Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lame Series: Tartar Sauce

This may be the lamest post ever, but, I can't help it. I'm happy with myself.

I confess. I confess without reservation, that I actually like tartar sauce on fish, and, I like certain kinds of "fish sticks." Not pre-formed frozen sticks of unusual origin and uniformity, but, nice pieces of breaded fish in slender portions, and, I like them with tartar sauce.

What I hate, though, is commercial tartar sauce. It's so gloopy and weird tasting, isn't it? And yet, I keep buying it, trying one after another to find a good one. I recently bought the version at Trader Joe's -- I like most everything they have -- but it was vile. I then settled on whatever brand is most often found at the seafood counter at the grocery store -- Captain's something or other. Equally vile. What is so damn difficult about making a decent jarred tartar sauce?

Frustrated, I decided to make my own, which I really didn't want to do because I didn't need THAT much, but then decided, what the heck, just make a little bit following the standard principles in whatever recipe you find.

Boy, am I an idiot or what? It sounded easy, TOO easy, and I said "That's it? That's all that is in tartar sauce? Seroiusly?" And then I made a small bit of it and just grinned. Finally. A good tartar sauce! I never have to buy that crap again. Am I totally lame because I keep dipping my finger in it and licking my finger? Does this mean I have trailer tastes? So be it.

I adapted a basic recipe I found on AllRecipes and made it "my way" -- which means thin and soupy.

5 spicy bread and butter pickle slices from a jar of pickles
1 large green onion or scallion, including white portion
1/2 lemon, juiced
Best Foods Mayo
Salt and Pepper

Puree pickles, onion, and lemon juice in a little blender cup or mini food processor until very wet and smooth. Stir in a few tablespoons of Best Foods Mayo until it's fully blended and a thin, soupy consistency (or add more mayo if you like it thick but why not then just say it's green flecked mayo?). Add salt and pepper to taste. Let it sit in the fridge as long as possible, preferably all day to blend flavors (or so they recipe advised).

Add to fish. Lick plate, spoon, lid of the jar, and dip finger repeatedly after fish is gone. Wonder if it would be good with dill? Know that it would be good with horseradish. A great base for all things creamy on a sandwich. Marvel that sometimes simple stuff is best kept simple.

Update May 5, 2008: It occurred to me this morning, that tartar sauce, being simply mayo, onion, pickles, and spices ... is the perfect base for making any spreadable salad, especially if I chunk up some celery or capers in it next time (who am I kidding, I seldom use capers). This morning I quickled drained a can of albacore tuna, threw in a few teaspoons of my home made tartar sauce, added a handful of sliced almonds, and I was good to GO! Almost zero prep. If I make a full bullet blender cup of tartar sauce, I can make tuna, salmon, shrimp, egg, crab salad ... anytime, very quickly. Hooray.


  1. there's nothing shameful about tartar sauce - and the recipe you attached looks great.

    I usually make my own as well and I make it in very small batches, a small diced pickle a spoonful or two of mayo, some of the pickle juice, black pepper and any other spice that piques my fancy at the moment... just mix and adjust ingredients to taste.

    My wierd thing with tartar sauce is that when I'm eating fish and chips, I'm more likely to dip the fries in the sauce than the fish.

  2. You summed that up so well about simple staying simple..sometimes we complicate things for ourselves that shouldn't be complicated, don't we! Thanks...enjoyed your post!