Monday, August 18, 2014

Sesame Seared Ahi with Beurre Blanc Sauce

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Sesame Seared Ahi with Beurre Blanc Sauce 
Serves: 4
Difficulty Level: Easy
Sesame Seared Ahi with Beurre Blanc Sauce 

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 heavenly. Its ubiquity and popularity in sushi restaurants is a testament to how good ahi can taste served rare. In other words, less is more. However if you are a bit squeamish about partially cooked fish, you can adjust the time in the oven accordingly – or if you want it seared only, skip the oven step altogether. One could also substitute Ahi with Mahi Mahi, Shark or center cut Halibut.

Perfect Ahi....
Beurre blanc, literally translated to White Butter, is a classic Brittany preparation that is especially good over mild flaky fish of any kind. There are many variations on the preparation but most entail a reduction of white vinegar and/or white wine and shallots into which cold, whole butter is blended off the heat to prevent separation and keep the emulsion from breaking. Good wines for the reduction include Chablis or Chardonnay, but any drinkable dry white wine will do. For a delicious luxurious beurre blanc, try making it with leftover Champagne! I cannot tell you how many people claim they don’t usually like fish but love it when I serve it. I’m dying to tell them it’s just the sauce, but that’ll be our secret.
  • 4 – 6 oz. fresh sashimi grade Ahi Yellowfin Tuna
  • Sesame Seeds to coat
  • Sesame Oil
  • 1-2 shallots, chopped fine
  • 8 oz. white wine
  • 2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tb heavy cream
  • 12 Tb cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

To make beurre blanc:
Combine shallots, white wine and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to 2 Tb. Add the cream to the reduction. Once the liquid bubbles, reduce the heat to low. Add the butter, once cube at a time, whisking first on the heat and then off the heat. Continue whisking butter into the reduction until the mixture is fully emulsified and has reached a rich sauce consistency. Season with salt and white pepper. Traditionally the shallots would be strained out before serving, but that is optional. 
Beurre blanc sauce is now ready
To hold the sauce, store the beurre blanc in a thermos or set the pan in a larger pan of lukewarm water until ready to serve. If the sauce separates, transfer a spoonful of the sauce to a cold mixing bowl and gradually whisk the rest of the sauce in by the spoonful.  The sauce can be reheated by gradually whisking 2-3 Tb of hot liquid, i.e. water, cream or stock.

To prepare Ahi:
Allow the ahi tuna steaks to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before you start to cook to let the natural moisture of the fish work its way through the meat. Heat the oven, if using, to 350 degree F. Season the ahi tuna lightly with salt and heavily coat the tuna on both sides with sesame seeds
Ahi sprinkled with the sesame seeds
Heat a heavy cast-iron or stainless steel ovenproof pan over med-high heat until a few drops of water sprinkled in the pan evaporate within 3 seconds. Then, after the pan is sufficiently hot, coat the bottom of the pan with about 2 tsp sesame oil. As with cooking meat, this step is important for a great sear. Follow the rule of “hot pan, cold oil = no stick”. Why? The metal of the pan is full of pores that expand when heated and allows the oil to settle in those pores. If you add oil to a cold pan the surface tension of the oil is so great that is will “pool” and rest on top of those pores, when you add fish, its weight will push the food product into the grain which is not lubricated and your food will stick.

The sesame oil will heat quickly in the hot pan. Look for it to shimmer. Now add your sesame coated ahi steaks. Do not move the steaks. Let it create a sear. Regardless of thickness of the tuna, it should sear for 2 minutes on each side. It is ready to serve at this point if you prefer a warm but raw center. We prefer a bit more cooking and then put the pan immediately into a warmed oven for 3-4 minutes. You can adjust the time to your preference. Pull from oven and out of pan; serve immediately with Beurre blanc sauce. It’s simply amazing. We loved serving it with the Thai cucumber salad with peanuts. (recipe to follow....look for it next week!!) I think you will too!


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