Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served.
Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and
that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
Salade Niçoise - Salad Nicoise. The Most Famous of all French salads; Named after the City of Nice, on the Cote d’Azur, Provence, France.
The Classic Salade Niçoise
from Behind the French Menu by Bryan Newman
The classic Salad Niçoise was an hors d’œuvre, an appetizer served before the first course, the French entrée. The tradition of serving Salad Niçoise as an hors d’œuvre is now more honored in the breach than in the observance; a Salade Niçoise todayis more likely to be the entrée itself and is often the main dish when part of a light lunch.
Photograph by courtesy of Stijn Nieuwend
Ordering Salade Niçoise
With few exceptions, most chefs from Nice agree that the recipe will include canned tuna or anchovies, but not both; tomatoes, the black Niçoise AOC olives, fava beans, cooked baby artichokes, sweet peppers, herbs, especially basil, and a vinaigrette dressing with the oil from Nice’s own AOC (AOP) olive oil the, Huile d'Olive de Nice and red wine vinegar.
Among the variations that are accepted but still considered later additions are boiled potatoes, boiled or steamed haricots verts, France’s favorite fresh bean, that we call the green bean or the snap bean and spring onions.
Frances favorite fresh green been the haricot verte.
Photograph courtesy of G3's Maria.
Lettuce is often seen in a Salades Nicoise todaythough it is generally agreed that it is a recent addition, and it is still rare for a chef with Nice's culinaryhistory on his or her mind who includes lettuce.
One word of advice, when in Nice do not discuss with the locals the exact recipe as even the local gourmands disagree; you might end up as I did with my head in my hands and wine and opinions coming from all sides even though we had finished dinner three hours before.
For more about French olive oils
including Nice’s own unique AOP olive oil see the post:
The Salade Niçoise first appeared on French menus in the latter part of 19th century; that is less than 30 years after Nice lost its Italian rulers and became part of France. The name of the dish’s original creator is also lost, probably during the Franco-Prussian war that ended in France becoming a Republic and Emperor Napoléon IIIbeing exiled to England where he later died and was buried.
The most authentic classical salade nicoise recipes that I have seen are the two reported by the famous cookbook author Elizabeth David (1913 – 1992). In her book: French Provincial Cooking. first published in 1960; however I read the Penguin Books Edition published posthumously in 1999 with a forward by Julia Child.
The recipes Elizabeth David highlights are from Henri Heyraud and Escoffier.
Henri Heraud’s recipe was from his book La Cuisine a Nice, the cuisine of Nice.Henri Heyraud, was a chef, teacher and historian of the cuisine served in France in the early 20th century,
Henri Heraud’s recipe forSalade Niçoise:
Canned tuna in oil, peeled tomatoes and diced anchovy fillets, all seasoned with tarragon, chervil and chopped chives and prepared with or without mustard.
This recipe shows that the accepted tradition where you can use tuna or anchovies, but not both was not there in the early years; Heraud used both tuna and anchovies, and the only vegetables are tomatoes. The recipe also offers no vinaigrette dressing and the only oil used is that that comes from the canned tuna. That would be a very rare offering today; but Herault published this recipe in 1922.
Escoffier’s recipe for Salade Niçoise:
Young artichoke hearts, black olives, uncooked sweet peppers, tomatoes and anchovy fillets all s served with a vinaigrette dressing made of olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard and that most popular French herb group Les Fine Herbes.
Canned tuna, take your choice!
Photograph courtesy of DangerRanger
Escoffier, a Provencal favorite son, surprisingly does not use the Provencal herb group the Herbs de Provence, rather he chooses the herb group Les FineHerbes. Escoffier also uses anchovy fillets, and no option of tuna is offered.
Nice and the Cote-d’Azur.
The Cote-d’Azur, the azure or blue coast was the name given to Nice and its coastal area in 1887 by the French writer and poet Stephen Liégeard (1830 -1925) . At that time the South of France had been discovered by wealthy British tourists who came from the rainy UK to the unclouded blue sky of coastal Provence.
The Nice Promenade des Anglais
Photograph courtesy of James Thornett
Nice with its French, Provençal and Italian influences has created many unique dishes.
For more about the city of Nice’s unique contribution