Hung Huynh's Tuna Tartare with Nicoise Olives, White Asparagus, and Egg Vinaigrette

Carolyn cooks Season 3 Winner Hung Huynh's Tuna Tartare!

Tuna Tartare is one of Carolyn Dizon's favorites - I just love it. But it's been done and done and done again. So, often at a restaurant, I'm reluctant to get the tuna tartare because it might just be "so-so." NOT Hung's! Hung's tuna tartare was one of the best I've ever had. IT ROCKED. Choosing the Tuna: The most important thing is that you get the finest quality sushi-grade tuna you can get your hands on. I got Grade A quality Big Eye "superfrozen" tuna steaks from Uoriki Fresh, which can be purchased at Whole Foods, at Pescatore at Grand Central Station in NYC, and also through Uoriki Fresh's Web site www.minus76.com. These tuna steaks are fabulous because they really are fresher than fresh, and their bright red color is natural, not from Carbon Monoxide treatment. (Learn more about superfrozen fish in the "Bonus Materials" section.

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I sliced removed the part with the gristle and then sliced the tuna to create four thinner slices of each steak.

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Then, I chopped the tuna to a small sized tartare. Each piece was about 3mm x 3mm.

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Next it was time to chop up the chives.

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And also to add the paprika. I purchased a good robustly colored organic paprika.

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I then combined all the ingredients but the tuna in a serving bowl.

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I then combined the chopped tuna with the other ingredients to create the tuna tartare.

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Making the Egg Vinaigrette: To make the egg vinaigrette, I first had to hard boil two eggs.

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Once the eggs were hard boiled and then cooled, I passed them through an egg slicer from three different angles to achieve a uniform and fine chop.

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I placed the finely chopped eggs in a bowl.

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In another bowl I was preparing the vinaigrette for the egg vinaigrette, which started off with standard store bought mayonnaise.

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To the mayonnaise I added the sherry vinegar and the sugar, salt and the finely chopped eggs.

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Preparing the White Asparagus: All that was needed of the white asparagus was the tips.

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Then just chop away the tips of the asparagus and blanch them until tender. Then make a dressing consisting of a minced shallot, some sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, and some extra virgin olive oil.

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After all the ingredients to the dressing have been emulsified with a small whisk or fork, the dressing should look like this:

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Once the dressing is prepared, the asparagus tips can be gently tossed in the dressing. The Nicoise Olives: Chose the darkest nicoise olives you can find.

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Then just pit and finely chop the olives.

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Plating the Dish: Plating the dish turned out to be the greatest challenge. The recipe calls for toasted brioche, but I found that the brioche dominated the plate, when I wanted the star to be the luscious and absurdly red tuna tartare. The tartare was plated on top of the chopped nicoise olives, and a little bit of the egg vinaigrette was spooned next to the tuna, and a few asparagus tips were placed on the plate to provide balance (and to be eaten as well). Finally, for garnish, a bit of paprika and a bit of the chopped chives were scattered on the plate.

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My Suggestions To Make This Already Great Dish Even Better: I do wish I had plated it on smaller plates and used smaller toast points, so that the tuna really showed through as the star. One small and very minor point is that I might have preferred regular toast points to the sweet flavor imparted by the brioche toast points. But other than that one small detail (which is just a matter of taste preference), this dish was perfect. Final Word On this Dish: It's the combination of flavors that makes this one of the best tuna tartares ever. The brininess or the olives and the acidy from the egg vinaigrette and the dressing on the asparagus tips truly bring out the unctuous quality and delicate flavor of top quality sushi grade tuna. BONUS MATERIAL!!!! What is "Superfrozen" fish? Superfreezing is a process of fast freezing to ultra low temperatures which brings a product to its "Eutectic Point" as quickly as possible. The Eutectic Point (EP) is the temperature at which all activity stops absolutely. At temperatures of -76F, the EP is reached and all the water in the cells of the product is completely frozen and all microbial decomposition brought to a standstill. At temperatures of below -76F it is possible to transport or store foodstuffs for an "infinite" period without loss of quality. Oxidation is halted and therefore, superfrozen tuna will maintain its bright color for the normal 3-5 after defrosting, just as fresh tuna would. This process is similar in concept to the process used in the medical field, particularly in preserving blood at blood banks. Similarly also, when superfrozen tuna is defrosted, it revives to exactly that moment it was frozen. Superfreezing, essentially therefore, stops time absolutely. It halts the natural decay that begins on death, such that the fish stands still in time from the point of catch until defrosted -- making it the freshest product possible when it reaches the chef's kitchen. Top Chef Recap So it's the second week, and we're down to 15 cheftestants. Already friendships are forming, and perhaps even some special relationships! First is what I call the "Euro-love-fest." Who am I talking about? Stephan and Fabio of course. I say all of this in good fun. I'm enjoying watching their friendship and bond and yet also their desire to fiercely compete against each other. The second and perhaps more "interesting" relationship is Hosea and Leah. Hmmm...can't wait to see how that develops over the weeks. I don't think there's been a Top Chef romantic relationship yet! So let's talk about the Quickfire. What a brilliant idea! What signifies the quintessential New York quick meal? A hot dog - of course! I have to say, once I was traveling in France for about three weeks, and had some of the best food there - it was truly one of the best culinary experiences of my life. But when I got back, what was the one thing I craved? A "dirty water dog." I was dying for one, and as soon as I got back to New York, I went into midtown and got a hot dog stand dog, my favorite way, with ketchup, mustard and sour kraut. Yum! I was really curious to see what the cheftestants would do. And I was impressed. I was especially impressed with the fact that so many of the contestants made their own kind of "hot dog" or sausage, and all in just 45 minutes. Jill was the only one who used a packaged hot dog and she did poorly in the Quickfire, she I wasn't surprised when she lost the Elimination Challenge. It was great to see Donatella as the guest judge - she is a restaurateur genius. Anyway, based on what I saw, I thought the top three would be Radhika and her kabob-style dog, Hosea and his bacon and roasted pepper hot dog, Carla's lamb and pork sausage, and Fabio's Andouille sausage. Donatella didn't seem to agree with me on Carla, but then again, maybe if she had selected a top four, Carla's dish would have been there! In the end, Radhika took the day! For the losers, I was particularly amused that after his double-win last week, rather arrogant Stephan was in the bottom two. And I'm sure this also added to the love-hate friendship-rivalry between Stephan and Fabio. Anyway, it was obvious why Jill was in the bottom two. I actually expected Eugene, who had impressed me so much last week, to be grouped in the bottom with his "sushi-style" Boursin stuffed hot dog, but Donatella only chose two. On to the Elimination Challenge - I was so excited to see that the cheftestants were going to serve a three-course meal out of Chef Tom's restaurant Craft! I love Craft - I've loved it since it opened. It completely revolutionized the New York culinary scene by offering simply but perfectly made food. I recommend Craft to all visitors. It was a treat to see the inside of Tom's kitchen! With a little help from one of my faves, Jeff, the chefs divided themselves into three groups - those making the appetizers, the entrees, and the desserts. Now, explain something to me. Why was there a "run" on chefs wanting to make dessert, when in the past seasons, preparing a dessert was always the kiss of death to any of the contestants? Ariane had the nerve to complain that she doesn't really make desserts. Then why did she choose to make one? As I did last week, I am not going to discuss each of the chef's work, because there were just too many. Let me just talk about who stood out in MY mind. My top three: Jeff: His entrée of chicken with chorizo and corn spoon bread looked savory and delicious. The judges loved it too. I was sad to see he didn't make it into the top three. Jamie: I knew the judges would love this her chilled sweet corn soup with mint and a touch of chili oil. This episode was obviously filmed back in the summer, and there is nothing more satisfying in the summer than that taste of fresh corn. Fabio:I knew his simplicity of choosing the finest ingredients in making his Carpaccio of fillet mignon, with fine parmesan cheese and aged balsamic vinegar, would impress the judges, especially Chef Tom. But his "new-style" spherical olives, made via molecular gastronomic science, set him above all the others. It was obvious he would win. My bottom three: What was she thinking? That dessert martini sounded disgusting. Then when she had her fellow chefs taste it, and they ALL said it was too sweet and she agreed. She even thought about redoing the dessert, and she seemed to have the time and enough leftover ingredients to give it a try, but did she? Nah. Why bother? Well, she squeaked through by a hair and was not sent home, and based on her hysteria at the end, she knew how close she was to being cut. Hosea: Hosea called himself "the seafood guy." Well, wouldn't someone who really was an expert on seafood know better than to use CANNED seafood to serve Tom Colicchio? He committed the sin of inflexibility. When he got to Whole Foods, and there was no fresh crab, he should have taken a step back and come up with different dish. Instead he went with the canned crab, which he had to know would automatically handicap his dish. It was consistently described as having a "tinny" or "canned" taste - well - big surprise. Jill: I had no problem with Jill using an Ostrich egg. In fact, I thought that was very cool and creative. But as Chef Tom said, just using an Ostrich egg was not enough - it's what she did (or didn't do) with it that showed her failure. That quiche looked AWFUL. But even worse and more shameful, was the lame, lame, lame defense she had of herself during judges' table. I watched, mouth agape. She said not one thing to explain how she would try to be better next time. It was painful to watch and I sure she would be sent home for her sheer lack of passion. So that's all for this week. So far these challenges are some of the most exciting we've seen compared to past seasons, so I can't wait to watch next week's episode!

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