Ahi Tuna with Asian Barbecue Dipping Sauce

Ina Garten’s recipe for Barbecue Sauce includes Asian and Mexican flavors like soy sauce and chili powder – giving the sauce a more rounded edge. I love the idea of hybrid cuisines – and the Mexican Asian fusion restaurants I see continuing to pop up here in D.C. mean it must be a crowd-pleasing combo. Chorizo potstickers, anyone?

The way her story goes, she made three sauces – a traditional barbecue sauce, an Asian barbecue sauce and a Mexican barbecue sauce. Instead of selecting one, she figured, why not just mix them together?

Here, I honed in on perfecting the Asian barbecue sauce – that brings out Asian flavors and condiments, while still having that traditional barbecue sauce color, consistency and caramelized brown sugar goodness.

Mixed with Kewpie mayo, you’re in for a hell of a lot of spicy, sweet, salty and fishy undertones in a silky dipping sauce. It’s the perfect palate pleaser to go along with a ruby rare Ahi tuna steak, sliced thick.

I’m in the midst of taking a food safety manager class in order to be able to cook in commercial kitchens. I knew it would open my eyes to the sheer number of food-borne illnesses that, if you were a play-it-safe kind of person, might lead you to eat boiled rice for the rest of your life.

But when it comes to something as good as rare Ahi tuna, I’m always willing to take that risk. No amount of facts and statistics are going to sway me to order a well-done cheeseburger. Or avoid those $1 oyster specials.

I think all of us unpasteurized cheese-eating, raw seafood tower indulgers show a true love for food every time we place that order or buy that ingredient. That’s living if I’ve ever seen it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 as an appetizer.

  • 1 lb. Ahi tuna steak

F o r  t h e  M a r i n a d e

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon powdered wasabi
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  A s i a n  B a r b e c u e  D i p p i n g  S a u c e

Makes 2 cups.

  • 1 / 2 can tomato paste
  • 1 / 3 cup ketchup
  • 1 / 4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 / 4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 / 2 small medium white onion, small diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Scallions, sliced, for garnish
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Kewpie mayo, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a snug, shallow dish. Marinate the Ahi tuna steak for as long as possible, preferably 1 hour.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper, and saute until the onions are completely translucent, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for additional 1 minute. Proceed to add the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the Kewpie mayo. Stir until all ingredients are fully combined. Simmer on low to medium heat for 20 minutes, until the sauce is reduced slightly.
  3. Allow to cool. Combine equal parts Kewpie mayo and barbecue sauce until you reach your desired amount of dipping sauce, mixing until the sauce is uniform throughout. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds, if desired. Chill the sauce in the fridge while you prepare the tuna.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet with a coating of olive oil. Remove the tuna from the marinade, and place in the hot pan. For a rare finish, cook the tuna for 90 seconds on each side.
  5. Remove the steak immediately from the pan, and slice thick against the grain. Serve alongside the dipping sauce. Eat immediately.

 

Pickle-Brined Fish & Chips

I’ve never brined a protein before – and after this recipe, I’m regretting not experimenting with brining sooner.

I’ve only heard the pros of the brining method, mostly from people who regularly brine their Thanksgiving turkeys. Perfumes meat with desired flavors. Keeps meat juicy and tenderized. Imparts perfect level of saltiness.

All of these held true for the brine I soaked the cod in for these fish and chips. Except I didn’t use anything elegant along the lines of an orange peel, thyme and cardamom-infused brine.  Although that sounds like a good idea.

I used dill pickle juice.

Being careful to keep the cod’s dignity intact, the brine used wasn’t the Yellow 5-dyed stuff from a jar, but leftover from the dill pickles I made a few weeks back (brining liquid instructions per that recipe, excluding the hot peppers).

With time to spare before subjecting my stovetop to yet another splattering frying session, I threw the cod in the pickle juice and allowed it to soak for a few hours.

It wasn’t the pickles that you tasted in the fish meat – I primarily tasted the garlic. Remember, the tartar sauce has a pickle thing going on already, so you are getting a double pickle hit. I welcome this with open arms.

Is it just me, or are fish and chips that much better when you’re holding the scalding hot pieces of fish in a flimsy, poorly-executed paper cone while the grease drips onto your shirt and pants? While there are plates, forks and knives in your kitchen that you could use?

Infinitely better tasting, is where I was going with that. I don’t know why that is.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  B r i n e

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • Approximately 10 cloves garlic, smashed & skins removed
  • Approximately 20 stems fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

F o r  t h e  T a r t a r  S a u c e

  • 1 / 3 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 dill pickle spear, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, minced
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

F o r  t h e  F i s h

  • 4 to 6 4 oz. pieces fresh cod fillet
  • Vegetable oil, as needed for frying
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

F o r  t h e  C h i p s

  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 2 stems thyme, leaves removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the water, vinegar, salt and sugar on the stovetop until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the peppercorns, dill and garlic and allow to cool to room temperature. Once room temperature, place the cod in the brining liquid, leaving in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours to soak.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375*.
  3. Cut the potatoes into spears, and place on a sheet pan. Toss with a coating of olive oil, a large pinch of salt, a large pinch of pepper, the thyme and the minced garlic. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and tender, tossing once to maintain even cooking.
  4. Combine the tartar sauce ingredients. Set in the fridge to chill while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Combine the flour, garlic powder, and black pepper. Toss the cod fillets in the flour, then back into the brine, then back into the flour mixture, setting the pieces of fish on a clean plate.
  6. In the meantime, heat vegetable oil in a skillet so there are 1 1 / 2 to 2 inches of oil in the pan. Once frying temperature (test oil with a pinch of flour to see if it starts to sizzle), place the cod in the oil, waiting to flip the fish only after the underside is a golden brown.
  7. Serve the fish and chips hot, in rolled newspaper or parchment paper, if desired, along with the tartar sauce.

 

Capered Salmon en Papillote

We’ve all heard the stereotype that French recipes are notorious for being highly complex – requiring hours and hours of preparation, expert-level tempering and knife techniques. But so much of their cooking is incredibly simple and so damn elegant.

It’s why France is arguably the global mecca for foodies. With an added emphasis on the word arguably.

One preparation they use for fish encloses it in parchment paper with aromatics and seasonings, and bakes it in the oven, often with in-season vegetables.

It makes for a beautiful presentation, and because it’s fish, there’s not much actual cooking time involved.

I had been wanting to try this technique for a while and finally got around to it. I wasn’t sure how achieve the moon-shaped package with a square piece of parchment paper, so I sourced a technique from the New York Times.

There’s an undeniable wow element when you’re served the fish enclosed in the package and opening it up to see what’s inside.

Just human nature I guess. Must be why wrapping paper exists. Or in my case, newspaper.

Because brine is life, I went hard on the capers. I mixed together a simple sauce to accompany the salmon with capers and thyme, to mirror the flavors used with the fish.

I remember to tell myself – simple can be incredibly elegant. The French taught us that much. I hope you enjoy this. Let me know what your other go-to herbs, vegetables and seasonings you like to use on salmon –  I bet they’d be great here.

I’m thinking an Asian-inspired version? Soy sauce, chili oil, scallions & sesame seeds?

Bon Appetit!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

  • 2 6 – 8 oz. filets salmon, silver skin removed
  • I small shallot, sliced thinly
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  C a p e r  S a u c e

  • 3 oz. crème fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon capers, minced
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon minced thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to *400.
  2. Cut two pieces of parchment paper, about 1 1 / 2 foot long, into large heart-shaped pieces.
  3. Place the salmon filets on one half of the parchment paper, folding over to ensure there’s enough paper to completely enclose the fish.
  4. Once it’s correctly placed, sprinkle the filets with salt and pepper.
  5. Top with slices of shallot, capers, several springs of thyme, and 1 tablespoon of butter per filet.
  6. Fold over the edges of the parchment paper starting at the bottom of the heart shape, until the fish is completely enclosed. It’s a similar technique you would use to crimp the edges of a pie so that the filling doesn’t escape while baking.
  7. Cook the fish for 12 minutes for medium-rarish, 15 minutes for well-done.
  8. In the meantime, combine the caper sauce ingredients. Serve in small ramekins.
  9. Remove the salmon from the oven & serve it immediately plating it, parchment and all, with sauce on the side.
  10. IMPORTANT: Stick your nose in and inhale that first whiff when you tear open the package.

Deconstructed Salmon Ceviche with Mango & Avocado-Lime Crema

Salmon not only tastes great, but I hear it’s good for you too. Not that I care about the good for you part.

Raw fish – raw food in general – must feel so satisfying because you’re eating visceral protein in its most primal form.

In spite of my debilitating motion sickness while I’m on any small sea vessel, I’d spend a summer fishing every day in a heartbeat given the opportunity.

As a self-identified part-time resident of southwest Florida, our family has taken some deep sea fishing trips in the Gulf of Mexico.

A few years back on a rickety, 20-foot fishing boat, we reeled in what Captain Vince estimated to be a two to three hundred pound “goliath grouper.” It took 45 minutes to bring it up, and four of us had to take turns reeling it in using your average, run-of-the-mill fishing rod.

I still don’t understand how that pole didn’t snap in half.

When it emerged, it was like pulling a prehistoric whale out of the water. It was covered in barnacles and its eyes were the size of golf balls. It was staring right at us. I knew it was a fish, but it had the gaze of a human who’d been through hell and back.

When you catch a fish that size, and I assume that uncommon, you always cut the line and let them go.  It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen.

I love raw salmon, and smoked salmon, so I included both in this “ceviche.” I wanted to make this more of a meal as opposed to a bite-sized amuse-bouche, which is typically the serving size I get when ordering at restaurants here in D.C. I’m always left wanting more of it.

Avocados are the perfect counterpoint to salmon, according to everyone. And I agree. I was in Oahu when this recipe sprung into my head, thus the added mango component. Pineapple would’ve been more Hawaiian-y, I know.

Adding sweet to my savory is usually against my religion, but mango just felt right here.

And if you have a round mold, which I didn’t have, these ingredients would present gorgeously stacked over one another.

Now go forth, and eat your seafood the way it’s meant to be eaten – raw!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

  • 6 oz. smoked salmon
  • 6 oz. wild salmon filet, sliced thin
  • 1 mango, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced thin
  • 2 avocados (ripe, but firm – you will only need 1 and 1 / 2 avocado for this recipe, so snack on the other half!)
  • 2 limes, 1 zested & juiced
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 stalk scallions, minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

O p t i o n a l

To go along with the fish, make a super-simple dipping sauce for added flavor – simply mix 3 parts soy sauce to 1 part sesame oil, adding a teaspoon or so of finely minced scallions.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Cut 1 avocado in half, carefully removing the core with a knife. Remove the outer peel, and slice the meat 1 / 4 to 1 / 2 inch thin. Drizzle the slices with lime juice to prevent browning & set aside.
  2. With a knife, cut the smoked salmon into 2 – 3 inch diameter circles. You could use a ramekin as well for a more uniform size.
  3. Slice the wild salmon filet thinly longways. If you put the salmon in the freezer for 10 minutes, it will make it easier to slice. Once sliced, cut the fresh salmon in a similar circular shape & size to the smoked salmon.
  4. Peel a mango, slicing the meat of the fruit from the tough core. With the pieces you have, cut them in a similar shape to the fish.
  5. Slice one jalapeno thinly, and mince the scallion.
  6. In the meantime, put the sour cream, juice and zest of one lime, half of the avocado, salt and pepper in a blender until finely pureed.
  7. To serve, spread a dollop of the avocado crema across the plate, arrange the avocados and then the smoked and fresh salmon. Top with sliced jalapenos and sprinkle with minced scallions.
  8. Serve alongside the optional soy dipping sauce & lime wedges for extra oomph.

Hack-&-Eat Crabs (Done the Maryland Way)

The state of Maryland should open a crab-themed theme park, funded by taxpayers. That’s how much we like crabs. I’m thinking a crab rollercoaster where riders sit sideways. Crab-flavored cotton candy.  A ball pit filled with live crabs for children.

My sister’s boyfriend’s family has a bay house where they pig out on crabs as often as possible, with obligatory pitchers of Bud Light.

For my birthday he gave me a big freezer bag full of crabs with…

Happy Bday

-Billy

…written in pen on the bag. My boyfriend and I sat there destroying these guys with mallets, eating them ice cold from the fridge, doused with copious amounts of Old Bay-seasoned melted butter. We were also probably a little drunk at that point.

In my all white, pristine apartment. Don’t do what I did.

Summer is coming up. And to that end, here are some recommendations for a crabby extravaganza!

That yellow bile you get when you break the crab in half is godly. Suck the juice out every claw (leg?) you pull off at the joint. You can eat the shell of some of these softer appendages, if you’re also a fan of eating the tails off of shrimp (a-la shrimp cocktail).

Here’s a short video showing how to correctly dismantle the body.

Serve these with beers poured from pitchers into pre-chilled beer mugs. List of Maryland-based brews here.

Eat outside because, please. If you live in a city like I do, I would probably find a wooden table at a nearby park.

You only really need mallets and tiny forks for meat retrieval. I never end up using the shellfish crackers. Put newspaper or some kind of durable paper down before you heave them across the table steaming hot out of the pot.

Put lots of melted butter, lemon wedges (for masking post-crab eating finger smells), malt vinegar, hot sauce, cocktail sauce and old bay on the table. Don’t forget the paper towel rolls either, or the big bowl for shells and carcasses.

And then, prepare to get flecks of crab shell in your hair, folks.

To quote a scene from Wedding Crashers, a ground-breaking motion picture that forever redefined film in America –

*bro catches touchdown pass*

Crabcakes and football, that’s what Maryland DOES!

I N G R E D I E N T S

The recommended amount of crabs to serve per person is anywhere from 8 to 12. A bushel is 7 to 8 dozen blue crabs. The recipe below would serve 4 people, so adjust accordingly when you order the crabs.

  • 1 / 2 bushel live Maryland blue crabs (approximately 48 crabs)
  • 3 lemons, halved
  • 4 -7 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning, plus additional for sprinkling after being boiled
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 sticks melted, clarified butter*
  • Enough water to fill the pot 2 / 3 of the way full

*To clarify butter, put the desired amount of butter in a shallow saucepan and melt until the solids separate from the golden liquid beneath, and with a large shallow spoon, remove the fat solids from the top. Reserve the remaining liquid.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Fill a 6 quart pot with water 2 / 3 of the way full. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, the lemon halves, and 4 tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning to the pot, adding an additional 1 tablespoon with each new batch of 12 crabs that’s added.
  2. Submerge the 12 live crabs in the water, one by one, making sure to keep the claws intact.
  3. Cook each batch for 10 minutes.
  4. Once cooked, carefully remove the crabs with tongs to a very big bowl or several large bowls (whatever you have on hand), sprinkling with additional Old Bay seasoning as you finish each batch.
  5. Serve immediately with the clarified butter and optional Old Bay seasoning, malt vinegar, hot sauce and cocktail sauce, as desired.

O P T I O N A L

  • Old Bay seasoning
  • Malt vinegar
  • Tabasco Hot Sauce
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • Bottled cocktail sauce*

*If you prefer to make your own cocktail sauce, mix 2 parts ketchup to 1 part prepared horseradish. Add a squeeze of lemon juice or Tabasco sauce for an extra kick.