Talking Italian, everybody´s talking tonnato.Chefs are taking creative liberties with the dish and, more specifically, its fish-enriched condiment. Like other sauces — bagna cauda, chimichurri or romesco, to name recent examples — it appears to be having its "meme moment". Where before people bastardized Caesar dressing, now they tonnatize with gay abandon. It has been swooshed onto seared swordfish and raw tuna.They say "Italians do it better", but this is a classic case of chefs trying to prove them wrong, and "we can do it better".Lately, the thing to do is to pair it with vegetables,"you say tomato I say tonnato" Thomasina Miers, bless her cotton socks, has taken this route with her recipe for green bean and new potato ‘tonnato’ salad, a version loaded with vegetables, for the summer.
Tradition be damned, unabashed classicists seem less than thrilled with the "very strange things" being done to the iconic Italian dish. They are using the word tonnato for anything that's a mayonnaise with tuna in it. . . . This is a prime example of a recipe losing its meaning, so where does it come from and how has it been led astray?
If Anna Del Conte is to be believed (and why should Britain's
Italian-born maestra of her native cuisine not be?),Milan is the owner of the original recipe.Not only does that
city prefer heavy cream to eggs in its sauce, but this style of tonnato
also was the first. "In the Milanese version, known as vitel toné," she
wrote in "Gastronomy of Italy"
(1987), "when cooked, the meat is carved and coated with a sauce made
with mashed preserved tuna, anchovy fillets and capers diluted with the
pureed cooking juices, lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of cream.
The Piedmontese version, influenced by nearby France, is made with
mayonnaise instead of cream." The other distinguishing difference, she
added, is that while in Piedmont the dish is always served cold, in
Milan, it's eaten hot.Perhaps the riffs started in 1954, when Elizabeth David wrote "Italian Food" she edited out the anchovies, and, an was an early advocate for repurposing
the sauce.Her "Tunny Fish Mayonnaise" was "excellent for all
kinds of cold dishes, particularly chicken or hard-boiled eggs, for
sandwiches or for filling raw tomatoes for an hors d'oeuvre."
The River cafes Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, who often consulted David's recipes to develop their own, turned to Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cook Book"
(1976) for their vitello tonnato. Unlike Rogers, a stickler for the
traditional pairing of veal with the sauce, Hazan, who acknowledged that
meat's superior flavour and texture, offered less-expensive turkey
breast and pork loin as more than acceptable alternatives. And with regards to method,while
Hazan, the legendary cookbook author from the Emilia-Romagna region of
Italy, blends her tuna into the sauce in a food processor, at the River
Cafe, they stir the fish into their mayonnaise.
More recently Porcini mushrooms and garlic have been putting in an appearance, and potatoes
deployed as a thickening agent. The resulting sauce in whatever form has also been going down first on
the plate rather than being poured over the top as was the norm.The tonnato was now becoming the underdog being used as a fixing point
for whatever chefs decided to throw on top.So however tonnato is made and applied,I´ll let you decide.Comedian Peter Kay might have been heard to say "fish and meat,you dirty b.....d".I have taken the veal out of the equation altogether and and gone for a purely fish dish.......
Cold roast swordfish with caper tuna
and sundried tomato mayonnaise
Swordfish is the kind of fish you want to have around in the summertime. Set aside some time to make a proper summer lunch and the rewards are many. Here, the sauce gives a boost of
flavour to mild, meaty swordfish.It's perfect in summer for a buffet, served with tiny new potatoes and a lemony, green salad.
1kg piece of swordfish, skin on
2 cloves garlic, cut into slivers
110 ml dry white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
chopped parsley, for sprinkling
For the caper, tuna and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise:
8 tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp capers
3 tinned anchovies, finely diced
100 g tinned tuna
2 tbsp sun-dried tomato purée
squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/gas 5.
Cut small slits in the swordfish and push in the garlic slivers.
Place the swordfish skin side up in a shallow, lightly oiled baking dish. Pour over the wine, drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Roast the swordfish, basting often, for 40-45 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool, basting now and then with its cooking juices.
Meanwhile, mix together the mayonnaise, capers, diced anchovy fillets, tuna and sun-dried tomato puree. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and mix in a squeeze of lemon juice.
To serve, slice the swordfish as thinly as possible,as you would if it was veal, discard the skin and arrange the slices on a dish.
Spread the fish with the mayonnaise and scatter with parsley. Serve.