The Niçoise salads I ate in France when I was a kid all featured good canned tuna, the kind so richly infused with olive oil it was the ocean equivalent of butter.Then one day, fresh tuna—seared but still rare—started replacing the canned fish. The novelty was thrilling, making the whole dish heartier and more main course–like, without the lunch stigma the words tuna fish can convey. French traditionalists, however, were less impressed, insisting that in a true salade Niçoise, the fish must be preserved in oil and cooked through and through, without any of the sushi-centered, charred edged frippery of the seared kind. (Also of note: Those same traditionalists, including Larousse Gastronomique, eschew adding cooked vegetables like green beans and potatoes to a salade Niçoise.) While I say that there’s room for all kinds of salade Niçoise interpretations, my heart is with the canned tuna version, as long as the tuna is of really good quality. Look for tuna packed in olive oil in cans or jars, rather than anything packed in soybean oil or water.
Dressing: You can make the dressing 1 week in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature, whisking if needed, before using it.
Eggs: You can cook the eggs up to 3 days in advance. Peel them, and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the shallots, mustard, vinegar, anchovies, a pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in the oil until the dressing is emulsified. Taste, and add more salt if needed.
- In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes to a large bowl (save the water in the pot); pat the potatoes dry and toss with enough of the dressing to thoroughly coat them. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- Bring the potato water back to a boil and add the green beans. Cook until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, pat the beans dry, and add them to the bowl containing the potatoes, tossing with a little more of the dressing.
- In a separate bowl, combine the tomatoes and more of the dressing. Taste and add more salt if needed.
- While the vegetables marinate, cook the eggs: Place the eggs in a medium pot and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Immediately remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and set it aside for 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with ice and cold water.
- Transfer the eggs with a slotted spoon to the bowl of ice water. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and halve the eggs lengthwise. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Arrange the potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, egg halves, and tuna on a large platter. Scatter the olives over all. Spoon the remaining dressing over the salad. Drizzle the salad with oil and sprinkle with basil
Reprinted from Dinner in French. Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Clark. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Laura Edwards. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.