Sometimes Fresh Is Best

No, I don’t mean choosing fresh steak over the road-kill you pass on the way to the coffee shop (most of the road-kill around here is squirrel, and while I have been told that squirrel isn’t bad, I am in no rush to find out). I mean freshly prepared dishes, as opposed to food that has been prepared in advance. My lovely wife and I like Tuna Tartare in all of its many incarnations, so we are always willing to try a new andinteresting variation. But making it in advance just doesn’t work. Tartare is an extreme example of my point, because by chopping or mincing or grinding the flesh you are increasing the surface area exponentially, and surface area = oxidation. As we all know, mostly by personal experience, oxidized food doesn’t taste very good. It may be perfectly safe, but I don’t make my food choices based on safety. Oh, sure, sometimes oxidation helps, wine being the example that leaps to mind. But for the most part, food that oxidizes readily is best prepared just before consumption.

As usual, there is another point to be made. Sometimes, fresh isn’t best! There is a long list of foods that improve with a little bit of refrigerator time. Stews and sauces and braised goodies of course, and I am sure that there are others, I just can’t think of them.

22 Replies to “Sometimes Fresh Is Best”

  1. This is very true with ground beef as well. More so than people realize, I think.

    The second you grind beef, it starts getting funky. Imagine what happens when it sits around a supermarket for hours?

    There’s nothing quite like grinding your own beef. Sure, your hamburger may take an hour and a half to prepare, but it’s going to be good, and it’s going to be much safer than one made from hundreds of cows (supermarket ground beef), because it will be made from one cow (assuming you buy a chuck steak and grind it). You can buy a grinder attachment for your standing mixer for 80 bucks or something silly. It will give you hours of enjoyment.

    I haven’t had tuna tartare in too long. What’s your approach?

  2. I go to the keys every year. I usually catch several Blackfin Tuna. They taste as good as yellowfin or bluefin. They are just smaller. This year I did not catch any tuna, but I did get several small Mahi Mahi. Here is a link to some small ones we caught.
    Fresh Mahi is good too. It has a sweet taste. My second favorite fish Tuna is 1st. I will have to root around and find a pict of the 60# Mahi I caught.

  3. Oh ye of little faith!

    I made it on Monday, using a recipe that I dug up from…I have no idea. But it’s in my files, and it tastes great.


    Serves 2

    For the Tuna
    12 oz. Sushi quality Tuna (1/4 inch dice)
    1/2 Scallion trimmed and minced
    2 Tsp. Soy Sauce
    1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use the best you have)
    2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
    1 Ripe Avocado (diced)

    For the Vinaigrette*
    1/2 Shallot finely minced
    3/4 Cup Blood Orange Juice (regular OJ is fine)
    2 Tbsp. Champagne Vinegar (White wine vinegar is fine)
    3 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
    1 Tbsp. Honey
    1 1/2 Cups Canola Oil
    1 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Thyme
    Salt & Pepper to taste (be gentle!)

    For The Rest
    ¼ inch slices of baguette, toasted gently (just a hint of color)
    Mesclun or Spring mix

    1. Add shallots, orange juice, champagne vinegar, soy sauce and honey to blender, pulse.
    2. Then add oil slowly with machine running.
    3. Finish with thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside for plating.
    4. Season Tuna in a stainless bowl and mix well.
    5. Place a 3” ring on a plate. Place about 1/2 a diced avocado in the bottom and then even with a spoon.
    6. Top with half of the tuna, pressing down into the ring.
    7. Toss the lettuce with some of the vinaigrette and arrange around the ring. Remove the ring, garnish with the toasted baguette.

    * This makes a lot, but it is a great dish, and the dressing will last for a few weeks at least.

  4. Yes, and sometimes spending 10 minutes in preparation for a meal is a tolerable use of my time. This isn’t the only recipe for tuna tartare, it’s just the last one I used, and it happens to be pretty good. I will also go the minimalist route sometimes. I like mixing it up every now and then — it keeps my palate fresh.

  5. hmmm, i’ll stay out of that. however, it is a bit much, can see why the “minimalist” from the nyt might not be your cup of tea.
    maybe overcompensating? no, sorry.
    again, however, for me the most important part of TUNA tartare is the quality of the meat, (if it really sashimi quality and fatty you hardly need the oil), and the way it is cut. no connective tissue, very sharp knife, across grain, cold,cold,cold. or, chuck it in the robot-coupe and whirr it into oxidized oblivion.
    then a little caviar, and a simple vinaigrette.

  6. I also make it with a few drops of oil and a teaspoon of chopped shallot. As I said, sometimes simple is good too. But you bring up an excellent point: the quality of the fish is by far the most important part. And the connective tissue is a big pain. I have seen sushi chefs scrape the meat off of the thick bands of white tissue that tuna has in it. But the consistency becomes mushy and not as pleasant as my preferred small dice. I find that I just don’t use that part of the fish. I’ll sear it and stick it in the refrigerator for lunch the next day.

    Please tell me that you are joking about the blender! I have never had it prepared that way, but then I have never ordered it in a restaurant that I wasn’t sure would do a good job.

  7. I think the olive oil, in these proportions, is just adding a bit of flavor and possibly some mouthful, and it’s not necessarily for the lipids.

    it’s burger night over at my house tonight, but now i kinda wish it was tuna tartare night.

  8. i meant to say “mouth feel”. the font is so small here. and my eyes, not so good.

    i go to Ridgewood Fisheries for my raw stuff. a hidden little gem, with parking right across the street (for a quarter). i get whatever tuna looks good. it’s all sushi quality, and some of the tuna is more than others. if i’m chopping it up, i go for the least expensive, which isn’t all that cheap. but i feel it’s worth it. the “tuna steaks” at places like Whole Foods just never do it for me.

  9. I’ve walked in there, but never looked carefully enough. Next time I’ll give it a shot. The advantage of buying those beautiful trimmed pieces is that there is no waste. The question is: does it pay?

  10. Does it pay? I guess that depends on your sensibilities vis-a-vis food and value.

    For me, yes. 25 bucks for enough tuna for 4 people is well worth it. I’ve spent more than half of that on tuna tartare in restaurants which didn’t come close to what I can do at home.

    Sometimes I’ll buy a long piece of that tuna, roll it in dark chocolate, freeze it, and eat it like a popsicle. Awseome dessert treat.

  11. When I run to the Bahamas, We eat Yellowfin or Blackfin fresh. Tuna is best, but Wahoo is very good too. Catch them, Gut them, throw them on Ice. Dinner. (if you are not close enough to shore to cook them)

  12. The trick to the fine dice you need for tartare is 1) knowing there will be substantial waste, and 2) slightly freezing the fresh tuna before you start slicing it.
    As an aside, while I love tuna tartar, I adore scallop tartare.

  13. I have an extremely sharp knife that works fairly well even when the tuna is only cold. I cut it into 1/4 inch chunks, which gives me the texture I like.

    I have had scallop tartare, but it was a long time ago when my palate was less refined, and i can’t remember a thing about it. How do you make it?

  14. The way I make it is very, very simple. Bay scallops, sweet as sugar and extra fresh, cut in 1/2 or quartered. A drizzle of EVO, a little micro basil, a hint of fleur de sel. I had the dish the first time at esca and it was just awesome!

  15. Scallops are awesome!
    hey are coming back here in the Tampa Bay area. I caught about 2 gallons of them this season.

    Oct 15 was the opening of stone crab season. I found a ghost lobster trap, (the buoy was cut off and the trap was laying on the bottom) I found 5 stone crabs the size of a dinner plate!!!!!!!!!!. The claws were the size of a child’s hand.

    They were very good!

  16. I prefer crab to lobster, and big stone crab claws are, short of king crab, some of the best crab out there. In my opinion. Most meat, least work. Has the same sweet taste as most other crab.

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