The French Tartar Sauce Diet (!?)

Homemade Tartar Sauce. So gratifying, even in a small amount.

At last! I’ve come up with the title of my next book: It’s called “The French Tartar Sauce Diet.”

Well, I’m only half kidding. I doubt a book with that title would sell. (Or maybe it’s just gimmicky enough to fly off the shelves.)

But the idea is one that bears repeating: Eat foods that taste great (like a beautiful homemade tartar sauce) rather than so-so foods, and you’ll naturally need to eat less to feel satisfied.

Tartar sauce is a great example. Forget most of the stuff on the store shelves. Who decided that tartar sauce was basically mayonnaise with a little pickle relish thrown in? No wonder a Filet-o-Fish comes loaded with the stuff. You have to have a lot of it to get any gratification.

Instead, next time you want a quick sauce for roasted fish, make a homemade tartar sauce—French style, with fresh herbs, shallots, capers, cornichons and a few other tricks. It will taste so great that you simply won’t need that much to give you the satisfaction you deserve every time you sit down for a meal.

Frankly, most French recipes I love would fall into the “eat less/enjoy more” category of French tartar sauce: You simply don’t have to eat huge portions to satisfy yourself. (Case in point: This blogger wrote  that she had lost two pounds after cooking from The Bonne Femme Cookbook for a week. And it’s not a “diet” book by any means.)

Here’s my recipe for a great French tartar sauce, from the pages of The Bonne Femme Cookbook. I love serving it with my simple Roasted Fish, page 212, especially wild salmon, which is in season right now.

French Tartar Sauce

You can use fresh dill in combination of the other herbs, if you like. That option goes especially well with roasted wild salmon. And if you don’t have fresh tarragon, substitute a generous pinch of dried, well crushed between your fingertips. It will give you the flavor you seek.

Makes about 1 cup

3/4 cup high-quality mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons (small sour French pickles)
1 small shallot or 1 scallion (white part and some tender green tops), minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley or fresh parsley and chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons capers, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or chervil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a bowl, gently fold the mayonnaise, cornichons, shallot, parsley, mustard, capers, vinegar, and tarragon together (don’t mix too vigorously, or your sauce will be too smooth). Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and preferably 2 hours, before serving. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Other articles you might enjoy:
The French (Non!) Diet Part I: Eat in Courses
The French (Non!) Diet Part II: B Choosier About Cheese
Swiss Chard Recipes (a great way to eat a nutritious, flavor-packed green!)
My Spinach Quiche Recipe (featured on Simple Nourished Living—the author mentions that it fit into her Weight Watchers Meal Plan, even though it’s not a “diet” recipe).

Photo of Homemade Tartar Sauce by Gaber, via Flickr.

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2 comments to The French Tartar Sauce Diet (!?)

  • I am so happy you shared this recipe today. Since moving to Australia I haven’t been able to find any tartar sauce even approaching edible. This sounds exquisite and I will be making it post haste. 🙂

  • Wini

    Thanks, Krista! I made it again last night for some wild salmon I enjoyed. It never fails to make me so happy. And of course, it’s the kind of recipe you can add to (don’t have capers? use chopped green olives!) or delete from (out of Shallots, skip ’em!)….If you make it fresh, it WILL be good…..

    Thanks for the note.

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