tartar sauce

Yesterday’s posting on (beef)steak tartare led me to tartar sauce, which I haven’t posted about before. The connection is that steak tartare was originally served with tartar sauce on the side, though it no longer is. Now on to the sauce, with remoulade sauce as a bonus.

On tartar sauce, from Wikipedia:

Tartar sauce (tartare in the UK, New Zealand and Australia) is a creamy white mayonnaise-based sauce, typically of a rough consistency. It is often used as a condiment with seafood dishes.

It is based on mayonnaise (egg yolk, vinegar or lemon juice, and oil) with some extra ingredients. In the UK recipes typically add to the base: capers, gherkins, lemon juice, and tarragon. American recipes may include chopped pickles, capers, onions (or chives), and fresh parsley. Chopped hard-boiled eggs or olives are sometimes added, as may be Dijon mustard.

The sauce has been found in cookbooks since the 19th century. The name derives from the French sauce tartare, named after the Tatars from the Eurasian Steppe, who once occupied Ukraine and parts of Russia. Beyond this, the etymology is unclear. In Europe, the sauce was used as condiment to steak tartare.

A sampling of bottled tartar sauces:


Now, remoulade, a cousin of tartar sauce. From Wikipedia:

Remoulade or rémoulade, invented in France, is a popular condiment in many countries. Very much like the tartar sauce of some English-speaking cultures, remoulade is often aioli- or mayonnaise-based. Although similar to tartar sauce, it is often more yellowish (or reddish in Louisiana), often flavored with curry, and sometimes contains chopped pickles or piccalilli. It can also contain horseradish, paprika, anchovies, capers and a host of other items. While its original purpose was possibly for serving with meats, it is now more often used as an accompaniment to seafood dishes, especially pan-fried breaded fish fillets (primarily sole and plaice) and seafood cakes (such as crab or salmon cakes).

… Louisiana remoulade can vary from the elegant French-African Creole, the rustic Afro-Caribbean Creole, or the Classic Cajun version, and like the local variants of roux and bordelaise sauce, each version is quite different from the French original. Invariably, it is red (bright red to ruddy-orange) and is usually very piquant. Louisiana-style remoulades fall generally into one of two categories — those with a mayonnaise base and those with an oil base. Each version may have an abundance of finely chopped vegetables, usually green onions and celery, and parsley; most are made with either Creole or stone-ground mustard. Salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper are also standard ingredients. In the oil- and mayonnaise-based versions, the reddish hue comes from the addition of paprika. Other popular additions include lemon juice, hardboiled egg or raw egg yolks, minced garlic, hot sauce, vinegar, horseradish, capers, cornichons, and Worcestershire sauce.

While the classic white remoulade is a condiment that can be offered in a variety of contexts (e.g. the classic celery root remoulade), Creole remoulade is nearly always associated with shrimp.

English remoulade is obviously a borrowing from French. NOAD2 says that the French was a borrowing from Italian (salsa remolata), but remolata itself appears to be of uncertain origin. OED3 (Dec. 2009) has a long and complex, but inconclusive, etymological note.

A bottle of Zatarain’s:


Great with shrimp, as in the picture on the bottle.

One Response to “tartar sauce”

  1. tarator | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

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