Saturday, April 14, 2007

Carpaccio of Yellowfin Tuna Niçoise

Let me say from the outset that I did not enjoy making this dish. Why? Because it showed me that I am not perfect (Mom, I can hear you falling off your chair laughing; quit it.). And, really, who needs to have that message reinforced when you've already had a pretty crappy week?

Here are some things I suck at:

1) I suck at thinly slicing tuna.

2) I suck at peeling and julienne-ing bell peppers.

3) I suck at patience (e.g., deboning and thrice soaking in milk then rinsing anchovy fillets).

I suppose I should look on the bright side of things. This recipe did teach me that two jobs I know for sure that I do not want in any professional kitchen are that of Olive Pitter or Pepper Peeler. I could handle the job of Anchovy Deboner because it totally appeals to me in a freakish sort of way. However, this is a dish where I should've had someone come over and help me with the prep because the things I usually find soothing and relaxing (chopping, slicing, etc.) stressed me out even more than I already was. Again, it was a crappy, busy week professionally, and I think it tainted my enjoyment of making this dish. Which bums me out. Alright. Gotta shake it off and get crackin' here.

Let's start with the tuna. Thankfully, I bought two slabs of tuna because I knew I'd probably need a second one as a backup, and I was right. Wow, I had no idea how bad I was at thinly slicing fish. It's something I definitely need to work on if I'm ever going to do this dish again. Here's the tuna before:

And here's the tuna after it's been sliced into 6 thin pieces and placed on oiled plastic wrap for flattening:

Embarrassing, isn't it? I almost didn't post this photo but then just decided I'd better 'fess up about how bad it looked, and that I was going to have to focus on taste more than presentation on this one. Here's what the tuna looked like after it had been pounded and rolled flat:

Yeah. Pretty bad. Oh well. I folded it all up in the plastic and stored it on a tray in the fridge while I prepped everything else. Up next is the tapenade. Here's the mise en place:

I love the smell of this -- oil, olives, mustard and anchovies. Deeeee-lish. You'll see the finished product in the plating portion of our program.

Now, for the salad. Here's the base of it, which is an herb salad of Italian parsley, chervil, chive tips, tarragon leaves and thyme leaves. The recipe also listed chive or thyme flowers which I couldn't find, so I was just generous with the thyme and chives on their own.

After making the herb salad -- which I would like to turn into soap somehow and bathe in it because it smelled so fresh and clean -- I then tossed in some frisée (which still reminds me of dental floss, but I'm hating it less and less these days):

Then, I tossed in the julienned red and yellow bell peppers and fennel, as well as deep fried capers, then drizzled a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and continued to hand-toss it:

Yeah, I know you must be asking yourself, "um, deep fried capers?" Yes. Deep fried capers. I strained a teaspoon or so of capers and fried them for 15 minutes in canola oil that was heated to 250 degrees:

Last but not least were the eggs. I hard-boiled six quail eggs, flattened the bottoms so they'd stand up and dipped the tops in paprika. You can see those in the final plating which is here:

Oh yeah. Forgot to mention the brioche crouton. Because I'd had such a lousy week, I didn't feel like making the brioche from scratch this morning, so I picked up a loaf at Balducci's and made the crouton with that. Yum. I can't wait to make Keller's brioche though, because it sounds great and I bet it'll make the house smell amazing.

I invited the neighbors over for a taste, and we all enjoyed it, but I have to be honest and say that even if I hadn't been in a bad mood today, I don't think I'd make this again. It was good, but not good enough to go through all the prep (and yes, for those of you playing along with the actual cookbook in hand, I also blew off the pepper confetti).

Alright. Let me end on a good note. One good thing that came out of making this dish was all the LEFTOVER TAPENADE which is what I'll have on toasted baguette slices tomorrow morning with a goat cheese omelet (made with the leftover quail eggs and bell peppers, which I'll roast tonight). That with a cup of good, strong coffee and life will be good again.

Before I go, let me take a minute to thank you for your comments and incredibly awesome emails as of late. I love that you are enjoying the site, and I want you to know how grateful I am that you continue to follow along. I'm almost a quarter of the way through the book, and I feel like I'm warmed up enough to try some of the more complex dishes. Glad you're clicking in from all the corners of the world to watch it all happen. Thank you.

Up Next: Perail de Brebis with Frisée aux Lardons

Wine Pairing: Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir, 2004.

Brands Used:
All-Clad cookware
Yellowfin tuna and brioche from Balducci's
Antica Italia olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Quail eggs, produce and herbs from H-Mart
365 canola oil
Paesana capers
Niçoise olives from Whole Foods
Penzeys paprika
Grey Poupon dijon mustard
Bellino anchovies

Music to Cook By: REO Speedwagon; Hi Infidelity. Shut UP. I was trying to cheer myself up. Clearly this album didn't help. But it was fun to sing along with and pretend to be in 7th grade again. This time, sans acne.


Mensch71 said...

I'm having so much fun reading along with your blog. Thanks for doing this. And also? Thanks for showing us the ups and the downs. I know you had a crappy week (me too!) and for some really small reason, knowing that you struggled with the thinly sliced tuna made me feel less inept in the kitchen.

Til your next attempt!

JoP said...

A happy day it is when there's another entry here, Diner Girl. You don't cook fast enough. Ruhlman doesn't write fast enough. Sigh.

I hope you have a better week and that your next FL dish blows your socks off!

As for me, I'm sticking with easy stuff for now. Like yesterday, I made applesauce as an excuse to try out my nifty new food mill. It occurred to me one day last week that a food mill could do the same thing as a tamis, but more easily. I was right. The tamis has finer holes than the finest insert for the food mill, so I'll probably end up using these in combination--food mill first followed by tamis-ing when a fine texture is required.


Anonymous said...

Yum -- and it didn't look that bad. Although I understand your frustration with the tuna. I can't slice fish either... looks delicious!

Linda said...

The tuna was fabulous even if not as gorgeous as the picture in the book. Based on my recent observations of a sushi chef, I wonder if thinly slicing fish is more about the sharpness of the knife (SurlaTable has free knife sharpening in April, don't you need an excuse to go there?) or the coldness of the fish. It just seemed like their tuna was firmer, more refrigerated or something?

Or maybe this is just my effort to keep your spirits up so you keep cooking and I get to keep eating....

Sally Forth said...

Funny, I was going to make brioche today. I think I'll try the Keller recipe, thanks for calling it to mind. As a plain old home cook, I find fish a pain to slice as well but easier if very cold. You could put it in the freezer for maybe 10 minutes and it firms up nicely. I hope your week gets better.

tjex said...

This is REALLY odd!!

I ran into your blog by accident. As it happens, I just finished doing a 6 course meal (April 14), mostly from the French Laundry cookbook.
1/2 of prep (oils,powders,couli,barigoule), 1/2 for cooking, 1 day for cleaning (not so fun)

-Salad of Haricot Verts, Tomato Tartare and Chive Oil
-Carpaccio of Tuna Nicoise
-Pan-Roasted Striped Bass with Artichoke Ravioly and Barigoule Vinaigrette
-Chevreau with Slow-Roasted Beats and Red Beet Vinaigrette

Okay, I cheated with the dessert and the brioche, didn't use the French Laundry.

I should figure out how to post my images.

For the powders, I found that using a plate is much more effective then parchment paper. I set the microwave to the lowest setting possible, ran it for 10 minutes then blotted the tomatoes with a paper towel. Repeated the process 2 to 3 times.

For the tuna, I started with a small cube 1.5in or so. Pounded that with a mallet to make it really thin and spread the tuna then used a roller very lightly to just even the surface out. It worked really well. If you do cut a circle, you can reuse what is left in the next circle you're making as it will mash together.

Hope that helps

What a great find!! Keep up the great work, I will definitely subscribe to your blog!

corycm said...

Bummer about the crappy week - at least it ended with a good meal, right?

Sounds good - even if the photos don't do it justice. The deep fried capers are intriguing, if nothing else. After fifteen minutes, I'd assume they'd be crunchy, what's it do to the taste?

I wouldn't feel bad about slicing fish thin. It's not easy unless you have a super sharp knife - a thinner blade helps too. I have a couple knifes that I keep ridiculous edges on just for that. Slice the fish cool, it helps a lot with the firmness.

By the by; yep, I got both books (FL Cookbook and Bouchon) a few months back. However, given my location, getting ingredients requires a lot of ordering, shipping, and planning way in advance. So for now, I'll keep living vicariously through you.

Jason said...

Great blog! I bought the FL cookbook a few years ago after reading Ruhlman's "Making of a Chef" and "Soul of a Chef". The book is gorgeous and a very entertaining read on its own without ever having to actually cook anything. I initially tried a couple of the recipes but put the book away as I found it pretty much over the top at the time.

Last year I received Bouchon as a Christmas gift and having since made many things from the Bouchon cookbook I have revisited the FL cookbook. I now find the FL recipes no longer so intimidating (just time consuming)

I can't wait to read your experiences on the things I have tried - the last one being the Pot Au Feu.

Keep up the great work.


Diner Girl said...

Guys -- thanks for your comments! And, JoP, to be mentioned in the same breath as Ruhlman is, well, the highest honor.

Tjex -- thanks for the advice on the powders. I'll have to try the microwave method again.

Corycm -- dive into some of the Bouchon recipes. I think those ingredients are easier to find.

Jason -- thanks and welcome! Yes, the FL recipes can be time consuming. I'm still learning how to break down some of the steps into manageable chunks so that I can do them in between working and other things.

Diner Girl said...

Oh, I forgot... Corycm -- the deep-fried capers are less caper-y. They're still salty and pungent, but it's not as overwhelming as when they're not deep-fried. I loved them!

Anonymous said...

it may help to freeze the tuna slightly and use a thin bladed very sharp knife, slice in a single, not sawing motion.

in professional kitchens many heip prep the elements of a dish making it less time consuming- if only that were the case at home.