Seared Sesame-Porcini Tuna with Three Sauces in Chocolate Bowls

This is my entry to the Chef Curtis Duffy Recipe contest hosted by Leela at She Simmers (This lady never posts anything that I don't like, you should go check out her blog). The winner of this friendly contest receives $100 off a dinner for two at Chef Duffy's restaurant, Avenues courtesy of The Peninsula here in Chicago. At that dinner, the chef will present the winner with his interpretation of their recipe and it will become a selection on the restaurant's menu. Talk about bragging rights! And a gift set from BLiS that contains a bottle of Bourbon Barrel Matured Pure Maple Syrup and a bottle of BLis Elixer Extra Old Fine Solera Sherry Vinegar both used by some very top named chefs. Yes please!

This was a really tough one I must admit. There were four ingredients that had to be used in the creation of my dish. They all seem harmless enough on there own: fish (any variety), mushrooms (any type), fennel (the whole thing: bulb, stems and fronds) and 85% chocolate. See harmless. Yeah, until you try to put chocolate and fish together! I have never heard of this and my first thoughts, while intriguing, were also bordering on the icky side. My first attempt at this involved salmon, maple, chipotle, a smoky bacon broth and chocolate sour cream. I can honestly say I have never produced anything so disgusting in my life! There are no words to describe just how gross this was. None, except wretched, putrid, barf-making, nauseating and down right awful! What was I thinking? I don't think I was. Not clearly anyway.

Unfortunately this was the only concept I had come up with and had been so sure that it work beautifully that I simply had no clue where to go from there. I began to freak out! Not a pretty sight. Not a pretty sight AT ALL! So after much agonizing and brainstorming this is what resulted. It's not perfect, but everything ended up working surprisingly well together and nobody gagged or threw up! Always a plus. It really was very delicious and fun to make and eat as well. I never knew balloons could be a kitchen tool! I would love to see how a real chef would refine this to make it even better but I used up all of my resources and then some and took this as far as my abilities were able. You should check out Chef Curtis Duffy's website if you are in need of plating ideas. His dishes and photographs are just gorgeous and he isn't hard to look at either! Really. I'm not just saying that to be a kiss-up. Relax. I'm almost old enough to be his mother. Almost ;).

I don't have a really great name for this that isn't 25 words long and would be open to your suggestions. What you're looking at here is seared tuna that was first coated with a black pepper-porcini powder and then sesame seeds. The tuna has Chinese jade gren rice between the pieces and is sitting atop sauteed fennel with fennel fronds and sesame leaves. There is fennel oil drizzled over the tuna but mine wasn't green enough to show up. The three sauces are in little chocolate bowls that I made with the 85% chocolate. They are a miso-sriracha mayonnaisse, a strawberry-balsamic-cocoa nib-chipotle sauce and a fennel-star anise-porcini-wasabi cream made with the stems and fronds of the fennel. The coolest discovery I made was completely serendipitous. I found these beautiful sesame leaves at an Asian market and bought them strictly for decoration but quickly realized that wrapping them around the tuna and rice with a dab of sauce made for some very delicious eating! I love when things like that happen! Really cool. Here then is what I did.

Recipe: Seared Sesame-Porcini Tuna with Three Sauces in Chocolate Bowls

The Chocolate Bowls

These are fun to make and very easy. A word of caution. Do not put your lovely chocolate bowls under hot lots so you can take pictures of them! See below. Duh. You should have seen me freaking out. It was a sight to behold!

Blow up some balloons to the size you want your bowls to be and set aside. Melt your 85% chocolate on a plate and roll the bottom of the balloon around in the chocolate until you have the desired look you want. Stand balloons on a parchment lined baking sheet and let chocolate harden. Keep your little lovelies refrigerated until ready to use. See easy!

The Sauces
Miso-Sriracha Mayonnaise

1/4 cup white (Shiro) miso
3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
Sriracha to taste

Mix in a small bowl and refrigerate

Strawberry-Balsamic-Chipotle sauce with Cocoa Nibs

1 quart strawberries, sliced
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar (6% acidity)
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
chipotles in adobo, to taste

Put everything into a saucepan and reduce until thick and syrupy. Strain and cool.

Fennel-Star Anise-Porcini-Wasabi Cream

1 1/2 cups light cream
2 cups fennel stems and fronds, sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 star anise
1/2 ounce of  dried porcini mushrooms
wasabi paste to taste

Put everything except the wasabi paste into a saucepan. Bring slowly up to a simmer. Reduce heat and let steep and thicken for 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature. Strain, stir in wasabi paste and then refrigerate. Garnish with fennel pollen and meyer lemon zest.

The Fennel Oil

From The French Laundry; Thomas Keller
2 cups fennel fronds
2 cups parsley
3/4 cup canola oil

In a large pot of boiling water add 1/4 cup of kosher salt per quart of water. Put fennel and parsley into a strainer and blanch for 15 seconds. Immediately plunge herbs into an ice water bath. Drain and squeeze as dry as possible. Use scissors to cut into small pieces. Put half of the herbs into a blender with just enough canola oil to cover. Puree on medium speed for 1 minute and then on high for 2 minutes. Add 1/2 of the remaining herbs. High speed again for 2 minutes, let rest 2 minutes and then blend for 2 minutes more. Now do this one final time with the remainder of the herbs. If at any point the oil starts to get hot, stop and refrigerate until cool. Refrigerate for at least 1 day to intensify the color. This can be kept for up to one week, if you don't strain it. Once strained oil will discolor in about 2 days. Strain oil through a cheesecloth. Let it filter for about an hour. Don't squeeze or press it through or it will become cloudy.

The Rice, The Fennel, The Tuna and The Plating
After all of that is done, make your rice, finely dice a fennel bulb and saute with olive oil salt and pepper. Fill your chocolate cups with the sauces and garnish. Take your pieces of tuna and dredge them in a mixture of 1 T. black pepper and 1/3 cup ground porcini mushroom powder. Dip tuna in egg whites and then into a mixture of black and white sesame seeds. Quickly sear the tuna in a hot pan. Layer tuna, rice then tune and cut into squares. Use a toothpick to hold the stacks together. Place a sesame leaf on your plate, then a spoonful of sauteed fennel, then your tuna stacks and drizzle with fennel oil.

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