Friday, June 24, 2011

Guest Gourmand

Tuna Slider with breaded panko

Today's Guest Gourmand is my friend Chef Bobo (aka Robert Surles).  He is the Executive Chef and Food Services Director at the Calhoon School in Manattan's Upper West Side.  We met in Spin Class at the Y and soon discovered we are both foodies.

When Chris Walsh asked me if I wanted to be a guest gourmand in his blog and contribute a recipe, of course I did – thought he wouldn’t ask.  You see he writes about food for skinny people or for people who want to be skinny.  As I reminded him, I’m not skinny!  Never have been.  I weighed 11 ½ pounds when I was born!  But I do know how to cook healthy, low calorie meals that taste delicious.  And I have a feeling that is what he really wants!  While I don’t really consider Chris a skinny guy he does practice a rigorous routine that keeps him very lean.
 One Saturday while visiting the farmer’s market at Lincoln Square, I went to the fish monger to buy fish for dinner that evening.  They had some beautiful small chunks of blood red tuna that sounded a bell in my head, “tuna burger sliders for the skinnies!”  So I bought some of the small chunks along with a couple of nice tuna steaks for dinner that night.  So, after my Thursday midday Spin Class (it was a rainy, humid miserable day to be outdoors) I decided to have some fun with my tuna sliders!  I had frozen the extra pieces of tuna that I bought on Saturday because I wasn’t sure when I would be getting around to making the sliders.  But on Thursday morning I when I saw the weather, I thought, “this is the day to play around with tuna sliders!” So I took them out of the freezer to let them thaw until I got home from the gym.  When I got home they were perfect. Still ice cold but not frozen hard.  So, I got everything out to have some fun.  I already had everything that I imagined would make these little hockey pucks taste good when I was fantasizing about them.  I had a lot of fun and here are the results of my afternoon playtime.

The ingredients
Tuna Burger Sliders
10 oz                Fresh Raw Tuna  about 1” thick
½ tsp                Grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp                Grated fresh garlic
½ tsp                Grated onion
½ tsp                Wasabi paste (you buy this in tubes)
 Pinch              Ground Cumin
½ tsp                Sea Salt
1 tbs                Soy Sauce
¼ tsp                Sesame Oil
                        Freshly Ground Black Pepper (I like lots of it)
1 tsp                Olive Oil
Whole Wheat Slider Buns

Optional Ingredients
1 tsp                Chopped Cilantro
1 tsp                Mayonnaise
¼ tsp                Sriracha
½                     Avocado
½                     Lime
Tomato Slices
Onion Slices
1 tbs                Panko Crumbs
Baby Lettuce Leaves and/or Sprigs of Fresh Cilantro

“Banh mi” dressing made with Mayo and Sriracha

Sriracha is made from sun ripen chilies which are ground into a smooth paste along with garlic and packaged in a convenient squeeze bottle

1.      Dry the tuna with paper towels. If not already done, cut tuna steaks into 1” cubes.  Tuna should be cold so that you don’t have to add egg to hold it together in patties after it has been chopped.  Put the tuna cubes in a food processor and pulse it on “chop” a few times.  Watch it very carefully, you don’t want a paste.  I stopped pulsing when the tuna was broken down into about ¼” – ½” chunks.  Remove tuna from food processor and put into a glass bowl.  Refrigerate until tuna is well chilled

2.      Prepare the seasonings for the slider patties:  Grate the ginger, onion and garlic, measure out the wasabi paste, combine the soy sauce and sesame oil, combine the cumin and salt.
3.      When the tuna is chilled, remove from the refrigerator and add all the seasonings (ginger, onion, garlic, wasabi paste, soy sauce, sesame salt, cumin and salt.)  Grind the black pepper over the tuna – put in as much as you want.  Mix the tuna and seasonings together with your hands until well combined.  If you are a sushi eater you can taste the mixture to see if you need a little more of this or that.  Shape the tuna into 4 patties, 2.5 ounces each.  Once again, put them in the refrigerator to chill.  They can hold like this for a few hours if you want, just cover them with some plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.
4.      On the stove, at high heat, get an 8” skillet, with a nonstick surface, very hot. 
5.      Remove the tuna patties from the refrigerator.  Add the olive oil to the pan and roll the oil around to make sure it covers most of the pan’s surface.
6.      Add one patty to the pan.  You’ll hear it sizzle (like a hamburger!) and it’ll smoke a little. Turn the heat down to medium high and let the tuna patty cook until it is opaque half way up the side.  At that point turn it to cook on the other side.  If you want the tuna medium rare leave it in the pan a very short period of time (1 minute) and remove. If you want it cooked a little more you can leave it for about 2 minutes. You can cook up to two patties at a time like this without interfering with the heat of the pan.
7.      At this point your burgers are done and you can do what you want from here!

Here’s some things I tried with my 4 tuna patties.
1.      I cooked the first patty in the olive oil, simple with no added ingredients .  I left it medium rare. It colored beautifully and actually looked like a beef burger slider.
2.      For the second patty I rolled it in Japanese panko crumbs and it fried in the olive oil. You can’t cook the breaded patty medium rare like because you want the panko crumbs to become golden and crisp.  It does make for a nice crisp surface for the tuna burger.
3.      For the third burger, I chopped up some cilantro and worked it into the patty with a little squirt of lime juice.  I then cooked it the same way I did  the first patty.  I have to admit, this one was my favorite of the 4.
4.      For the fourth patty, I cleaned the pan of all traces of oil and seared the patty on a dry pan.  It didn’t stick and it cooked nicely, but it had less color than the other 3 patties.  Since the flesh was seared on a dry pan the slider had the taste of having been grilled.
I have to admit I ate two of them with buns even though I was quite full after eating only one.  For both, I made a “banh mi” dressing using 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise and a healthy squirt of sriracha sauce. 

The first one, the one with the chopped cilantro, I dressed just like I would a hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion and the banh mi sauce.  I had caperberries and smoked pickled okra on the side, instead of pickles.  It was so satisfying and quite filling. And sooo good! Great flavors going on in this slider.
For the second slider, the one with the panko crumbs, I dressed it with sliced avocado (bathed in lime juice) and onion, and a nice sprig of cilantro, along with the banh mi sauce. This was over the top delicious! Next time I’d add some chopped jalapeno to the tuna patty and mix some ancho chili powder with the panko crumbs.  It would be a sort of Mexican Style Tuna Slider!
These nice little sliders are perfect for a “skinny” meal.  You certainly don’t need ketchup or French fries with these.  The nutritional balance of the meal includes 2.5 ounces of low fat tuna, fresh veggie garnishes and a whole grain roll.  Have a piece of fruit afterwards and you will have eaten a perfect meal, very much consistent with the Mediterranean diet.

Since you are making 4 patties with this recipe, go ahead and cook all 4 and freeze the ones you don’t eat.  I wouldn’t freeze them raw because when frozen fish thaws it has an awful lot of water that needs to be soaked up and I fear the patties won’t hold together.
Now if all the trendy people could see you eating your Tuna Burger Slider, they would be so envious!  You see, sliders happen to be very “in” right now!  You see them on menus in a lot of restaurants!  I’m having lots of clients ask for them when I cater an event. 
Today's Guest Gourmand Chef Bobo

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