by Wolfgang Puck
There is a challenge to making such perfect little bites of food. At their best, they combine a variety of happily contrasting sensations in a single mouthful: crispy and crunchy and soft textures; spicy, creamy, earthy, sweet, sour, and salty flavors; and colors from across the spectrum -- red, green, brown, black, white, golden.
A number of classic hors-d'oeuvres fit that description.
Two of my favorites include the little pancakes called buckwheat blini, topped with a bit of smoked salmon, a squeeze of lemon, and a dollop of dill- or chive-flecked creme fraiche or sour cream; and baby Yukon gold potatoes, baked, halved, hollowed, baked again until crunchy, and then filled with sour cream and caviar.
It's lots of fun brainstorming such combinations.
But I'd like to share with you here one of my all-time favorites, a mainstay at Spago and all the glamorous functions I get to cater: Spicy Tuna Tartare in Sesame-Miso Cones. And you can make it without too much effort in your own home kitchen
The recipe begins by making miniature, bite-sized, crispy-crunchy cones from a flavorful savory-sweet batter, baked in circles on a silicone mat-lined cookie sheet and then rolled up around a cone shaper. (If you can't find a shaper in a gourmet cookware shop or online, you can make your own by drawing and cutting out a 5-inch circle of sturdy but flexible clean cardboard or heavy paper and then rolling it into a cone shape and taping it securely on the inside.)
Once the cones have baked and set (you can prepare them several hours in advance and then store in an airtight container), all that remains is to make the tuna tartare and fill the cones just before serving. Both the high-quality raw sushi-grade ahi tuna and the seasonings and garnishes called for in the recipe can be found in upscale supermarkets and Japanese food stores.
Spicy Tuna Tartare in Sesame-Miso Cones Recipe
4 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons miso paste
1 tablespoon toasted Asian-style sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup mixed black and white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
Spicy Tuna Tartare
4 ounces fresh sushi-grade ahi tuna
1 tablespoon diced Japanese pickled ginger, "sushi ginger"
1 teaspoon chopped scallions
2 tablespoons Spicy Chili Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon Wasabi Soy Sauce (recipe follows)
40 daikon sprouts, for garnish
2 tablespoons Japanese pickled ginger slices, "sushi ginger," for garnish
2 tablespoons Japanese dried bonito flakes, cut into thin julienne strips, for garnish
2 tablespoons masago (capelin roe) or tobiko (flying fish roe), for garnish
Make the Sesame-Miso Cones up to several hours ahead. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat (such as the Silpat brand).
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter together with the corn syrup. Do not let the mixture reach a boil.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the miso, sesame oil, salt and pepper.
Using a sifter or a fine wire-meshed sieve, sift in the flour, while continuously stirring the miso mixture, to form a fairly thin, creamy batter. Stir in the ginger and sesame seeds.
Spoon the batter onto the baking sheet 1 tablespoon at a time, leaving spaces between for the batter to flow and flatten into circles 3-1/2 to 4 inches in diameter. You should have about 20 circles.
Bake for 10 minutes. Then, rotate the baking sheet and bake 2 minutes longer. Remove to a wire rack briefly until the circles are cool enough to handle but still warm and flexible.
Using a slender spatula to help lift each circle, carefully roll it up around a cone shaper, making sure that the bottom of each cone ends in a closed point. Gently slip out the shaper and place the cone inside a cone holder -- or group a few upright inside a small glass -- to cool and harden.
Shortly before serving, chop the ahi into medium-to-fine dice, removing any connective tissue. Put in a mixing bowl with the diced pickled ginger, chopped scallions, Spicy Chili Mayonnaise, and Wasabi Soy Sauce. Stir until combined.
Just before serving, place 2 daikon sprouts inside a cone, with the leaves poking above its rim, and carefully use a small spoon to fill the cone with the ahi mixture; or put the mixture in a clean piping bag with a large round tip pipe in the mixture. Repeat with each remaining cone. Garnish with sliced pickled ginger, bonito flakes, and masago or tobiko. Serve immediately.
Wasabi Soy Sauce
Makes about 1-1/3 cups
1/3 cup wasabi (Japanese green horseradish) paste
1 cup Japanese soy sauce
Put the wasabi in a mixing bowl. Add a small splash of cold water and stir to thin slightly. Add the soy sauce and stir until thoroughly blended. Stir again before use. Refrigerate extra sauce for another use in a covered container, shaking well before use.
Spicy Chili Mayonnaise
Makes about 1-1/3 cups
1 cup store-bought mayonnaise
1/3 cup plus 1/4 tablespoon Thai-style chili sauce (such as the Sriracha brand)
1/4 teaspoon toasted Asian-style sesame oil
In a mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, chili sauce, and sesame oil. Refrigerate extra mayonnaise for another use in a covered container.
Hors-d'oeuvres Recipe, Japanese Cuisine