I don’t put much stock into the USDA guidelines for cooking meats. I like my steak barely cooked, fish and shell fish completely raw (or close to it), my pork slightly pink on the inside, and even my poultry cooked JUST to the point of safety. The reason? Because it’s delicious that way, plain and simple – and because I trust the producers and my purveyors implicitly. I do not recommend doing so to others, especially those who are already at a greater risk of getting “really” sick, i.e. very young/old, immuno-compromised, or taking medications that mess with digestion, etc. or people who don’t have a personal relationship with a grocer to insure their protein is of the highest quality and produced adhering to the strictest safety standards.
All of that said, this is one of my absolute favorite things to make. If you live outside of a large city, good luck getting the sushi grade (frozen within a certain amount of time to a ridiculously low temperature and held there to inhibit bacterial growth – though technically, this is not regulated by the FDA) tuna. Hell, I can’t even get it regularly here unless I call in advance and have it held for me – EVERYONE BUYS THIS STUFF AS SOON AS IT HITS THE FISH CASE. Why? Because is absolutely exquisite, possibly the best tasting fish ever.
I’m going to completely bypass the political stigma of employing the use of a non-sustainable seafood item – lets just say, normally that is what I buy exclusively, this is the exception, not the rule. So what do you do with a really expensive piece of beautiful protein? Try not to mess it up. Keep it simple stupid, is the mantra when dealing with this tuna. I can’t remember if this particular batch was hamachi (yellow-fin) or bluefin but I have made this dish with both, having pretty much equal success. I prefer the bluefin, given a choice, but it’s even harder to get outside of specialty restaurant suppliers.
Here is the beautiful loin of my tuna:
Nothing that I will tell you about how to cut this fish will make your first attempt at it perfect. Use a sharp knife, cut confidently and don’t worry too much if you screw it up completely. It will still taste delicious.
This video does a pretty good job of explaining the process
Clean off any “dark” spots/meat and trim the fish into an easy to work with shape. Again, this doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t want to “trim” too much because this fish is quite pricey. Cut against the grain, holding the knife at a 45 degree angle, and try to make slices about 1/4 inch thick in one motion (Sara prefers even smaller pieces, but I like the standard).
After you have strips the length of your fish, proceed to dice it into even cubes. I have done this several times and mine is still not perfect (pretty damn close, this time, though)
Now that the fish is cut, here is what you will need to put the dish together:
Sushi grade tuna prepared as above (approx 3-4oz per person)
navel orange juice
olive oil (the very best you have)
1 seedless (English) cucumber diced
1 small red onion diced
2 tbl parsley, diced
Mix some orange juice and olive oil together, as if you were making a vinaigrette. I prefer a mix of Meyer lemon juice and navel orange juice if available, but this time they weren’t in season so I just went with the orange. The trick here is to get a slightly sweet emulsion that “feels right” on your tongue. Highly scientific explanation, I know. I usually start with the juice of about half an orange, and slowly add the oil and taste, more oil, taste, until it’s right. The citronette offers a nice contrast to the richness of the fish and the bite from the red onions.
Toss the parsley into the fish and drizzle with citronette. Get out serving plates, and fill a ring mold to the desired height with the fish, using the back of a spoon (I use the ever versatile soup spoon for this) press lightly to get an even distribution of the fish. Top with a mix of the cucumbers and red onions and CAREFULLY remove the mold. Garnish with more parsley and some of your citronette.