Gothamist Eating In: Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home

There’s much to be said for skipping the traditional restaurant appetizer and super-sized entrée formula, especially when eating out with a larger group. Besides having the ability to taste more food, sharing food family-style with a group can be a lot more fun. After hearing a bit about Alta from friends and reading Andrea Strong’s report about a recent meal there, we recently visited and thought some of the food was phenomenal.

What really got our attention was a tuna ceviche that featured chorizo and finely diced vegetables. The best ceviches that we’ve had either featured a citric, fruity quality in combination with spicy chilies (Ola has a few great ones), or savory creamy bases. The idea of tuna ceviche and chorizo was something we hadn’t seen much of before and were (cautiously) eager to try.

It was fantastic. The chorizo was diced very finely and added a subtle yet deep bacon flavor to the ceviche. Most importantly, it didn’t compete or take attention away from the star of the show, the silky and flavorful tuna.

As you know, tuna is on most restaurant menus these days, almost becoming a bit of a menu cliché. But it’s there, in our opinion, for two reasons. First, people obviously love it. Second, home cooks don’t think of a ceviche or raw tuna dishes as something that they can do safely and easily at home, and therefore more of a dish you only get at a restaurant.

The Gothamist Recipe attempts to show you that you can do this at home safely and with only five minutes of cooking time.

Gothamist Recipe Tuna Chorizo Ceviche with watermelon, ginger, jalapeno, yellow pepper and cherries2004_08_food_altatuna.jpg

We’ve taken Alta’s Tuna and Chorizo combination and embellished it in two major ways. The first was adding a fresh, juicy element that is traditional to the ceviche technique. We’ve chosen watermelon as the base for the marinating liquid. The watermelon adds a sweet and light element to the tart lemon/lime citrus juices that will ‘cook’ and marinate the tuna. The spicy jalapeno works in tandem with the cool fresh mint and ginger, while the cherries add a final sweet and tart element to the dish. The yellow pepper adds a crunchy texture to round things out.

Of course, the most important thing here is the tuna. You should only choose sushi grade tuna from a trusted fish market. Citarella has a sushi grade yellowfin tuna that we eat medium rare frequently at home to great enjoyment. The trick to serving the ceviche is to place the tuna into the marinating liquid right before you bring it to the table, so it briefly ‘cooks’ in the marinade for only the minutes it takes to go from kitchen to mouth.

The following recipe works as an appetizer course for two. We’d recommend serving this as part of a tapas style dinner – an assortment of cheese, olives, nuts and dips would be a great way to enjoy a quite night at home without a lot of fuss.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves two – just double it for a party of four.

½ to ¾ lb of sushi grade yellowfin tuna
1 small piece of fresh ginger
1 bunch fresh mint
1 Vidalia onion
1 lemon, 1 lime
1 yellow pepper
5 fresh cherries
1 watermelon slice
1 package imported Spanish chorizo
¼ cup of orange juice

Estimated cost of ingredients: $18 at Fairway (tuna from Citarella)

Buying the Tuna and Chorizo
As there isn’t much preparation involved with this dish, you should invest the time to seek out high quality sushi grade tuna. Sushi grade tuna is usually indicated at your market, or else ask the fish monger if the tuna is sushi grade. If it’s not or they aren’t sure, find another source. We recommend Citarella tuna for this dish and there are many locations around the city.

As for the chorizo, try and find the small kind that is packaged and imported in Spain. Also check the ingredients on the package to make sure there are no preservatives or nastiness in the chorizo. Fresh chorizo is sold at markets like Fairway, but the texture of the dried authentic Spanish variety is much better for this dish.

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Preparing the Tuna
It’s important to work on a very clean cutting board and knife with the tuna.

Using the sharpest knife you have, follow the ‘grain’ of the tuna and slice into long thin strips. Laying the strips on your cutting board, slice horizontally across the strips to eventually cut into small cubes. They should be close to the size of board game dice, not much smaller.

Add them to a bowl, cover and put in refrigerator to chill for up to a few hours.

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Preparing Marinating Ingredients
Using a clean cutting board, slice one side of the yellow pepper off and cut into long vertical strips. Cut them horizontally into a small dice. Do the same for a quarter of the onion, ginger, jalepeno, mint, cherries and watermelon. Other than the jalapeno (one tablespoon) and the watermelon (four tablespoons), you are looking for two tablespoons of each ingredient.

Add the watermelon to a bowl. With a fork, mash the watermelon to get out some of its juices. Add the rest of the ingredients you prepared. Next, add two or three glugs of the orange juice until it begins to look a little soupy. Squeeze one whole lemon and lime to the bowl. Season with salt and fresh pepper. Stir with spoon and taste. Is it tart yet balanced with sweetness? Does it need more mint, salt, etc? Lastly, just make sure there is enough liquid to sufficiently serve three or four tablespoons to each guest.

Cover bowl and place in refrigerator.

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Browning the Chorizo
Place a small pan on medium heat. Add one piece of chorizo to the pan. The chorizo will brown very quickly. After about two minutes, flip to the other side. Take off the heat after another two minutes, or until you notice a substantial amount of oil appearing in your pan. Let rest until cool. Chop into slices, then dice into the same size as your other ingredients.

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Serving and Plating
The trick to serving the ceviche is to place the tuna into the marinating liquid right before you bring it to the table. If you put the tuna in the marinade and let if rest, then plate it and serve, the tuna will turn grey and be overcooked in the marinade.

For this dish, martini glasses are great because they allow the tuna to be submerged in the liquid, but still allow for easy eating. A bowl works just fine, though you can get martini glasses at Fishs Eddy for a dollar each.

If desired, place the glasses or bowls in the refrigerator for a minute before proceeding.

To plate, take tuna out of the refrigerator and season with kosher salt. Add one heaping tablespoon to martini glass or bowl. Add some of each of the chopped ingredients on top of the tuna. Add some of the marinating liquid to the glass or bowl, covering completely. Add more pieces of tuna and chopped ingredients to the top of the glass or bowl and ladle with a bit more of the juice. Garnish with mint leaves.

Serve this immediately.

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--Joe DeSalazar, foodie