Like pork belly anything or beet salads embedded with goat cheese, a dish of tuna tartar with fresh avocado seems to be de rigueur these days. Bistronomic serves one in a glass jar; it's one of the most popular dishes at BLT Steak in New York, and of course, every sushi bar in the country offers this combo embedded within a tube of rice and calls it a tuna roll (tekka maki). In Chicago, I think credit has to go to Yoshi Katsumura, chef/owner of his eponymous Yoshi's Cafe in Boystown, where he's had some form of tuna with avocado on his menu for more than 20 years. When it's presented like that picture above, you can't help but be wowed. My kids sure were. Yet this dish couldn't be easier to make at home. I should know. I've made it for dinner the last two nights, just to see if my skills were up-to-snuff. Look out Martial Noguier.
I started at Isaacson & Stein Fish Market in the West Loop, where I picked up some Hawaiian big eye tuna for $16.95/pound (much less than what I paid at Fox & Obel on Sunday, but one is retail, the other wholesale). I still had some big, creamy Mexican avocados I bought at the Maxwell Market just over a week ago. Everything else I had on hand: some mirin (rice vinegar), a little low sodium soy sauce, olive oil, kosher salt. That's it. My secret weapon? A used can of tomato sauce:
I've seen chefs use pvc tubes from Home Depot (they're not as high, and the insides are smooth) but this can worked just fine. I split the avocado, removed the seed, then cut a grid with a sharp knife into one of the halves. I simply scooped out those resulting cubes into the bottom of the can, which was already sitting on my plate, pressing them down into the sides, and keeping an even top layer. Then I diced up the tuna, making sure to use only the deep, magenta-colored flesh, rather than the white streaks of fat; I then tossed those cubes with a small amount of mirin, the soy and olive oil, seasoning it with salt and giving it a quick stir. I experimented with a bit of fresh lime juice last night, but served it immediately, as I didn't want it turning color, a la ceviche. I guess you could also toss in some finely-chopped chives or maybe a little fresh cilantro. Totally up to you.
I spooned the seasoned tuna onto the avocado, again, pressing it down with the back of a spoon to even it out and press it firmly against the sides of the can. I sprinkled just a bit more kosher salt on the top. Then, the Big Reveal: I simply lifted up the can, and voila! A tuna and avocado dish worthy of any two (three?) star restaurant in town, for about a third of the price.
If you think this is impressive, wait until you see what I can do on a grill in front of a live audience. Three courses in 30 minutes, all on the grill, at the Better Homes & Gardens Chill & Grill event in Lincoln Park on Sunday, May 22nd. Hope to see you then.