Sunday, January 4, 2015

Salade Nicoise

     A Classic French Salad!
     Salad Nicoise is popular salad worldwide.  Salade Nicoise was on the menu at nearly every French restaurant that I worked in.  The city of Nice is located on the coast of southern France.  The Provence region has nice comfortable summer weather.  Provence cuisine features a wide variety of fresh vegetables and seafood.  Light zesty flavors are preferred over heavy rich flavors in this temperate region. 
     Tossed salads are made by tossing ingredients with salad dressing in a bowl.  A composed salad requires neatly arranging the salad ingredients on a plate.  A good composed salad presentation is appealing to the eye from any angle.  A composed salad presentation can be a chef's signature design or traditional design.  In a fine French restaurant, consistency is a factor and a salad presentation design that is perfected is duplicated each time the salad is made.  Plating diagrams or pictures are used as a guide for assembling composed salads for several guests.  
     Most of my own composed salad designs have a central focal point on the plate.  Many salad designs that I create are meant to look good from all angles.  A salad design that looks good from all angles, will look interesting to guests sitting anywhere at a table. 
     I never intended to post this recipe, because I made the salad in the photos at Le Cordon Bleu and also because all tuna species are low in numbers.  The class assignment that day was for each student to create a composed Salade Nicoise design.  
     Honestly, I just assembled this Nicoise Salad with no forethought and no struggle.  I have been a garde manger chef several times during my career, so creating a nice salad design on the spot is second nature.  I suppose the design of this Nicoise Salad could be worth standardizing, but I certainly would change the recipe to include a sustainable fish species.  
     The element of height for a central focal point can be seen in the photos.  Structured symmetrical height adds even more to a central focal point salad design.  The sliced potatoes create an interesting cascading effect.  
     The winged lemon half garnish is kind of a gimmick and a garnish should never be placed on the rim of a plate.  The lemon garnish was handy, only because I showed a fellow student how to make one.  Winged lemon garnishes are usually reserved for seafood entrées at cafés.   

     This entire recipe yields 1 salad entrée!

     Salade Nicoise Vegetables:
     The vegetables in this recipe are required for a traditional Nicoise Salad.  Colorful petite potatoes are popular these days, so they are a nice choice.  Purple potatoes sometimes cook faster than other potatoes, so remove them from the pot if they finish first.
     Step 1:  Place 1 or 2 Yukon Gold red bliss finger potatoes in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 or 2 Yukon Gold finger finger potatoes.
     Add 2 to 3 small purple potatoes.
     Cover the potatoes with water.  
     Boil the potatoes over medium high heat, till the potatoes become fully cooked.  The potatoes should still be firm and not mushy.
     Step 2:  Cool the potatoes under cold running water.  
     Chill the potatoes in a refrigerator to just below room temperature. 
     Cut the potatoes into bias slices that are about 1/4" thick.
     Step 3:  Blanch 1 handful of haricot vert in boiling salted water, till they become al dente.  (About 15 to 20.)
     Cool the beans in ice water.
     Trim the beans, so they are about 3" in length.
     Dijon Vinaegrette:
     This recipe makes a little bit more than what is needed for the salad!
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in a small mixing bowl.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of dijon mustard.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch each of these minced fresh herbs:
     - chervil
     - tarragon
     - chives
     - basil
     - marjoram
     - Italian Parsley
     Step 2:  Let the ingredients stand for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld. 
     Step 3:  Slowly stream 3 1/2 tablespoons of pomace olive oil into the mixture, while gently whisking, to create an emulsified dijon vinaegrette.
     Set the vinaegrette aside.
     Stir before serving.

     Nicoise Salad Plate Set Up:
     It is best if the salad plate is set up, before the tuna is seared.
     Mound 3 cups of mixed baby lettuce on the center of a chilled plate.  (Use a ring mold if necessary.)
     Space 4 tomato wedges on lettuce, so they point outward from center.
     Arrange each color of sliced potato so it cascades downhill from center.
     Place a portion of the blanched haricot verte on the top center of the salad.
     Place 1 Nicoise olive on the plate between each tomato wedge and tiered sliced potato row. 
     Chill the Nicoise Salad set up plate, till the tuna is ready.
     Seared Albacore:
     Yellowfin tuna is called Albacore in France.  Albacore is traditional for a Nicoise Salad.  When this salad was made nearly 2 years ago, yellowfin tuna was barely on the sustainable seafood list.  All tuna and bonito are now low in numbers.  Check the sustainability status of yellowfin tuna before purchasing.  It is acceptable to substitute a sustainable fish for yellowfin tuna.  Smoked fresh water trout is not a bad choice.
     If yellowfin tuna is served less than fully cooked, it has to be treated with the sushi fish deep freeze process, so pathogens are eliminated.  
     Season a 4 ounce yellowfin tuna steak with sea salt and coarse ground black pepper.
     Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Pan sear the yellowfin tuna steak, till it becomes cooked to the desired temperature.  (The tuna in the pictures was cooked rare/medium rare.)
     Place the tuna on a wire screen roasting rack and let it rest for 1 minute. 
     Salade Nicoise:
     Step 1:  Place the Salade Nicoise set up plate on a countertop.
     Spoon a small amount of the dijon vinaegrette over the lettuce and vegetables.
     Step 2:  Cut the seared yellowfin tuna steak into 3/16" to 1/4" thick bias slices.     
     Arrange the tuna slices in a starfish pattern or flower petal pattern on top of the center of the salad.  
     Step 3:  Place 1/2 of a hard boiled egg on top of the tuna slices.  (The egg yolk should be soft with a translucent yellow color.  Boiling an egg for about 9 minutes produces this style of boiled egg.)
     Sprinkle 2 pinches of minced fresh leafy herbs over the salad.  (Use the herb mixture in the dijon vinaegrette recipe.)
     Drape 2 imported Italian anchovy filets over the egg.  (Anchovies are required.  Italian anchovies have a nice mild flavor.)
     Garnish the egg with a basil top sprig.
     Garnish the plate with a lemon garnish of your choice.  (Optional.  Lemon is usually served on the side.)

     Creating your own signature Salade Nicoise presentation is always best.  The presentation style described in this recipe does draw compliments and most importantly, it can be assembled in less than one minute.  

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