Mayonnaise has a troubled life at my house. My daughter hates the stuff. She also hates raw tomatoes, another of my favorites, and of course together with bread, they make one of God’s great delights. She’s not a picky eater so I never understood this. Some have suggested that I have her DNA checked, but just one look at her and you know she’s mine. I plan for her not to corrupt my grandson on this issue. My sister was so blinded by love that she married a mayonnaise hater. I just don’t get why this beautiful emulsion of egg, oil, and lemon is so tough for some.
I rarely make my own mayonnaise anymore. Like a good Southern boy, I like Duke’s – and even more so JFG. If I have a recipe from someone that calls for Hellmann’s, I will use that, because the flavor profile is different and has an effect on the finished dish. Hard to believe, but Hellmann’s was originally developed as a deli condiment. Pastrami and mayo? That’s disgusting!
Just slightly less disgusting is what passes for tartar sauce on the grocery store shelves. Most is not fit for human consumption. So I have long made my own tartar sauce, replicating the flavors of our great seafood shacks along our coast, and it was pretty darn good. When I ran across this recipe for tartar sauce from NC Catch claiming to be the “World’s Best,” I took the challenge.
NC Catch is a marketing coalition that encourages us to eat local seafood. Check out the website nccatch.org because I do not have enough space to write about all their good works. They provide recipes but also inform the public on the challenges and opportunities in the state’s fishing industry.
Tartar sauce is just not for fried seafood, a misconception that needs to change. This sauce will work with grilled or pan-roasted seafood as well, adding a nice zip and a touch of sweetness. I’m not a big fan of this sauce with fresh tuna, but most any other seafood works.
Tartar sauce can be a wonderful base for other sauces. Add a couple of chopped hard-boiled eggs, some fresh tarragon and minced capersand you have sauce gribiche, perfect for poached fish and as a dressing for asparagus. Kill the eggs and capers, add more tarragon and a dash of Dijon mustard and a passable béarnaise for steaks develops. A little ketchup and chopped olives and a dressing for Crab Louis becomes easy. Mix in some chopped cooked bacon and chopped tomatoes for a condiment that’s unreal with soft-shell crabs. Add some horseradish for a fish sandwich dressing.
It does pain me about my daughter and her dislike of mayonnaise, but that won’t stop her from always being my favorite daughter.
Fred Thompson is a Raleigh cookbook author and publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine. His latest cookbook is “The Kamado Grill Cookbook.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
World’s Best Tartar Sauce
This sauce gets better and better the longer it sits and will last a good month refrigerated. From NC Catch, provided by Jason’s Restaurant in Ocracoke.
2 cups good quality mayonnaise
1 small onion, peeled and rough chopped
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
2 dashes hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
Place the mayonnaise in a medium mixing bowl.
Place the onion, parsley and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Pour into the bowl with the mayonnaise
Stir in the pickle relish, hot sauce, paprika, dill weed and mustard.
Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving; overnight is better.
Yield: about 2 1/2 cups