Eric Ripert is the Executive Chef at Le Bernardin in New York. Le Bernardin is one of the finest seafood restaurants in the world. And this is completely his recipe, from his book “A Return to Cooking” by Eric Ripert and Michael Ruhlmann. Eating at Le Bernardin is a very special experience, a fish lover’s equivalent to a meal at say, Per Se. And Le Bernardin goes back a good 15+ years, so it obviously has megawattage staying power in the sometimes fickle New York City restaurant scene… I have used this recipe a few times before, always with great results, for very special and festive meals, but it is actually quite easy to make at home.
But let me back up a bit. What was the occasion that warranted this and several other special dishes? Dinner with some friends and fellow bloggers, Mila, Katrina & F, Joey & C, Socky, a cousin, Mrs MM and myself. And The Kid had two friends K and G over as well. So there were a dozen of us in all. The last time we had dinner with these friends, Katrina professed an incredible weakness for foie gras and claimed since she couldn’t boil water to make tea (or something to that effect!), there was just no way she could ever cook foie gras from scratch. Which led me to suggest that we have a foie gras dinner sometime soon. Well, that foie gras dinner turned into a four course meal which included a tuna tartare to start, seared foie gras as a second appetizer, some Wagyu steaks, followed by a surprise pork dish. Katrina brought a chocolate cake for dessert. Socky et al underwrote the wonderful wines for the evening (and did a terrific write-up here)…
My photos for the evening were horrific, since I was crazed preparing the dishes. So you will just have to “imagine” the dishes and hopefully, the guests who were present at dinner will chime in with their impressions of each course, good or bad. :) To make this dish, you must buy the finest sushi quality tuna available… I made a morning trip to Seaside market in Baclaran to get a kilo or so of the finest tuna available. Keep the tuna well chilled until you use it. And do not keep it more than a day from the time you buy it (unless you freeze it, but I don’t recommend that).
First make a mustard vinaigrette: 3 teaspoons dijon mustard, 1.5 teaspoons sea salt, some ground white pepper to taste, 2/3 cup sherry vinegar, 1/2 cup good olive oil, 2/3 cup vegetable oil (canola) and shake vigorously until emulsified. You will have roughly 1.5 cups of vinaigrette. Separate out 1/2 cup of vinaigrette. Into the 1 cup portion of vinaigrette, add 1.5 tablespoons of chopped cornichons, 1.5 tablespoons of chopped capers and 1.5 tablespoons of chopped spring onions. You can do this an hour or two ahead of assembling the dish.
About 15-20 minutes before plating your appetizer, take 1 kilo of the finest sashimi quality tuna and cut it into small cubes, roughly 1/3 or an inch square. Place it in a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of chopped cornichons, 1.5 tablespoons of chopped capers and 1.5 tablespoons of chopped spring onions and several dashes of tabasco, 3 tablespoons of dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro or wansoy and 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Toss gently with a fork to mix this all up. You MUST taste this to adjust seasonings to ensure it is not bland. Do not overmix, the tuna will turn brownish if aerated too much. It looks better if pink or red.
Next drizzle plain vinaigrette on endive leaves and plate as shown in the picture, alternate the tuna with endive and so on. Drizzle the vinaigrette with chopped cornichons and capers around the plate. Serve with warm bread. Utterly delicious. This recipe is good for 12. Sophisticated and yet relatively easy to make. A huge hit with sushi fans, but they are always surprised by the punch of mustard and tabasco and sharpness of cornichon and capers. For our dinner, I actually made 1.5 kilos worth of tuna for 12 and we managed to finish all of it. So even for those extra large servings, I think the total cost for this course was roughly PHP1,200 or roughly PHP100 ($2.30) per person (a similar dish at Le Bernardin? Probably close to PHP1,200 ($27) per person), so not bad for such a flashy starter!