I am not the well-organized person who plans out a week of meals and the necessary ingredients—my wife does that. And good thing too, since we get to try new things and old favorites. This week the highlight was salade niçoise. (Please notice and appreciate my use of the correct accent because for the rest of the post I’m gonna call it Frenchy salad. Boom.) This is a salad that requires trust. You’ll see what looks like a plateful of ingredients and think three things: 1)some assembly required, 2)I will need a second dinner after this, 3)I am not eating an anchovy, even if it’s “cultural”. Wrong on all counts! Here’s the great thing about this salad: French cooking made easy, just like Julia Child told us.
Let’s get started. Lay down a bed of lettuce, do a very quick boil of some green beans and potatoes, then put a few eggs in there and hard-boil them. Open a can of tuna, drain, scatter the meat on the lettuce, then fend off the yowling neighborhood cats with a flaming branch or a large sword. Throw a few cherry tomatoes on there and don’t worry about delicate presentation and plating—this is rustic! Have some more wine, spill wine on the table, then blame it on the neighborhood cats. Cool down the boiled eggs by making them imagine Margaret Thatcher sunbathing nude, then peel them by picking off microscopic triangles of shell while whistling the La Marseillaise to yourself. Don’t worry if some shell remains on the egg…rustic! Now cut the egg into narrow slices, realize you cannot move a narrow slice of egg without the yolk falling out, just as your wife tells you to only cut the eggs in half. Throw a couple olives from that jar way back in the fridge you got for company even though you never eat large black olives because they taste like battery acid. Whip up a mustard vinaigrette with Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar, and a couple shots of balsamic vinegar. One you whisk that together you’ll realize that the balsamic vinegar makes the stuff look like baby poop so switch over to generic-brand white wine vinegar which has all the punch of a virgin Shirley Temple (hold the alcohol). Finally peel open a tin of anchovies and place them carefully to the side of the plate like roadkill. Toss the beans and potatoes in the vinaigrette, dump them on the plate, ruining the perfect fan of sliced eggs, and have another glass of wine.
If you do this EXACTLY like I did, you’ll have an incredible meal where each bite combines all the flavors and the anchovies add the final salty tang that make you incredulous that the sum is so much greater than the whole of its parts. If you improve on any step you will have your family instantly surrendering. I give my wife full credit for selecting, making me buy, and commanding me in the kitchen to prepare this winner of a meal. See, a little Napoleon goes a long way!