Escabeche of Ahi Tuna with Papaya-Mango Relish
Makes 50 appetizer-sized portions
|Escabeche of Ahi Tuna with Papaya-Mango Relish|
This is one of my favorite appetizers-to-impress. Several good friends were recently kind enough to have a All Larue dinner for 14 guests – all from recipes from my blog! My responsibility was to bring an unpublished surprise appetizer. This is the recipe that kicked off a memorable evening. It was truly magical evening – the menu is posted below should you be so inclined!
It can, actually must, be done in advance and scaled up or down to feed a small dinner party or a large group gathering. It could also work as an entrée. Escabeche (es-kah-BECH-ay) is a classic Spanish preparation in which you sear meat or fish, marinate it in a vinegary sauce loaded with spices, then serve it cold or at room temperature. I have given it a bit of an Asian twist with the addition of wasabi to counter the sweet papaya-mango relish. Crunch is provided by the use of either a deep fried wonton wrapper or your favorite tortilla chip.
There is nothing quite like fresh fish. And when it’s fresh, the simplest preparation will often suffice. Yellowfin tuna, also known as ahi, demonstrates this principle perfectly. With just the barest cooking time, the flavor of a fresh piece of ahi is sublime. Its ubiquity and popularity in sushi restaurants is a testament to how good ahi can taste served rare. In other words, less is more.
This recipe is for an escabeche of chili crusted seared ahi tuna. You must use fresh sashimi quality tuna. No exceptions. The fish is given a generous coating of spices before being cooked. And when I say cooked, I do not really mean cooked. You really just want to sear the ahi, leaving the middle quite rare. What you get is a wonderful contrast of textures, with the buttery smooth interior juxtaposed with the crusted exterior. Then it is steeped in a marinade for 24-48 hours before serving – escabeche – referring to a dish that has marinated in an acidic mixture before serving – usually a vinegar or citrus juice.
- 2 red onions, peeled and diced
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 10 jalapenos, seeded
- ½ C ancho chili powder
- 6 Tb ground cumin
- 2 Tb minced garlic
- 6 C fish or chicken stock
- 1 C white wine vinegar
- Kosher salt & Pepper to taste
Ahi Tuna Seasoning
- 2 Tb ancho chili powder
- 6 Tb kosher salt
- 3 Tb black pepper
- ¼ C olive oil
- 2½ - 3 lbs sashimi grade ahi tuna
- 2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into ¼” dice
- 2 papayas, peeled, seeds removed and cut into ¼” dice
- 4 jalapenos, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into ¼” dice
- 2 red peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut into ¼” dice
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped. If you have time, even better if sliced and grilled before chopping
- 1 large bunch of cilantro chopped
- 6 Tb lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
Wonton wrappers, or Corn tortilla chips
Wasabi paste for garnish
To make the marinade:
Puree the first six ingredients in a food processor: red onions, cilantro jalapenos, ancho chili powder, ground cumin and garlic with some quick pulses. You will want it finely chopped. Pour all into a saucepan, add stock and vinegar and bring to a boil. Then, simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cool in refrigerator.
|What the marinade looks like when done|
To prepare Ahi Tuna:
Cut tuna into 2-3 equal pieces. Mix ancho chili powder, salt, black pepper together. Add in olive oil and mix thoroughly. Rub all over each piece of tuna. Preheat a cast iron skillet until water splashed in pan spatters. Sear tuna on all sides over high heat about 30-45 seconds per side. Set aside and let cool.
|Seasoning rubbed on the Ahi|
To make Papaya-Mango Relish:
To make the relish, the first step is to roast the peppers. A previous blog post goes into detail on how to do this:
Then, stir together all ingredients for the relish:
mangoes, papayas, jalapenos, red peppers, red onion, cilantro, limejuice, salt
and pepper. Let stand a minimum of 30 minutes before serving and up to 4 hours.
|And the final product|
To fry Wonton Wrappers:
Using a sturdy deep pan, heat canola oil to about 350 degree F (or until a drop of water sizzles vigorously). Cut wontons in half diagonally with a serrated knife. Using a toothpick, poke three - four small holes into each half. Drop the halves, one at a time, into the hot oil – just takes seconds before it browns, turn it over and then remove to drain on paper towels. Continue in similar fashion until all selected wrappers have been fried.
Remove tuna from marinade, reserving the liquid. Thinly slice the ahi against the grain at about a 25-degree angle into ¼” thick pieces with a sharp slicing knife. Do not saw at the fish with the knife. Instead, put pressure on the fish and drag your knife in one long stroke. Set them aside.
I like to arrange all the component pieces onto a large serving tray. If assembled in advance, the fried wonton or tortilla chip becomes soggy. It may require that you prepare and serve your guests a few at first until they get the hang of it and can do their own.
To serve: Place a small seared piece of ahi on wonton or chip. Put a bit of the marinade on top. Next add a small bit of papaya-mango relish and dribble a bit of wasabi on top or nearby on the serving plate.
|Various stages of completion. Note how little of the Ahi is cooked....just the edges.|
If by some miracle there is any left, the fish will stay in good shape for a week or more, so long as the vinegar marinade sauce covers it.
I hope you will give this a try. The first time may seem a bit daunting but it actually is quite easy and forgiving. It is key to use only the freshest of fish – remember, no exceptions.
The only wine to serve with this is Champagne!
Menu from the First Cooking with Larue Dinner:
|The Cooking with Larue dinner with the soup duo served|
All recipes are on the Blog and can be found by using the Search function
Escabeche of Ahi Tuna with Papaya-Mango Relish
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