Monday, June 4, 2012

The JC100: A Celebration of Julia Child {Recipe: Niçoise Salad}

The JC100: Julia Child's Niçoise Salad - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Niçoise Salad

Due to the Memorial Day holiday last week, those of us participating in the JC100 had one less day to prepare our versions of Salade Niçoise. I was overly confident when I first read the email revealing the designated Julia Child recipe for Week 4. When I saw the word "salad," I said to myself, "Salad? No problem! That won't take too much time at all. I've got this one in the bag."

I was wrong.

Preparing the salad took longer than I expected. All because of some lousy hard-boiled eggs.

The JC100: Julia Child's Niçoise Salad - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Niçoise Salad

Apparently, which ingredients constitute traditional ingredients for Niçoise Salad is still up for debate. Depending on who you ask, a Niçoise Salad may or may not include lettuce. Some are adamantly hold the opinion that the only cooked ingredient in the salad should be the hard-boiled eggs. Others will tell you that you can used canned tuna or canned anchovies, but never both.

As you can see by the photos, I used lettuce, boiled potatoes, and canned tuna. However, I skipped the anchovies and totally omitted the olives. (For the record, I bought olives for Stephen to put on his salad, but I didn't scatter them on top of the salad as suggested in Julia's recipe.)

Is my version traditional? Probably not. But it tasted damn good, so I'm not going to sweat it.


Blanched Green Beans - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Blanched Green Beans

While a Niçoise Salad is a mixed salad, it falls under the category of composed salad in that its ingredients are arranged thoughtfully on a plate before serving rather than tossed together prior to plating. My Type A personality radiated brightly as I spent 10 minutes arranging the vegetables on the platter before finally telling Stephen that dinner was ready. And those 10 minutes did not include the time I spent photographing the final dish.

My food blogging has taught him patience.

In my version of Julia's Niçoise Salad, you'll find blanched green beans...


Vine Tomatoes - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Vine Tomatoes

... and quartered and seasoned vine tomatoes...


Drained and Flaked Oil-Packed Tuna - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Drained and Flaked Oil-Packed Tuna

... and canned tuna that has been drained and flaked with a fork.

But that's not all!


French Potato Salad - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
French Potato Salad

You'll also find a heaping mound of French potato salad...


Hard-Boiled Eggs - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Hard-Boiled Eggs

... hard-boiled eggs, and a handful of capers.


Lemon Vinaigrette - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Lemon Vinaigrette

The green beans, tomatoes, and tuna were all dressed lightly with my homemade lemon vinaigrette before being arranged on the platter. And then more vinaigrette was drizzled over the top of the entire salad. I loved how the fresh lemon juice in the vinaigrette gave the whole dish a nice zing to it.


Pfaltzgraff Platter - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Pfaltzgraff Platter

To make the meal a little more special, I used a Pfaltzgraff serving platter that used to belong to my mother. When I took the platter out of the pantry, my mind flooded with memories of holiday dinners during which we'd pile on slices of roast turkey or baked ham to share with our guests. That platter is one of the most valuable pieces in my kitchen.


The JC100: Julia Child's Niçoise Salad - Photo by Michelle Judd of Taste As You Go
Niçoise Salad

And now, this salad is one of our favorites. Stephen and I have already agreed to make it the next time it's too hot to have the stove on for an extended period of time. Add a bottle of white wine, and I think we'll have it just about perfect.

Some notes:
  • As with Julia's Coq au Vin recipe, I found it very helpful to use my digital kitchen scale when preparing the ingredients for the salad. If you don't already own a digital scale, then I highly recommend investing in one.

  • If you want hard-boiled eggs that are easier to peel, then use eggs that are several days old. This is where I tripped up. The first eggs I boiled were the fresher eggs, and when I peeled them, I was left with hard-boiled eggs with unattractive little divots in them. Stephen said he'd eat them that way, but I wasn't going to settle for dimply eggs.

  • I halved this recipe when preparing the salad since I was only cooking for the two of us. Because we were ravenous by the time we started eating, Stephen and I managed to polish off most of the salad before putting down our forks.

  • Again, I omitted the anchovies and the olives from my preparation.

Niçoise Salad
For 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large head Boston lettuce, washed and dried
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed, blanched, refreshed in cold water, and dried
  • 2/3 to 1 cup salad dressing, such as [an] Oil and Lemon Dressing..., or its garlic variation
  • 3 to 4 fine ripe red tomatoes, peeled if you wish, and cored, quartered, and seasoned before serving
  • 8 to 10 ounces oil-packed tuna, drained and flaked
  • 1 quart French Potato Salad
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
  • 1 can flat anchovy fillets packed in oil, opened and drained just before serving
  • 1/2 cup black Niçoise-type olives
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Shortly before serving, line a handsome, large and wide salad bowl or a roomy platter with lettuce leaves, drizzle a little olive oil on them, and dust with a sprinkling of salt.

  2. Toss the beans in a mixing bowl with a little of the dressing and correct seasoning.

  3. Drizzle a spoonful or two of the dressing over the tomatoes.

  4. Season the tuna lightly with a spoonful or two of dressing.

  5. Place the potatoes in the center of the bowl or platter; mound beans at strategic intervals, interspersing them with tomatoes and mounds of tuna.

  6. Ring the salad with the eggs, and curl an anchovy on top of each.

  7. Spoon a little more vinaigrette over all; scatter on olives, capers, and parsley. Serve as soon as possible.

Excerpted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child. Copyright © 1989 by Julia Child. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

For more in The JC100 Series of Julia Child Recipes, see:

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to Taste As You Go’s RSS feed or subscribing via email so you don’t miss a thing!