Chef and restauranteur Thomas Keller is an American culinary icon. Chef James Vellano was his Chef de Cuisine at Bouchon Bakery when he shared this lovely warm weather dish with Battman. He's Chef Vellano is a private chef and Chef at Maison Prive. A tartine is a classic, French open - faced sandwich. It's traditionally made with a rich, protein based spread. Here it's reinterpreted with a Provencal twist. It's light, briny and easy. Since you can toast the bread on a grill and make the rest of the fixings ahead of time, you can add this to a picnic meal for an elegant French touch.
- Tartine de Thon à la Niçoise (Tuna Niçoise Tartine)
- 1½ pounds good quality canned tuna packed in olive oil
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced cornichons
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced drained nonpareil capers, preferably Spanish
- 1 tablespoon minced chives
- 2 teaspoons minced Italian parsley
- 2 teaspoons minced tarragon
- 2 teaspoons minced chervil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¾ cup mayonnaise
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 pain de campagne (about two 1/1 inches wide)
- Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
- Kosher salt to taste
- ¼ cup aioli (see note)
- 12-16 small young Bibb lettuce leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 large hard cooked eggs
- 12 large radish slices
- 16 Nicoise olives, pitted and halved
- ¼ cup minced chives
- 12 cornichons
- 4 small bunches mâche or watercress
- Chef James Vellano's note: Just as it’s important to use perfectly cooked, good quality lamb or pork when making lamb or pork spread tartines, an excellent quality canned tuna will make the difference between a good tuna salad and an extraordinary one. The salt content can vary from brand to brand so taste as you season.
Put the tuna in a strainer over a bowl to allow excess oil to drain off but do not squeeze dry. Transfer the drained tuna to a large bowl and break it apart with a fork. Add the shallots, cornichons, capers, chives parsley tarragon and chervil and toss together. Gently stir in the lemon juice and mayonnaise. Do not let the mixture become a paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat the broiler. Lay the pain de campagne on its side and cut it on a severe bias to get 4 slices approximately 10 inches long and ½-inch thick. Drizzle both sides of each slice lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place under the broiler until golden brown on the first side, then turn to brown the second side. Remove to a plate.
Composing and plating
Spread one side of each toast with 1 tablespoon of aioli. Arrange the Bibb lettuce over the aioli and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mound the tuna salad down the length of each pain de campagne slice. Cut 4 slices from each egg and arrange the slices over the tunas. Season the egg with a pinch of salt. Arrange 3 radish slices over the egg slices on each pain de campagne. Press 3 olive halves into the tuna mixture on either side of each pain de campagne. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of chives over the top of each sandwich. Grind black pepper over the top of the sandwiched and drizzle with some olive oil. Serve the tartines with cornichons, garnished with a small bunch of mâche or watercress.
Editor's note- Aioli is a Provencal, garlicky emulsion similar to a mayonnaise so it is most fitting for a tuna niçoise. It is generally available at specialty shops but here is my recipe for a standard aioli. Many thanks to the Chef Chris Gesuladi, who worked for Thomas Keller for many, many years, for his strict instructions about making emulsifications.
2 garlic cloves mashed into a fine paste
1 extra large egg yolk
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt
fresh cracked white pepper
4 fluid ounces of extra virgin olive oil 2 fluid ounces of olive oil Mix the garlic, the egg yolk, dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, water, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender or with a whisk. Do not add the oil yet! With the blender running, or with the whisk in constant motion, add the oil in a very slow, thin stream to create an emulsification. The oil is added very slowly at first so you create a suspension of the oil. You can make this with the same proportion of roasted garlic if you want it to be a bit mellower. If you want a stronger olive taste, use all extra virgin olive oil and a greener, grassier oil that was harvested from olives grown in the most southern climates. Although that it what I personally prefer and it would fit this Southern French recipe, this is an all - purpose aioli recipe. - tami weiser, ed.