Lots of people do something in Seattle that I had never seen before in Texas or Oklahoma. They order tartar sauce with their fries. If you were born and raised in Washington, you might be thinking, "People everywhere don't put tartar sauce on their fries?" and if you have lived and traveled mostly around Southwest, you might be saying, "They do WHAT, now?" Obviously regional cuisine exists in our big old melting pot. But I think of fast food chains as being somewhat universal: Fries plus ketchup. The occasional wild moment: mustard mixed with ketchup. Ranch dressing. Now that I think of it, have I ever seen a Seattleite opt for ranch dressing with fries? Anyway, it makes elegant sense that this area of the country would use tartar sauce (people just say "tartar" around here) as one of the most common condiments. Seattle's a port, after all. A local burger chain, Dick's, has their own tartar-type sauce that automatically goes onto all their "Dick's Special" and "Dick's Deluxe" burgers. It's wild, man. As in, wildly delicious. They sell the stuff in tiny tubs as a dip for their fabulously greasy fries.
This morning I accidentally bought two jars of tartar sauce--both recipes from local fast food fish 'n' chips places around this area. Rather than return one of the jars, I thought it would be fun to have a one-person tasting. This is how I like to spend my Friday nights.
The basic ingredient lists on these jars are similar, except that while one has dehydrated milk powder, the other one contains MSG and onions. And then there's the enigmatic ingredient, "spices," that sets the two apart. I approached the two sauces with an open mind and was astonished by their distinctly different qualities. One -- the Skipper's brand, tasted almost like it contained horseradish, which would be a brilliant move, actually. Was that part of "spices?" This Skipper's tartar was smoother, also. It made me imagine that you could eat that tartar with prime rib. Mostly kidding. Who in the heck would drop some cash on a nice prime rib and then enjoy it with fast-food tartar sauce?
The Ivar's sauce was chunkier with relish (actually, they call it "cured cucumbers." Really? You mean, pickles?), and it tasted heartier, somehow. It was the one with the onions and the MSG. It was definitely less sweet, too. "Sugar" was far lower on the ingredient list. This sauce belongs nowhere near a prime rib, but it would be right at home on a burger.
I just now started thinking about the history of Tartar sauce, which led me down the Internet rabbit hole. I just surfaced with a few tidbits--naturally, its origins are ancient, as far back as Rome. Seafood was not the only thing that a sauce like this would top. Many meats were dressed with sauces that included mayonnaise-type emulsions.
If you feel like serving tartar sauce with a dish but wish to sound more fancy, you could also call it sauce rémoulade, a French sauce that is very similar. Actually, I dare you to do that: Buy a jar of tartar sauce from the grocery store and serve your meal with "rémoulade." Ha! That would be hilarious. In Denmark, they sell frites and remoulade at takeaway places. Doesn't that sound so much more fabulous and worldly than fries and tartar?
Well, I've left this blog post slightly more knowledgeable than when I started. If you are still reading this (and hoping for me that I get some sleep rather than continuing to ramble on about condiments), I hope you also leave this post knowing something new, too.
I would never be writing this blog post if it weren't for NaBloWriMo. Hm. Thank you...?