Monday, August 3, 2009

Cooking Improvisation - Ahi Tuna Tartare

I wish I could say that this dish was meant to wow me, impress me and woo me. But I think it had more to do with a long-standing craving and obsession of the person who made it. He's only been talking about it for, oh, about a year and a half or so. I think he's been dreaming about it as well. Something about recreating the dish he'd had in the restaurant of a fancy-shmancy hotel a few years back.

I can't really blame him though. It looked spectacular, and it tasted divine. It was a truly impressive presentation, they kind you'd see in a fancy, modern restaurant. The kind of dish you need one of those kitchen ring molds for. But if you, like me, don't happen to own one of those, don't fret. You can, much like we did, improvise!

Like anyone who has an affinity for Gin & Tonic's, I had a nearly empty plastic tonic bottle that we sliced up to create a mold. Once washed and dried, it did the job perfectly. It's an easy way to make a dish look fancy without a lot of work.

Ahi Tuna Tartare-Courtesy of Daniel

"This is a recipe for Ahi Tuna Tartarre, loosely interpreted from my recollection of a dish served at an old South Park / San Francisco haunt called 'Infusion'. Its a three-layer concoction with triangles of griddled sourdough bread. Serves 4 as an appetizer."

You'll need 2 kitchen ring molds (or whatever you can improvise!)
8 ounces very fresh ahi tuna
2 ripe avocados
1 cucumber (persian or english cucumbers work particularly well in this dish)
1 small jalapeno/serrano pepper (seeds and membrane removed)
1/4 red onion
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp soy or tamari sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 loaf good custy bread (cut into triangles)

Make sure all ingredients are chilled. Try putting the avocado in the freezer for about 20 minutes for the best results. It will be easier to work with.

Dice the ahi, cucumber, and the onion into a consistent size (about 1/4 inch). Dice the jalapeno into an even smaller size. Marinate the ahi with half the jalepeno in the soy sauce. Mix the cucumber and onion in the rice wine vinegar, and add salt to each (I suggest doing this to taste). Dice or mash the avocado and add the juice of half a lime and a little salt.

Taste each component and add more salt or jalepeno to your taste.

Next, arrange the layers in the mold on your dinner plate, splitting the mixture equally into each mold. Toss the sesame seeds in with the ahi mixture and create the first layer at the bottom of your mold. Next, add the cucumbers and onion, packing the mold down a bit, and finally, add the avocado on top. Chill in the refigerator while you cut your bread into triangle and spread a little olive oil or butter on it, then grill, toast or griddle the bread on both sides. Pressing a heavy pan down on top of the bread while grilling helps ensure nice grill marks on the bread.

Carefully remove the molds from the tartares. Serve with bread!

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