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My August Quest: the perfect tartar sauce

Every Monday I pick up my fish share, and for the most part it has been cod. We have had cod every way imaginable. This week I found myself craving tartar sauce to accompany my delicious fish. So, the quest is on. A tartar sauce made at home with the attributes that I enjoy. I prefer a tart tartar sauce over the sweet varieties.

I have made the mayonnaise to prepare for this tartar sauce quest. My first foray will be using Moonan's Fish Without A Doubt version. What is your favorite version? I have 8 more weeks of fish coming!

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  1. I would love to make my own and agree with the tart preference. Share everyone, please.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      I am really surprised that so far no one has mentioned RemouladeSauce.
      Lots of variations with that one, and alot more pitched toward the savory than sweet.

      And a personal favorite, though seldom made is Boiled Dressing, used as the base instead of mayo. With this you can add chopped egg, finely minced cabbage ( makes a great coleslaw) and let you imagination fly. It's good to use to make a cold salad from (leftover) fish, as a non-tuna fish sandwich. Switch it up and add some fruit like a bit of pineapple or granny smiths (againg, going for the minced)

      Might be fun for you to make a base and add extra flavor notes, as you work you way through the Summer of Fish!

    2. Once you say no to the extra gobs of sugar that I simply will never understand, you're 7/8 of the way there. Why so many ppl prefer to douse fish with sugary laden glop, I will just never get it. Anyway, you're basically making variations on a theme - common sense will always be a factor. You want good (not sweet - blech!) mayo, and then a sour note, along with something with a noted bite.

      1.savory pickle (not sweet - blech!) and onion, garlic, freshly ground black pepper.
      2. capers, onion, garlic, freshly ground black pepper
      3. chipotles in adobo (along with some of the canning sauce) onion, garlic, savory pickle.
      4. sesame oil, ground cayenne, onion, garlic

      6 Replies
      1. re: gordeaux

        Reading these, I can say if you can micro-plane the pickle, scallot and let sit a bit; you will greatly improve the taste. Homemade Mayo is a bonus. I do think a bit of sweet tweets the tart that you want, so I'd do a sweet gerkin for one of the pickles.

        Now all of this in said, given the fact that you do not want to make a sauce, but use what made stuff you have.

        1. re: Quine

          I'll just never be one to suggest adding sugar to fish. Doesn't make sense to me at all. A lot of restaurants sell sugary tartar sauce, so it would seem as tho it's what ppl like.

          Just definitely not for me at all. Sugary fish gives me the heebie jeebies.

          1. re: gordeaux

            LOL I think you have given us the clear impression that you hate sweet tastes. But for many people, it is one of the 5 (or 6) tastes that we have and enjoy.

            And for many, sweet is the taste they want the most. I personally. cannot understand it I am the sort taste lover myself.
            But I do think that some sweet rounds the jagged peaks that sours can have if they are the lone flavor tone. Balance my friend balance, taste with all of your tongue.

            1. re: Quine

              I get it, and I like other sweet / savory combos, but I really don't like them for tartar sauce. Things like sweet tartar sauce, and tuna salad made with godawful sugar laden miracle whip give me the chills.

              I would never say that I don't like sweet tastes, because I certainly have a sweet tooth. I just think overtly sugary tastes combined with fish is not my cup of tea. Reminds me of the time I had my first "fish feast" part about 8 yrs ago.
              Every year, friends and I go on a fishing charter, and then have a feast of fish afterwards. Countless times during the first feast, ppl were raving about the tartar sauce because it was not the "gross sweet stuff" that you normally get. I hear a lot off ppl say they think tartar sauce is gross. I happen to think that a lot of them have no idea that it does not have to be full of sugar - and that, to me, is the reason that I happen to think it's gross at a lot of places. I'm not saying that my palate is better than anyone else's (I'll be the first to admit I eat a lot of garbage - trust me) - I'm just saying that sweet pickles, or cheap sugary mayo or <gasp> miracle whip are all deal breakers for me when it comes to tartar sauce.

              LOL - I just thought of something. I LOVE grilled fish w/ mango salsa - but I look for unripe or only semi-ripe mangos when I make it..

              1. re: gordeaux

                *shiney* Welcome to the sour side.

                Over-sweet yuck. Muck around with some of these recipes. I think you might being seeing sugar but not realizing how llitte it is in relationship to the rest.

                1. re: Quine

                  no need to muck around with recipes for this. Been cooking for far too many years to not know what something will taste like to my palate even when it's on paper. Had far too many tartar sauces with sweet pickles to know that any amount is not good (for my tastes.) My idea of cloyingly sweet is just different than others.

      2. Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, minced cornichons, minced scallions, capers (whole or chopped) -- dab of mustard, heavy on the last 3. Sometimes I grate one of those crispy Armenian cukes on the large holes and squeeze out all the juice (tea towel works best, really twist and squeeze) and add that too, makes it really crunchy. Yum, tartar sauce....

        1. This sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

          Makes about 1 cup
          3/4 cup mayonnaise
          1/2 small shallot , minced (about 1 tablespoon)
          2 tablespoons drained capers , minced
          2 tablespoons chopped cornichons (or just sweek pickle relish)
          1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
          1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
          1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

          Mix all ingredients together in small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand to blend flavors, about 15 minutes. Stir again before serving.

          3 Replies
          1. re: bnemes3343

            Sounds great, but why only a week?

            1. re: c oliver

              The veggies will start to rot and exude liquid. Need I say more?

              1. re: pikawicca

                The "veggies" except for the the shallots are pickled and will not rot, in this or if left alone in a refrigerated airetight container. In this recipe, the mayo and the vinegar will effectively handle the shallots,
                If refrigrated on containered properly, no reason why can't go past a week.

                However, it is so good might not last that long, yum!

          2. This is my pickle-less (DH just doesn't like them) but very tasty version:
            3/4 c. mayo, 1/4 c. sour cream, 1 T. lemon juice, 1 T. dijon, 1 T. chopped capers, 1 T. minced shallot (I've substituted red onion when I didn't have a shallot on hand), 2 tsp. chopped chives, 2 tsp. chopped parsley, dash of worcestershire, dash of Tabasco.

            I've made a variation, very tasty on crabcake sandwiches, adding in 1-2 T. chopped sundried tomatoes in oil. Another with a tsp. of sciracha added.

            I also make a basil tartar sauce, by whirring together a handful of basil and a bit of olive oil in my mini-processor and adding the puree to the basic recipe and omitting the capers.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nomadchowwoman

              forgot one important ingredient--zest of one lemon!

            2. For sweet, delicate items like crab cakes and pompano, I mix mayo with sweet relish, lemon zest, and small capers For cod and halibut - mayo, dill relish, chipotle powder and a bit of cayenne. Fried shrimp- sometimes a splash of El Yucateco red to the sweet tartar. It depends a bit on how the fish is cooked /seasoned. It's fun to make a few small tartar batches with different ingredients and heat factors, and place ingredient labels near them. The permutations are endless. I use my little St. Marcellin glazed cheese dishes to serve 4-5 variations on a plate.

              1. Mayo mixed with equal parts finely minced onion, parsley and sour pickles, a dash of cayenne, sometimes a little tarragon, and lemon juice to taste. No sweet stuff in may tartar sauce, but you can offer a little dish of chopped sweet pickle for those who want it.

                1. Report No. 1
                  Green Tartar Sauce, Fish Without a Doubt, Rick Moonan, page 417

                  I made a 1/4 of the original recipe using homemade mayonnaise from the Julia & Jacque book. This isn't like anything you buy in a bottle. There is no cloying sweetness, not too much acid and a wonderful balance of herb flavors that surprised me. In fact, this seemed more like an aioli [without garlic, can it be an aioli without garlic?] than what I think of as tartar sauce, and it was really good.

                  1/4 cup chopped cornichons
                  1 tablespoon chopped capers
                  1 medium shallot, coursely chopped
                  2 cups mayonnaise
                  1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
                  1 1/2 heaping tablspoons chopped fresh dill
                  2 heaping tablespoons fresh chives
                  2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
                  1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
                  1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper [I didn't use. Dislike pepper.]
                  1/4 cup olive oil

                  After tasting, I added some salt [I suspect because I wasn't using commercial mayo] and a more lemon juice.

                  Lots more fish to eat this week, so we will finish this before trying another version.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: smtucker

                    Hey. Used part of yours - didn't have all the stuff. Mayo, chopped capers, chopped cornichons, Dijon mustard and a drizzle of olive oil (that was kind of a surprise to me but it worked). Oh, yeah, a a little Worchestershire sauce. Oh, boy, it's good. Thanks, kiddo.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      You are so welcome..... Spreading the tartar sauce joy is such a small thing.

                  2. I always cut the mayo with a bit of buttermilk or yogurt -- just seems too cloying to me, otherwise.

                    1. This is the BEST tarter sauce you will EVER taste, a result of my lifetime quest to find the perfect sauce. Sorry I don't measure it so hopefully you are good with quantities.

                      Cucumbers, NOT pickles or relish. First of all peel and slice your cukes and salt them (very good sea salt), place in a bowl and put something heavy on top to help rid the cukes of all excess water. When you are done, squeeze out excess moisture.
                      Dill (fresh or dried)
                      onion, green or white, or sweet maui
                      Make sure it is all VERY well minced. If you are pressed for time a few pulses of the food processor works great.
                      Pick the best mayonnaise. If you don't make your own this would be Best Foods, also known as Hellmans in some parts of the country.
                      Lemon juice and vinegar (I usually use a wine vinegar but it doesn't make much difference).
                      If you need salt (ususally I don't cause the cucumbers were salty enough) to taste
                      Maybe a pinch of sugar, depends on taste
                      Freshly ground black pepper (if you like pepper)

                      You won't be disappointed. My hubby loves it so much he thinks it is better than the fish. He said if I served it in a restaurant it is the sauce that would bring people in, not the fish. He just might be right... Enjoy! =~)

                      I change it slightly all the time but this is the basic recipe. Cucumbers and onions are not optional though.

                      -Melissa Patterson

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: DishDelish

                        Sounds perfect for me, but my dining companion will eat pickles, but no cucumbers. So sad.... maybe I will try this one night when he isn't around.

                        1. re: smtucker

                          Maybe you could make two, and ask your companion to try just one taste. It isn't typical cucumber flavor since it is salted and drained. Perhaps he would like it then. You could make it, and then make one simple relish and mayo sauce so you aren't wasting time by making two time consuming sauces.

                          1. re: DishDelish

                            Like many others, he has digestive issues with cucumbers and avoids them whenever possible. So, I marinate cucumbers, cut them into raw bits, dress them with yogurt and don't have to share.

                            1. re: smtucker

                              Oh wow, I have never heard of that before. =( How does pickling the cucumber help him?

                      2. Tartar Sauce

                        4 cup Mayonnaise
                        1 cup Finely chopped Dill Pickel
                        * Fresh Parsley
                        * Finely chopped Onion
                        1 small Dried Chopped Cyan Pepper
                        1/4 cup Chopped fresh Cyane Pepper ( top and seeds removed)
                        1 tablespoon Worcestershire

                        Be sure to stir and mix after each addition. If not using hot peppers, use a few dashes of Hot Sauce
                        Serve with Potato Fish Cakes

                        * amounts are to taste.

                        Source: "Justin Willson's TV Program"
                        Mrs. Paul's Tasty Tartar Sauce

                        3 tablespoons Mayonnaise -- (heaping)
                        2 tablespoons finely chopped or grated Onions -- (level)
                        1 pinch Pepper
                        1 pinch Salt
                        2 tablespoons strained Relish -- (level)
                        (I use India relish)

                        The secret, of course, is to remove the excess moisture from the relish.
                        If you prefer, you may use chopped sweet or dill pickles in place of the relish.
                        Mix the onions, mayonnaise and relish together -- add salt and pepper -- and I
                        guarantee that you'll have the most delicious tartar sauce you've ever tasted.

                        Source: "carton of Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks"
                        Serving Ideas : Great with fish or hamburgers.

                        1. I do this by eye, but very finely chopped red onion, juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper, chives and mayo ( homemade preferably) mix and serve!

                          1. For all you chiliheads out there, here's my personal favorite:

                            1 cup mayo
                            juice of 1/2 lemon
                            1/2 cup pickled jalapeños, chopped
                            2 tbsp Melinda's XXXtra Hot Habanero Sauce

                            Combine and serve with your favorite fresh seafood.