Part XX: Hail the Battleship Potemkin
I, like maybe some of you, ignored the tuna nicoise salad for a long time. My reason was that it seemed pretty much like a tarted-up version of the cobb salad, which is a filthy, disgusting mess that’s usually lurking in the back of a neglected walk-in at a gas station, right behind a box of “slim-jims” curiously marked with unnecessary quotations.
The key to the tuna nicoise, and what makes it infinitely better than the detestable cobb, is the play on temperatures. If the tuna and the potatoes are cold, you’re back in the walk-in. If everything’s hot, you might as well be eating leafy soup. Getting the crisp, cool lettuce and the warm eggs to work together is just as important as making sure you got chairs lined up at the table. It’s a downright symphony to make this thing work. Luckily, you get to be the conductor. And it’s one of those 3rd grade orchestras where the only thing that matters is that the 4th chair tuba doesn’t throw up in his Dockers. All you gotta worry about is making this Tuna Nicoise Salad.
Here’s what you need:
-1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
-2 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot
-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
-1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
-Rounded 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (yes, I know that’s not an actual teaspoon, bear with me)
-1 1/2 lb small (1- to 2-inch) potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold)
-1 1/2 lb (1-inch-thick) tuna steaks
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-2 heads Boston lettuce
-4 hard-boiled large eggs
Hey kids, it’s a note!
I did something with the ingredients. Most people would consider it…a mistake. But I prefer to call it an accidental proof. See, by accidentally omitting…about half the ingredients, I managed to prove that this recipe is still downright amazing, even if you hack off one of its legs. Take this lesson to heart, fans: a good recipe doesn’t need all its parts. It’s still good at the core. Of course, if you prefer to call me a liar and think I just made a mistake (and how dare you, reader), check at the bottom for the more “complete” version. You snob.
Here’s how you do it:
The dressing’s easy.
Just prepare the ingredients, throw them in a bowl, and whisk until dressing.
If you don’t have a fancy mortar and pestle like I do, just put the garlic and salt in a small bowl and mash with a spoon until it becomes a paste. Shouldn’t take long.
Next, get a medium pot of water boiling, add a little salt, then throw the potatoes in for 20 minutes. My potatoes are way too big. Don’t make that mistake.
Check it with a fork: if your tender little wrists don’t have to sweat while you’re pushing a fork into one of the potatoes, they’re ready to be drained in a colander.
Once they’re drained, cut them in half and put them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Give the bowl a couple of shakes, that way the potatoes will soak up all that dressing-y goodness. Even the anchovy paste. Mmmm, creamy…ish.
If you can manage to fish the potatoes out without losing the water, keep it boiling. If not, just get some more on the burner and add some salt like before. It’s boiling water, not making a damn monkfish pate. Either way, hard-boil some eggs by throwing them (not actually throwing them, jesus christ, you deserve those burns if you’re that literal) in the water for 15 min. Then peel and set aside.
After that, pat the tuna dry, then brush it with olive oil (I forgot this step too, but I’m adding it back in because olive oil’s great). Season with salt and pepper, heat up another tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan, then put in the tuna.
Cook for 4 minutes, flip, then cook for 4 minutes more. See kids? Salad can be fun and educational! I can hear the coloring book endorsements being hammered out from here.
Really, that’s it. You still have to wash the lettuce and, y’kno…assemble everything. Make sure you cut up the hard-boiled eggs into quarters. It makes you feel important. Maybe your husband will even acknowledge you this time. Maybe.
You should definitely put on this next track, though. There’s not much to say…it’s just how you feel when you’re eating this salad. Ya feel good. Here’s The Peddlers with their take on On a Clear Day:
Look. This recipe isn’t exactly gonna break any records for world’s most exciting arrangement of lettuce. It’s fish and potatoes and eggs. And a few other things I chose to ignore, because part of me still has the palette of a 2-year old. But that right there is the point. Simple tastes good, and good dishes have enough depth to survive losing a few ingredients. Keep it simple. And keep cooking. See you next week, readers.
Snobs, click here: