Tartar Sauce just begs for improvisation. Additions to the mixture are almost infinite. Fresh Herbs, Sugar, Miracle Whip, Mustard, etc., can all be used to good effect. It is certainly not a bad thing to experiment, and a lot of things you can add to Tartar Sauce are quite tasty. But for me, Tartar Sauce is almost a nostalgic thing, a memory born of fried seafood shacks and drive-up window fish sandwiches. Some Tartar Sauces just have a certain “correctness” to them. They leave you wondering why it’s called Tartar Sauce, and just exactly what is that certain finish to the taste that makes it “Tartary”? Then it makes you want to dip something else in it and eat some more. A proper Tartar Sauce can even make ropes and nets look good as decorative elements.
I can’t estimate the volume of ingredients I have wasted trying to develop a good Tartar Sauce formula. While in the course of researching the formula for McDonalds Tartar, yes McDonalds, I discovered the little known secret to a killer Tartar Sauce.
It’s the Onions.
Do not waste your time with Vidalia, Sweet, Spanish or Red Onions. They’re all great, and mostly what I cook with. But the only Onion to use for Tartar Sauce is the stridently pungent, lowly, White Onion. No substitutions. Not only does this particular Onion impart the “Tartar” in Tartar sauce, but it also keeps the sauce brilliantly “white”, which in my experience always foretells a good Tartar Sauce event.
Here’s the shockingly simple recipe for killer Tartar Sauce:
Minced White Onion
Dill Relish (not sweet)
Sea Salt and fresh cracked Pepper
A smidgeon of Lemon Juice
A few things to keep in mind that I have found to be beneficial to the Sauce involve preparation rather than ingredients. Finely mince the onions. Dry the Relish with a paper towel if needed. Let the Sauce chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Be careful with the Lemon juice, you don’t want too much. Since this is a “scalable” recipe, I have omitted portions. To get the right ratio of ingredients, just add till it looks right for the portion you are making. I use about 2:1 Onions to Relish, with enough of both added to the Mayo to make the sauce “chunky”. You do not want a runny Tartar. For a fancy dinner and a more complex top note, you can add minced Capers and a smashed Anchovy paste (watch the salt if you do this).
But that’s it. Great on all fried Seafood, Low Country Boil, and French Fries.
Keeps well in the fridge.