Celebrating twenty years of Bastille Day fêtes with a recipe from Le Fou Frog
When Americans honor their Independence Day on July 4, they might grill a great burger or barbecue ribs. When the French celebrate Bastille Day or la Fête nationale on July 14, they often choose tuna.
Chef Mano Rafael, born into a Marseille family of chefs, is fou (crazy) about tuna. A summertime staple, tuna can be grilled over rosemary branches, poached for a Niçoise salad, or used as a filling for a popular beachside sandwich. “In every bistro, cafe and comptoir in the south of France you will find the sandwich called pan bagnat,” says Rafael, co-owner of Le Fou Frog in the River Market with his wife, Barbara. “Pan bagnat is basically a tuna Niçoise salad served on olive-oil soaked bread. It was originally made for the working class, especially those who worked on the docks. Now it is a staple and is often served at picnics.”
Since 1997, Le Fou Frog has partied every Bastille Day. Mano and Barbara have served up a Gallic atmosphere over that entire weekend with great food, plus a cabaret of singing, dancing, and games. Maybe even a mime or two. Instead of pan bagnat, they do a more ooh-la-la version of tuna—tuna tartare—delicious with a crisp, chilled rosé, also from the south of France. “Bluefin tuna is the variety from the Mediterranean Sea,” adds Barbara. “At the Frog we use sushi-grade Ahi tuna for our tartare. We also use yellowfin when doing more of a Provençal preparation. We get our sushi grade through our fish purveyors—Seattle Fish Company in Riverside.”
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Mano’s approach to food is what inspires him at any given moment. “For every season there is a yearning to replicate childhood memories of seasonal changes,” he says. Memories of warm summer days encourage him to make foods that are light and refreshing.
Le Fou Frog’s Tuna Tartare
5 ozs. fresh sushi-grade Ahi tuna
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2-3 drops Tabasco
½ tsp. finely diced shallot
½ tsp. light soy sauce
1/4 tsp. chive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
Prepared wasabi cream
Hand chop the tuna into ¼ inch squares. Transfer to a mixing bowl add all the ingredients. Wear food-service gloves to incorporate. Set in a ring mold and turn out in the middle of your chilled plate. Decorate with dollops of wasabi cream and dots of chive oil.
For chive oil:
1 cup snipped fresh chives
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine in a blender. Blend until the oil starts to feel warm. Slowly pour through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and let strain for 1 hour. Discard the solids in the strainer. Chive oil can be refrigerated for 1 day. Let come to room temperature before using.