Often it's tricky to come up with something inspiring for dinner...or something inspired to write about here. Given that pretty much everything has been done, and that I'm no chef, most of what I make comes from either recipes I find, another cook's meals I try to recreate, or a classic dish, to which I add a little twist. To be honest, even those twists may be somewhat unoriginal, who knows? If it requires googling for hours, I'm going to put it in the who cares? box. And then eat.
In this case, the classic is a pretty serious classic, indeed. Salade Niçoise, that quintessentially French salad: haricot verts, potatoes, capers, olives, hard boiled eggs, and tuna. How much tweaking can we even do here? Is it even necessary? Well, that old chestnut, necessity being the mother of invention, answers the question: Yes. Sometimes we must tweak, and twist, and revise, so that we satisfy ourselves, and work with what we've got. (ie - not running to the grocery store for one or two supposedly required ingredients) I had a gorgeous load of veggies from this week's CSA, thanks to Helsing Junction. Bag the market, I love my CSA box.
As I was attempting to feed my gang yet another salad, without them exactly knowing it was yet another salad...I decided to go for the Salade Niçoise. It's filling, it's delicious, it hits a nice number of food groups. One problem: I only had russet potatoes, which simply wouldn't do to replace boiled baby potatoes, as the recipe calls for. Boiled russets? Blech. So, I roasted them. In bacon drippings. And then, I roasted my cherry tomatoes. Also in bacon drippings. Oh, hell yeah.
Let's do this.
Roasted Salade Niçoise
- serves 4 as a main
4 medium russet potatoes (or any sort will do), peeled and quartered (if small potatoes are used, leave whole, or halve, and don't peel)
1/2 red onion, sliced
few handfuls cherry tomatoes
1 lb green beans, blanched for 2 minutes, then chilled
2 Tbs capers, rinsed
1 tin of tuna, packed in olive oil
handful niçoise olives, or any other salty, meaty olive
handful basil leaves
Tbs or so bacon drippings, melted*
* I keep bacon drippings in a jar in the fridge, for just this sort of thing. I used to think it sounded gross, but it's the sort of cooking that's been around for centuries - using what you've got. And it is damn good, believe me. (Don't save drippings that are burnt, or have lots of little bits in them.)
dijon mustard (I love Maille)
red wine vinager
good olive oil
garlic clove, crushed OR small shallot, minced
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
small amount of honey
Preheat oven to 425 deg F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes in the bacon drippings, and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast until golden brown on the bottom, then turn, and continue roasting until done. This takes anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes, usually. Since you'll be eating the salad warm, it's not super important that everything gets plated as it finishes cooking. So relax. Roast these first, and you'll be golden.
While the potatoes are roasting, arrange the blanched green beans on a large platter. Open your tuna and drain off the oil. Place eggs in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by an inch. Bring to a boil, over high heat, lid on the pan. Once the water boils, remove the lid, turn the heat down slightly, and set the timer to 6 minutes. You may need to adjust the heat to keep it at a gentle boil. Drain and rinse under cold water, then peel when cool enough to handle. Slice in half. No grey yolks - perfectly yellow, creamy goodness. (And that stinky sulfur smell? Not so much.)
Make the vinaigrette. It's true, I didn't include exact amounts. I find exact amounts too restricting, and I feel like a massive hypocrite when I give them to you fine folks. The accepted rule is to use a one to three ratio of vinager to oil. I tend to prefer my vinaigrette a little heftier on the acid though. And I dig some dijon, which may not be true of everyone. Just taste as you go. A vinaigrette is virtually impossible to mess up. If it's too much of one thing, you simply add more of another to balance the flavors. If you end up with too much dressing, you've got leftovers to store for tomorrow. This is not a problem.
Right, begin the vinaigrette by whisking together all the ingredients, except olive oil and honey. Once they're combined, drizzle in the oil, whisking, until it's emulsified. Taste as you go. Add a small amount of honey, and whisk again.
Once the potatoes are nearly done roasting, throw the cherry tomatoes in the pan with them, and give them a little toss, to coat in the bacon drippings, of which there should be ample in the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and roast for around 5 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to split their skins.
Arrange the potatoes over the green beans, and top with the rest of the salad ingredients. Chiffonade your basil, and throw that over, then drizzle on the vinaigrette.
There are a lot of different elements to this salad, but you can prep some (green beans, onions, eggs, vinaigrette) ahead of time, if you like. And it is so tasty.
I'm thinking roasting the onions and green beans wouldn't be such a bad idea either...hmmm.
Have a fantastic day!