- 1 pound fresh yellow-fin tuna, diced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 heaping tablespoon parsley finely chopped
- 1 lemon (for zest and juice)
- 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
- 4 heaping tablespoons chives finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 English hot-house cucumber
Tuna tartare is a perfect first course. It clearly announces to your guests that they are in for one amazing meal. And best of all, this tuna tartare is a snap to pull together.
The most important part of this whole preparation is knowing how to buy your fresh tuna. A general rule about tuna: the higher the fat content of the tuna and brighter the flesh, the higher the price of the tuna will be. A premium piece of tuna will be brilliant red, translucent, firm, and will melt on your tongue. Tuna quickly ages and will eventually grey, the muscle will break down and get soft and mushy. One trick of the trade is to treat older or lesser quality tuna with carbon monoxide. Tuna treated with carbon monoxide will appear bright in color so don’t be afraid to ask your fish monger to cut a thin slice for you to taste. Reputable markets and fish mongers are proud of their product and will go out of their way to help you make a good choice.
Preparing your tuna doesn’t require the skills of a sushi chef. Just remember that you don’t want big chunks…think plank, stick than dice. Make sure you have a really sharp chef’s knife. Start by cutting the tuna into slices (planks) about 1/4 inch thick. Then cut the slices into strips (sticks) about 1/4 inch wide and finally dice the strips into small pieces about 1/4 inch cubes. The sharp knife you started with will make all the difference in the world. Also, tuna will quickly pick up any flavors from surfaces with which it comes into contact so make sure to start with a clean cutting surface.
You’ll want to use this same cutting technique for the shallots and garlic making sure you get them cut down as small as possible – plank, stick then dice. This is especially true of the garlic. You don’t want anyone biting into a big piece of garlic.
You want to slice the cucumber into wafer thin rounds that you should practically be able to see though. Here again, the sharp chef’s knife you started with will make all the difference in the world.
Make sure you use a very good extra virgin olive oil. Given the price good tuna goes for by the pound, the last thing you want to do is paint your guest’s taste buds with a cheap olive oil before they ever have the chance to dance with the tuna.
In this recipe I call for Sriracha hot chili sauce. Sriracha has become one of one of my favorite condiments. You can find it at any mega-mart near the Asian foods. Sriracha is addictive. It gives you a quick, whole-mouth hot that quickly subsides letting you enjoy the heat bite after bite. But there’s a bit more going on here than just the heat. Your taste buds react to the heat by starting a chemical reaction in your brain that releases feel-good endorphins making your dish not only look and taste wonderful, but also making it feel wonderful.
You’ll notice that the recipe calls for 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. This is completely a taste issue. I suggest adding 1/4 teaspoon then tasting the result before adding more.
The only other equipment you’ll need is a mold that the tartare will pack into and turn-out of easily. I like using 4 oz. ramekins but I have used custard cups and even some small square forms I found at market.
- Start by chopping the tuna and add it to a 3-quart bowl with the shallots, garlic and parsley.
- Zest the lemon into the bowl. Then juice the lemon and add it to the bowl. When zesting the lemon, take care not to get any of the bitter pith – the white flesh right beneath the zest.
- Add the olive oil, soy sauce, Kosher salt, black pepper and Sriracha to the bowl and stir to combine the tartare together.
- Lightly wipe the inside of your modes (ramekins) with extra virgin olive oil and fill with tartare, lightly tapping them on a solid surface to pack them down.
- Arrange the cucumbers in a circle on a plate and invert the mold in the center of the plate. The tartare should turn-out easily. Drizzle olive oil over the tartare and around on the cucumbers. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper, top each tartare serving with a tablespoon of chives and serve.