One thing I’ve found surprising so far in this journey through the Alinea Cookbook is how some recipes come together almost effortlessly and others are a pain in the neck every step in the process. I can never tell at the beginning how it’s going to play. This one came together almost effortlessly, but was a pain in the neck when it came to plating the damn thing.
Here, we have a stick of tuna that been marinated and dehydrated. It’s covered with a candied glaze, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes. Wrapped around it is a piece of grapefruit zest and a sliver of ginger.
I began by making the marinade. The marinade was first cooked with water, soy sauce, fish sauce, coriander seed, lemongrass, chili peppers, ginger, white wine vinegar, and a TON of sugar. The recipe calls for red thai chili, but I couldn’t find it so I substituted some serrano chilis. After steeping for a little bit, I added the juice from 5 limes, some lime zest, ginger juice and some cilantro.
The recipe calls for a tuna loin, and I know I’ve seen what the book calls for before in many local grocery stores, but alas at the time I actually needed a tune loin, I could only find a tuna steak. It still suited my purpose, but I was really hoping for another kind of cut.
Once the strips were done marinating, I rinsed them off and put them in the dehydrator for a couple hours.
While the tuna was still marinating, I prepared the grapefruit zest. I think I did a mighty fine job of cutting a long piece of rind with a vegetable peeler. I removed the pith with a paring knife and cut the zest into long thin strips. Then I boiled some sugar and water together. Once the sugar was completely dissolved and the mix was boiling, I threw the grapefruit zest in and turned off the heat.
While the tuna was dehydrating, I strained the marinade to remove all the solid and simmered it until I had a glaze that was thick enough to cook the back of a spoon.
Just before serving, I toasted some black and white sesame seeds with some red pepper flakes and sliced up some ginger.
And voila! Tuna, candied and dried. (Btw, the recipe also calls for micro lemongrass, which is wrapped around the tunasticks at the end. I’m still unable to find micro lemongrass.)
Like I said, the tuna was a pain in the neck when it came to plating. The sticks were dry enough to stand up on their own until I started putting the glaze on them. As if thinking of Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day, they went limp. On top of that, it was very difficult to get the grapefruit zest to stick well to the tuna; they kept wanting to unwrap from the tuna as soon as I put it in the glass. And of course adding more glaze was no help.
The taste itself left something to be desired. It was more spicy than sweet. I noticed that the tuna soaked up very little of the marinade, which was delicious. The glaze on its own was phenomenal, but as soon as I added the sesame seed/red pepper flake mix, all you could taste was the heat from the red pepper flakes. If I were to do this one again, I would probably marinate the tuna for longer, dehydrate the sticks a little bit longer, and omit the red pepper flakes.