because you always want pickles
things you’ll need: mayo, optional crème fraîche (or yogurt or a little sour cream or some such), pickle of your choice (dill, cornichon, sweet pickle relish, etc), lemon, fresh dill and/or parsley (or tarragon or chives), shallot (or other onion or onion powder), dijon, optional capers, optional Worcestershire (or coconut aminos), optional hot sauce, salt and pepper
incidentally gluten-free and vegetarian, sub vegan mayo and such for vegan. Served with fried fish battered in either cassava flour or GF AP flour mixed with fine cornmeal that should appear on here one day when I remember to take pictures before greedily eating every last bite. I have read about tofu “fish” sticks as well as shredded heart of palm if you need a vegan vehicle for your tartar sauce.
You do not understand why it took you so long to make your own tartar sauce. You love pickles. You seek out friends who specifically do not eat pickles so that they will always give you the pickle from their plate. In fact, you have a self-imposed rule about how many open jars of pickled things you are allowed to have in your refrigerator (which is 3, not including capers or olives because those are different). You have backup pickles in the cabinet, just in case. You even made chlodnik because it is basically just beets and pickles. For the love of pickles, you have been caught more than once with your hand in the pickle jar after midnight and regret nothing!
To be fair, the non-pickle components of tartar sauce are all your favorite: lemon, Dijon, dill, and parsley. You already have everything that you need for it, except a vehicle for said sauce. So, when you decide that you must make tartar sauce, you must also have fish fry because some foods exist only in tandem (like how certain French fries demand ketchup and how ranch dressing goes on almost everything).
Grab a box of fish sticks from the freezer section, scanning the ingredients list for the ones made mostly from actual fish. However, because you live in the Midwest where whitefishes abound, fish fry is delicious and not hard to do at home. It’s up to you. It’s about the sauce anyway.
Start with mayonnaise (1/3ish cup) and add a few (3) Tablespoons of crème fraîche or yogurt or sour cream if you like (or go all yogurt or whatever you are into). Go ahead and plop in a little Dijon (teaspoon-ish) and the juice from one lemon, along with a big tablespoon of fresh dill and a little parsley. That’s pretty much the pickle-less base of tartar and almost exactly the sauce that you always make for salmon.
To that base, add between 2 Tablespoon and 1/3 cup of pickles, depending on your personal love of pickles. Chop some pickles, stir them in, taste, and then decide if you want to add more knowing that you will definitely add more. Take the time to cut a bunch of mini pickles or scoop from your relish reserves or stack and cut pickle chips. Yes, cutting tiny pickles is time-consuming, but you get to eat pickles while cutting pickles and that’s great. 1/3 cup of pickles is about 12-14 cornichons, you now know.
From there, add or do not add 1-2 Tablespoons of minced shallot, white onion, or scallions and about a Tablespoon of chopped capers. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire, or don’t. Add hot sauce if that’s your thing. Once the pickles are in, the rest is all about fine-tuning to your particular tastes, but definitely don’t add salt until the very end, if you add salt at all. Do not leave out the black pepper.
It’s not easy to communicate the joy achieved through a vinegar-rich mouthful of mayo-based pickle sauce, bright with lemon and fresh herbs, to your friend who called tartar “Worse Mayonnaise”. She won’t ever like it and probably cringes at the phrase “mayo-based pickle sauce”, but she shares her pickles and loves you all the same.
You, on the other hand, are forever changed by the revelation that is homemade tartar sauce. So much so that you add a few more jars of capers and cornichons to your hoard, just in case.
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