March 12, 2013 by caitlinvaclark
Spending our first anniversary in Prague was the perfect celebration of this crazy experience living abroad. What a romantic city! Later this week, I’ll share some pictures and stories, along with some food inspired by our trip. (Because clearly, as usual, we ate our way through the vacation.)
But tonight, it’s The Taste finale and I’m so happy I have taken on this weekly test. The timing of last week’s seduction challenge couldn’t have come at a better time. It inspired me to create the perfect dish for our anniversary dinner. When I think about seductive food, I generally think first about foods that I love and that are indulgent like a rare steak with hollandaise or pretty much anything cheese. But ultimately I realize gorging one’s self is not necessarily the best aphrodisiac and end up lean towards foods that are on the fresh and light side. I have a mild oyster allergy, resulting in a night of vomiting, so that’s obviously out. But seafood can definitely fit the bill. And it can lend itself to a wide variety of preparations.
Food seduction is really about how it makes you feel and the memories that you associate with the taste. And one of my greatest sensual food memories comes from our meal at The Inn at Little Washington, where Chris and I spend a one night mini-honeymoon before he had to go back to law school last spring. The Inn boasts elaborately decorated suites (including the Julia Child Suite which my thoughtful husband booked for our stay- he knows me so well!) and the most intimate dining room I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing a meal in. When I think of seduction, that entire meal rings a bell.
The Inn at Little Washington is an institution of food greatness, a rarity in perfection. It would be hard for the food not to be seductive. We had more than a few standout dishes, including a paper-thin lamb carpaccio caesar salad, where the dressing was in ice cream form, melting onto the luscious meat to create a taste sensation. Sounds crazy, I know, but honestly I could have eaten the creamy parmesan-y goodness by the bowlful. But given that I don’t have my ice cream maker here in London, and frankly don’t think I should mess with the master, I decided it was better to recreate the second wow moment of our meal.
The tuna that we had as part of the meat course was pure seduction. Our waiter described it as Patrick O’Connell’s nod to a steak course, masquerading the tuna as beef. Reading the menu, I would never in my wildest dreams have thought to top tuna with foie gras. Who knew?! The first bite just danced on my tongue. My body honestly surged with the excitement of tasting a combination like nothing I’d ever had before.
For our anniversary dinner and my The Taste Tuesday seductions challenge, I simplified the meal a bit, focusing on letting the rare tuna steaks be the star. I substituted grilled mushrooms for the foie gras. I mean this was a Monday night after all… But it still had the deep rich earthy umami flavor that a seductive bite should have.
Start the wine sauce early because you want to reduce the liquid from about 1 cup down to 1/4 cup over very low heat, which is going to take about 30-40 minutes. Of course, then you’ll melt in plenty of butter to top off the decadence.
When grilling mushrooms, make sure there is plenty of space between them so they don’t steam. And once you put them on the HOT grill pan, don’t move them for a good 3 minutes, so you can be sure they char.
Tuna steaks are a generally meaty fish, which allows you to pair them with classic red meat vegetables like charred mushrooms and onions. Along with a red wine sauce, this dish truly could make you feel like you’re at a steakhouse and probably fool the meat and potatoes crowd.
Season the tuna generously with fresh cracked pepper and earthy mushroom thyme salt. The tune will only need to cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, until just seared on the outside and still rare in the center.
Serve the tuna with the charred onions and mushrooms and a drizzle of buttery rich wine sauce.
The Inn at Little Washington Tuna Steaks
*adapted from The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook
½ cup red wine
½ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs butter
1 ½ Tbs olive oil.
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
½ onion, sliced into rings
2 (6 oz.) tuna steaks
Fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp mushroom thyme salt
Start by making a red wine reduction sauce. Pour the wine and vinegar into a small saucepan and heat over very low heat, just below a simmer, for about 30 minutes. The mixture should reduce to ¼ cup and become syrupy. Incorporate the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Keep warm.
Drizzle the mushrooms and onions with 1 Tbs olive oil. Grill your mushrooms on a very hot grill pan for 4 minutes on each side. Do not move once you put them on the grill, until you are ready to flip. Remove and keep warm. Repeat with the onions.
Drizzle the remaining olive oil onto the tuna steaks. Generously crack pepper and sprinkle the thyme mushroom salt evenly on each side of the tuna. On the same, very hot grill pan, grill the tuna for 1-2 minutes per side, so that the fish sears but is still rare in the middle.
To serve, drizzle the wine sauce onto a plate. Pile the tuna on top of the grilled onions. Top with the mushrooms and an additional drizzle of wine sauce.