After writing about the struggles of the Merriman’s “signature” ahi, let’s look at a very successful signature ahi dish from Roy Yamaguchi, his Blackened Island Ahi with Beurre Blanc and a Spicy Soy Mustard Sauce.
The first key is to have high grade ahi tuna, as ruby red as you can find. The ahi at Roy’s Poipu last week used in the appetizer portion of the dish was practically sparkling it was so pristine.
There is a fair amount of spice in the soy mustard sauce, so don’t go overboard with blackened crust. Make the mustard sauce first since it cools for at least an hour. Don’t skimp either on the butter in the beurre blanc and go heavy on the shallots. It’s a beurre blanc after all, not meant to be a dietetic sauce. Be sure not to start the beurre blanc too early as it must remain warm when plated with the fish, and you don’t want it cooking too long or the butter thins out and the sauce becomes barely relevant.
So, sauces ready, beurre blanc not cooked. Roll the ahi in the blackened seasoning, covering the filets, but not more than a very thin layer. With a very, very hot skillet, sear the ahi about 20 seconds per side…it is amazing how quickly a hot pan can turn the ahi from rare to medium rare, and trust me, you do not want medium rare.
Quickly put the seared ahis on one plate. Then plate the beurre blanc and top it with the ahi. Then add the soy mustard sauce, which Yamaguchi likes to artistically dot around the white beurre blanc. You can have a mound of steamed rice as a side, I prefer some soba noodles or even just green beans or cauliflower below the ahi, with some fresh bread to help absorb the sauce. And finally, do not forget the pivotal pickled ginger garnish atop the fish.
A classic ahi preparation that doesn’t take too much time, but takes tremendous delicate care when searing. Fresh fish, a little spice…at least for a few moments you can pretend to be eating in Hawaii!