The term Niçoise in culinary preparations indicates a style of cooking characteristic of the region of France surrounding the city of Nice. Born in the village of Villeneuve-Loubet, the king of chefs and chef of kings Auguste Escoffier was a Niçois. He was also a very successful entrepreneur who just happened to have his hand in the canned food business. Being a clever fellow, he invented the Salade Niçoise to market his own products, and therein lies the reason a traditional Salade Niçoise always calls for canned tuna. In The Way to Cook, Julia explains that “being a great fan of potatoes, beans, eggs, and tomatoes in a salad, I naturally opt for the Escoffier ingredients; I am a great fan of his too, and he was a Niçois, after all.”
Since Escoffier’s day, there have been nearly as many variations of this dish as there are cooks in Provence. This is Julia’s…
Julia Child’s Recipe for Salade Niçoise
- 1 large head of Boston lettuce, washed and dried
- 2 to 3 Tbs virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed, blanched, refreshed in cold water, and dried
- 2/3 to 1 cup salad dressing*
- 3 or 4 fine ripe red tomatoes, peeled if you wish, and cored, quartered, and seasoned before serving
- 8 to 10 ounces oil-packed tuna, drained and flaked
- 1 quart French Potato Salad**
- 8 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
- 1 can flat anchovy fillets packed in oil, opened and drained just before serving
- 1/2 cup black Niçoise-type olives
- 3 or 4 Tbs capers
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- Shortly before serving, line a handsome, large and wide salad bowl, or a roomy platter with lettuce leaves, drizzle a little olive oil on them, and dust with a sprinkling of salt. Toss the beans in a mixing bowl with a little of the dressing, and correct seasoning. Drizzle a spoonful or two of the dressing over the tomatoes. Season the tuna lightly with a spoonful or two of the dressing. Place the potatoes in the centre of the bowl or platter; mound beans at strategic intervals, interspersing them with tomatoes and mounds of tuna. Ring the salad with the eggs, and curl an anchovy on top of each. Spoon a little more vinaigrette over all; scatter on olives, capers and parsley. Serve as soon as possible.
- *In the original recipe, Julia directs the reader to her recipe for Oil and Lemon Dressing (or its garlic variation). You can use any simple vinaigrette with a ratio of 3 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice or white wine vinegar.
- **To make French Potato Salad, combine 1 1/2 pounds warm, sliced, cooked potatoes in a bowl with 2 Tbs finely minced shallots or scallions, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, 1/4 cup chicken stock or potato-cooking water, 1 1/2 Tbs wine vinegar, and 2 to 3 Tbs chopped fresh parsley. Let steep 10 minutes or so, tossing gently several times. Then correct seasoning, and toss with 2 to 3 Tbs light olive oil if you like.
“A bountiful arrangement in bowl or platter is so handsome to behold that I think it a cruel shame to toss everything together into a big mess. A careful presentation means more work, but it’s easily manageable when you ready each of the numerous ingredients separately, which you can do well ahead. Season each just before assembling and serving, and you will have the perfect Salade Niçoise.”
“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”
~ Julia Child