Monday, September 14, 2009

Salade Nicoise (PTC - DS)

I am informed, via one of Julia Child's DVDs, that Nice used to be a part of Italy until the 19th century, which is why the dish Salade Nicoise resembles an Italian antipasto plate.

I can well understand, then, why Salade Nicoise would be included in Personal Trainer: Cooking. There has always been great emphasis put on the presentation of a dish, in Japanese cuisine; it goes to the same esthetic that we see in the art of ikebana, and why Japanese mothers take such great care with the preparation of bento lunches. And a great deal of Salade Nicoise's appeal happens to be in its eventual presentation.

Ingredients: There's not all that much deviation between the ingredients listed in PTC and those listed in Mrs. Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking: green beans, boiled potatoes, boiled egg, lettuce, tomato, tuna, olives, capers, and a dressing made with Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. The only real difference is that PTC uses green bell pepper, which is absent from Mrs. Child's version.

This time out, however, I decided I'd rely on my own interpretation of portions. One of the reasons why I don't eat salad at home very often is that, most of the recipes I have for salad make enough for five or six people -- which goes bad after a few days. So this time out, I elected to try to shrink the proportions down to something suitable for 1 or 2 folks. PTC has no allowances for this (they bring it down to three people, minimum), so I made a few guesses.

Techniques: This is nowhere near as complex as PTC's recipe for Boeuf Bourgignon, but I can understand why Salade Nicoise isn't made all that often: boiling beans, potatoes and eggs can be quite time-consuming. Which is why I opted for a boiling shortcut.

I have a Chef's Choice electric hotpot. Works just like an electric kettle, only it has a very wide opening on the top, which means I can actually use it to cook stuff. I elected to boil the egg and the potato at the same time: slip both in, switch on, let it automatically switch off once it boils, fish the egg out after 10 minutes and the potato out after 20.

In retrospect, I probably should have left the egg in for 2 to 5 minutes longer. After 10 minutes the yolk had barely set, which is fine if you're eating a hard-cooked egg straight out but doesn't work as well if you're using boiled egg as an ingredient: the egg tends to fall apart when you apply the pressure of a knife to it. The potato, on the other hand, turned out all right.

The other part that actually involved what I'd consider "cooking" was the making of the dressing: combining Dijon mustard with vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil. PTC uses both plain and extra-virgin olive oil; I substitute corn oil for the regular one and it seemed to work out all right.

One thing I did notice with this recipe: while PTC will tell you how to do a technique, it won't necessarily tell you a term if it doesn't think you need to know. For example, it told me to boil the cut green beans briefly before chilling them in ice water. That particular technique is called blanching, and yet PTC doesn't mention it at all. (I can sort of understand why; the intended audience of inexperienced cooks wouldn't necessarily want to know such a cooking term if it got in the way of their trying to cook.)

Everything else was simply flower-arranging; since it was just me, I didn't care all that much, but if I do a potluck I'm pretty sure I'll do it much differently.

Results: If I were a teenager making this for the first time, I'd call it a success. I'm a middle-aged man, though -- and yet I'd still call it a success. It's very hard to screw up a salad; the only way to do that is to use stale or past-due ingredients. I'd call this one a keeper.

No comments:

Post a Comment