Celebrity chef Michael Mina created his signature Tartare of Ahi Tuna almost twenty years ago when he opened his first restaurant, Aqua in San Francisco.
Now he has three restaurants in that city, plus numerous eateries from coast to coast, including Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point.
Instead of the standard beef-centric tartare ingredients, he riffs on the raw theme using sashimi-grade ahi tuna along with roasted chili oil, Korean pears, fresh jalapenos, pine nuts and fresh mint.
Here’s the short video that shows how Mina makes the tartare.
Adding Korean pears to the dish brings a just-right crunch.
In his restaurants he serves the dish composed on the plate. The finely diced fish is pressed into a ring mold to leave it in a tidy disk when the mold is removed. The yolk of a quail egg sits in a shallow recession at the top. The bright red mound is surrounded with individual piles of the remaining ingredients and the whole shebang is mixed at the table by the server after the guest gets to see the pretty presentation. Chic, yes, and delicious, too.
But for making at home, he said that it would be easier to mix it in one big batch in the kitchen, and form the mixture on plates pushing it with the back of a spoon into a triangle and rectangle shape on each plate. And instead of quail egg yolks, use a find-it-anywhere chicken egg yolk.
(Not sure why, but I love shots of photographers snapping photos. Here Curt Norris shoots chef Mina with his Tartare and Stonehill Tavern’s executive chef Raj Dixit with Mina’s delectable whipped ricotta spread – which will be featured in an upcoming story.)
Mina’s Tartare of Ahi Tuna
Yield: 4 servings
1 pound sashimi grade ahi tuna loin, free of sinew
2 Korean pears
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice mixed with 1 cup water, for holding pears
2 green jalapenos, veins and seeds removed, minced, seeds and veins reserved
2 red jalapenos, veins and seeds removed, minced, seeds and veins reserved
3/4 cup roasted (Asian) chili oil
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder, divided use
Leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh mint, cut into thin strips crosswise
6 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Yolks of 4 fresh quail eggs or one yolk from large chicken egg
3/4 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
8 slices country white bread, toasted, crusts removed, cut into half diagonally
Cook’s notes: Use caution when working with fresh chilies. Wash work surface thoroughly upon completion and do Not touch eyes or face. A little chili powder is dusted onto the plate after the tartare is arranged. Place the powder in a small sieve and shake handle back and forth over plate for powder to fall in the fine dust. Procedure:
1. Put 4 serving plates in refrigerator to chill. Cut tuna into 1/4-inch cubes; cover and chill. Peel, core and cut Asian pears into 1/4-inch dice. Place in water with lemon juice; set aside.
2. Cut chilies into 1/8-inch dice and mix them together in a bowl; set aside. Put sesame oil in bowl with reserved chili seeds and veins. Set aside for 15 minutes; strain through a fine mesh strainer. Cool.
3. Toss ahi with 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame chili oil and 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder. Drain pears and pat dry.
4. To present tartare mixed in one batch in the kitchen: Toss ahi mixture with pears, chilies, mint (reserve some for garnish), pine nuts, 1 egg yolk (large chicken egg), garlic and salt. Divide between 4 chilled plates, patting mixture into a triangular or rectangular shape. Place toast on each plate, garnish with mint and serve immediately. OR, to present composed on plate: Place a 2 1/2-inch wide ring mold that is 3-inches deep in middle of one chilled plate. Push down lightly with spoon to pack mold. Remove mold. Make a shallow well in center with your finger and place yolk in center. Repeat with remaining 3 plates. Sprinkle mint on plate. Arrange chilies, pears, garlic, pine nuts and toast in small individual piles around tartare. Sprinkle plate with salt and a little ancho chili powder. Drizzle about 3/4 tablespoon sesame chili oil in droplets on each plate. Serve immediately. Have each guest use a fork and spoon to vigorously mix all ingredients (except toast).
When everything is well mixed reshape the tuna into a triangle or square.