like it because I’ve been to the steppes of Central Asia. Not only that, but though we were there to work with mostly Kazakh people the beautiful young lady who lived next door, named Dina, was of Tartar heritage! Long story short “I was right! Andrew was wrong about where tartar sauce ‘comes’ from. Neener Neener Neener! BPLBPLUPT! BPLBPLUPT! BPLBPLUPT! BPLBPLUPT! BPLBPLUPT!” (I imagine Ace Venture doing some obnoxious victory dance here.)
When I was first making this sauce, as mentioned above for a project with Nathan, I wanted it to be a better interpretation of ‘real’ tartar sauce than the mayo and relish version I got to eat growing-up. It is partly due to that sauce, and to everything else that my family used mayo to home make as a child, that has lead me to a near loathing of mayo to this day. However, I did use it for this recipe. I didn’t want to use yogurt or sour cream this time around, and although I’m not one who’s jumped on the aioli bandwagon, it would probably make a good substitute. Mostly I didn’t want to mess with coddling eggs since this was originally part of dish that already involved 7 other toppings… I’m very happy with the result though! I like that it’s simple, but uses fresh ingredients to bring life to a sauce that I always found to be boring.
For some reason when Andrew was briefing me on the bits and pieces of Tartar sauce tradition and history, some where in the muddle of quick Wiki information, I heard the word ‘tarragon’ and immediately pinned it to the imaginary recipe board in my head. It’s use is definitely of cultural relevance to the traditional foods of France and surrounding cultures so I felt that, though later realizing it’s really not traditional to tartar sauce, it was still an acceptable adaptation, and in fact, VERY good! The gherkin and capers, however, are very traditional, and using them as the topping, (rather than mixed in), really brings a pop of flavor and texture to each bite.
Use it how you please, but I think you too will find this recipe to be both delicious, versatile, and beautiful for a variety of dishes. So without farther adieu…
Makes: 1+ cup
- 1 cup mayo (or vegenaise, or aioli)
- 2 t fresh lemon zest ~ one lemon
- 1 t fresh tarragon chopped ~ about 20 leaves
- 1 t gherkin pickles finely chopped
- 1 t capers lightly dismantled
- Using the finest grate zest a lemon and collect 2 teaspoons. Chop around 20 fresh tarragon leaves finely to make 1 teaspoon. Add lemon zest and tarragon to mayo and whisk lightly.
- Finely chop several gherkin pickles. Gently pull-apart the capers. Either make these ready for topping plated sauce or mix directly into the mayo mix.