Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ahi Sashimi with Soy Bean Purée

Those of you who have been following along for a while, may remember my mentioning some great food on my trip to New York. The trip was such a busy tiring one, I barely (operative word) had the energy to eat let alone take photos of the food. But one dish really stood out. I found it to be an amazing compilation of flavors and savored every morsel. This gastronomic treasure was found at Mercer Kitchen in Soho, one of Jean-George Vongerichten's many restaurants. He called it a tuna spring roll with soy bean purée.

Normally when I think of a spring roll, I think of veggies and possibly a meat, chicken or fish encased in a thin rice paper or other such wrapping. Jean-George's, however, were just the raw tuna in a circle with a very thin layer of light flakey wrapping around the edge. These were plated in a semi-circle on one side of the dish with a mirrored semi-circle of the purée on the other. In the middle was a design with another sauce or two and edamame lined up in a row like a Zen rock garden putting you at peace before entering into perfect union with your food. It was phenomenal! Did I say that already??? Well it was!

Okay. So as you might have gathered, I really enjoyed these spring rolls. But it was the sauce/purée that really cinched the deal. So what was in it? Soy bean obviously. In my mind that means edamame. I also tasted lime and there was a good amount of cilantro too. "I could make this", I thought!

Shortly after getting back from the city, I went to my farmer's market and found a new fish vendor. She touted the fish was fresh enough for sushi. So I opted to try her ahi. Not cheap... but less expensive than some stores. I thought it might be perfect to try with Jean-George's sauce!

Now for the sauce. I knew it had edamame. I put that in a blender. Cilantro? Check! Fresh squeezed lime? Check! Whiz and blend. Too chunky. Not smooth enough. I needed something to thin it out and make it a sauce. What could I add? A little oil. Olive would be too Mediterranean. So I added some vegetable oil and some sesame oil. Getting thinner. I added a little soy sauce. I added a little chili oil but not too much as I didn't want it to spicy. I couldn't add much more lime as it would be over-powering. And so it went. I added edamame, cilantro, lime, a combination of sesame and vegetable oils and soy sauce until the consistency and taste was close to what I envisioned.

Sorry to say, I do not have exact measurements for you. I just kept putting in a little of this, a little of that. I got close! My sauce was still thicker than the chef's but the taste was close. Not quite the same. But close. Maybe with practice I will get it! And maybe with practice, I can work out some measurements and better guide for you. Because this definitely had a great flavor!

I tried to plate mine similarly to the restaurant presentation. Of course, my ahi was just raw and sliced. In the center I made a design with soy sauce, sesame oil and chili oil with the edamame beans in a line. Unfortunately when I brought it to the table the oils and sauce blended around and wasn't as pretty as it was when I first did it. I also had to realign my beans for you.

I think my version may have been better suited to a grilled white fish. A lovely sword fish or even sea bass or halibut would have been divine!

This photo is far from ultra appetizing but as an experiment, I took a small piece of the ahi and rolled it lightly in panko. I then QUICKLY tried to brown it in a pan of hot oil. Unfortunately the ahi cooked up much more than I would have liked. I wanted a crunchy outer texture and seared fish but it was almost cooked all the way through as you can see. It was pretty good. But I liked it raw better.

I wish you could taste it too and help me decide the proper ingredients and quantities. But I will keep at it and see if I can't get it to be a bit closer to the original.

Now look at my messy kitchen upon preparing just one experimental dish for just myself! Oh and some rice and peas for the kids. Pathetic! Wish I was neater when cooking. Then it wouldn't be such a pain to clean up afterward.


That Girl said...

This is a dish my husband would love!

A World in a PAN said...

Cooking is all about exploring, bravo!

MamaGeek said...

Divine. And I love the food presentation / shots - SO lovely!!

Nicole said...

Kate- Funny ... you don't eat fish but your husband does. I am opposite.

Laura- Thanks! I love to explore.

Mamageek- Thanks. I try.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Nicole I think you did a great job of recreating your fabulous meal. btw, my kitchen looks just like yours after I'm done cooking, you should see it after a Daring Baker challenge! Disaster!!

Robin Sue said...

I experimented once with cream of chicken soup. By the time I added a little of this and that I had two gallons of the stuff! My kitchen gets really messy too.

Nicole said...

Proud Italian- I can imagine your kitchen after the baking challenge! Baking is even messier than savory dishes (usually).

Robin- My soups grow like that all the time! Funny thing about soups. Good to know there are other messy chefs out there!

melissa said...

I can see you wanted to cook it less. Always looking for better ways to just sear my tuna, whatever tuna. :) I mess it up damn near every time, by at leas a little! Dang it!

Thanks for stopping by on that crazy post. I actually remember you stopping by another time, before all this current hoopla. I think we're both in OC (or were you before?), so if you are, feel free to hit me up. We should have ramen or sushi!

Lori Lynn said...

Adventure in the kitchen! Isn't it fun to try to recreate a meal from a famous chef? I love the experimentation process. Cute post.

Nicole said...

Melissa- It is soooo easy to overcook fish! I have not mastered the searing art at all.

Your post IS hilarious. I mean it is serious in a way but so funny too. You have so many comments, I don't know how you have time to read all of them!

I am in OC. (We talked sushi and Claros before). Always have been aside from college. I would love to get together some time--especially for sushi which is my favorite!!! Getting away from my kids is the only hard thing. My husband isn't home much.

Nicole said...

Lori- I love the experimentation as well!

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I love your adventuresome spirit!!! Too bad about the mess....it's the one drawback to experimental cooking. This would be fun for me to try too. I just bought a Japanese rice cooker & I'm testing out all kinds of Japanese cuisine to justify the expense.

xoxox Amy

Anonymous said...

Hey, i go to Mercer kitchen quite often too! I had that! Okay you want the recipe?.. I have the recipe. ;-)

Tuna Spring Rolls w/Soy Bean coulis


1 pound edamame (fresh soybeans), fresh or frozen and thawed
1 big bunch cilantro, thick stems removed, washed and left wet
1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 Thai chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 tablespoon lime juice
4 large leaves of Savoy cabbage
12 ounces tuna, cut into 4 equal rectangles
2 tablespoons pickled ginger
Cracked black pepper
4 spring roll wrappers, each 8 inches square
2 egg yolks, beaten in a bowl
Oil for deep frying
Soy sauce


Shell the soybeans; cook them in boiling salted water to cover for about 2 minutes, or until tender; drain. Set aside about 1/4 cup for garnish and put the rest in the container of a blender with the cilantro, nam pla, garlic, chiles, and lime juice. Puree, adding water as necessary (about 1/4 cup is usually right) to allow the machine to do its work; taste and adjust seasoning as necessary and set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling salted water to cover until tender but still a little crunchy, about 3 minutes. Drain and dry on towels; cut out the tough center vein. Lay a rectangle of tuna on each leaf, along with some of the pickled ginger; sprinkle with pepper. Roll up the leaf and dry again.

Arrange one of the spring roll wrappers with a point facing you. Put the cabbage-wrapped tuna in the center of the wrapper and fold over the left and right corners so that they meet in the middle and one overlaps the other. Brush a bit of the egg yolk over the top half of the wrapper. Fold the bottom half up, then roll tightly; the yolk will seal the spring roll. (You may prepare the spring rolls in advance up to this point; refrigerate, well-wrapped or in a covered container, for up to two hours before proceeding.)

Heat the oil to 375 degrees. Deep fry the spring rolls, for a minute or two, just until they are pale gold; the outside will become crisp but the tuna will remain raw. Use a serrated knife to cut each roll into three pieces, and sprinkle the open face of each piece with a tiny bit of salt and soy sauce (it also looks nice if you drizzle a little soy sauce on the plate). Serve with the soy coulis, garnished with a few soybeans.

Nicole said...

Amy- You should try it! I hate the mess but it is somehow a less offensive mess than putting away all the laundry and toys and the floors 24/7.

Zen- You have the recipe!! Yeah! You are a doll. Thanks so much. I will try it very very soon.

Bren@Flanboyant Eats said...

yeah if only my kitchen could stay that clean even when i'm cooking for just myself!

who doesn't love ahi!

Jared said...

That ahi looks great. I have always thought about buying fresh fish instead of going to a sushi restaurant, but usually back out in the end and just pay the money to go out for sushi. Nice presentation!

RecipeGirl said...

Hey, Kudos to you for re-creating the whole thing!! Looks like something my hubby would love for sure :)

taste memory said...

ahi sushi you sliced looks glorious! Slicing sushi isn't as easy as looks - you did fantab job.

Hey I am ALL for experimentation+adventure - great posts....lookin' good ;-)

Nicole said...

Bren- Well you are only seeing half in that shot. Not the total island. Nice to know others are messy like me!! ;-)

Jared- I am with you. That is what I NORMALLY do. This was the first time going raw at home.

Lori- Thanks! It was so fun.

Taste Memory- Thank you. quite a compliment coming from an experienced raw foodie like yourself!