Salade Niçoise gives the illusion of being insubstantial, like most salads involving greens of any kind, but is actually completely substantial. It's so substantial that I find it very hard to finish a full plate, especially considering previous cheese. This (plus fundamental laziness) explains why I often end up making a reduced array: generally some combination of potatoes, green beans, and/or egg in good vinaigrette.
This time we said screw it and made everything. We even seared the tuna, instead of getting out a can. Well, really John seared the tuna. He also, er, made everything else. I mostly sat around exhaustedly and enjoyed it. I also opened the wine. It was a good idea.
Start with the potatoes.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. While it's coming up, wash and cut up your potatoes. How much you chop them depends on how big they are. I usually cut them in halves or quarters, or in more chunks if they're bigger red potatoes. If you have some sort of ridiculous fingerlings, you may not want to cut them at all. Ok then! Fine!
When the water is boiling, add the potatoes. You can keep the water from splashing by actually setting each potato in the water, so you break the surface tension gently. Or you can hold the cutting board over the pan and scrape the pile off with a knife, so the splashes probably won't hit you. Whatever.
Let the potatoes boil for maybe ten minutes, then bust out your eggs. Stick them in the water with the potatoes and keep boiling. The eggs need about ten minutes, or a little more if they were cold.
Get out some green beans and cut them into pieces an inch long. Wash and tear up enough lettuce for your salad. Then have some sauvignon blanc and cheese and bread while you're waiting for things to finish cooking.
(Vlaskaas and Prima Donna: very Dutch cheeses)
When the eggs are nearly done, add the chopped beans. They need about two minutes unless you have very tiny haricots verts. Those I would only leave one minute. Have some more wine and stand around.
Is everything done? Drain it all. The eggs need to be immersed in cold water to stop their cooking. The potatoes and beans do not; they instead need to be swathed in vinaigrette while still hot, so they'll absorb as much of it as possible. Do this in some other bowl than your main server, so you don't kill the lettuce with heat. I just use the pot, rinsed with cold water. The vinaigrette can be either homemade or not, as long as it is delicious. Once things are reasonably absorbed, put the pot in the refrigerator to cool a little. In a minute or two, when the eggs are cool enough to touch, whack them all over with the back of a spoon, peel them, and chop them up.
So everything is cooked and ready except tuna. If you have canned tuna, you can just go ahead and assemble. We seared an actual tuna steak. This is pretty easy as long as you take it off the pan sooner as opposed to later.
Whip out a pan and heat it to medium-hot. When things are clearly good and warm, throw in a slab of butter. It should melt instantly. Swirl the pan and get the butter everywhere, then set in the tuna. It will hiss. Hissy tuna!
You want to sear the outside of the tuna while leaving it pink inside. Leave it completely still for two or three minutes, depending on thickness, then flip it over. Leave it another two or so minutes, then remove it from the pan to a serving plate (with no salad). Throw some dry vermouth in the pan to deglaze; stir everything up until it stops frothing madly, then pour it over the tuna. Add lots of chopped parsley. You're done.
Plate: get the greens together. Pile potatoes, beans, egg, and olives all over the place. If you have canned tuna, add it to the pile. We left the seared tuna on its own plate since it was HOT and would kill the greens.
Salt, pepper, and vinaigrette, then eat.
We had definitely eaten too much delicious cheese and cornichons and bread and olives while cooking. We barely made a dent in our gigantic pile of food. This was not such a terrible thing, however, since it meant lots of leftovers for me to take upstairs and eat in front of the computer at 6:50a while pretending I didn't have to go to work. Then it meant large container filled with salad for lunch. Then it meant picking away at bits for snacks before dinner. In conclusion, I highly approve.