I have a soft spot for the Earls Tin Palace of my teenagehood, the hip new restaurant that opened up on 4th St just in time for the ’88 Winter Olympics, when I was 17 and just starting to go out with my friends for cheese sticks, potato skins and mocha Kahlúa pie. Where we’d go as a family when we ate out, and which was gutted by mud and rebuilt after the 2013 floods. Lately we’ve been going for happy hour – for $3 sleeves of draught, half price wine and $2 tuna tostadas. This week they launched a new series of cooking videos – with recipes – and asked me to check out the first (tuna tostadas!) and give it a go at home. It’s not the sort of thing I normally make, which is part of the reason I was happy to give them a try.
There are enough elements in this recipe to dissuade the average home cook, but each is a breeze to pull together – and a few of them have shortcuts you can take.
I do love cooking my own corn tortillas – it’s super satisfying to cut a stack of fresh ones into wedges and quickly fry them in half an inch of oil – all you need is a small skillet, not a deep fryer. As they turn golden, transfer them with tongs to a paper towel-lined plate and shower them with salt. Once you’ve done this, you’ll recognize the difference between warm, homemade tortillas and the packaged bagged kind, and will come up with excuses to make them all the time. (Try them doused in cinnamon sugar while they’re still warm, instead of salt! You can also cut them into strips to crisp up and scatter over soup or chili – and one package of tortillas goes a long way.)
I almost skipped the charring of the peppers to make my own aioli and went with the jar of salsa verde on my shelf instead (not really the same thing, I know) – but jalapeños and poblanos are easy to find, and if you have a gas stove you can hold them with tongs over the open flame as they bubble and make campfire sounds until they’re nice and charred, then remove the innards and toss into a food processor with tons of cilantro, garlic and olive oil. I added the mayo straight to the mix as well, and a squeeze of lime. It’s amazing – perhaps my favourite part of this whole thing – and I can’t wait to taste it again tomorrow, when its had some time to hang out in the fridge and evolve a bit.
And the tuna! So easy. The recipe calls for a tuna loin, but I picked up a couple ahi tuna steaks that did the job just fine. You blanch them in a small saucepan of simmering water for 10 seconds, pat them dry with paper towel, then douse in a simple spice blend (if you don’t have all the fancy chili powders, just use straight up chili powder, or chili powder and cumin, along with the coriander and salt. Or whatever spice blend (they suggest Cajun) you think would taste good) and cut into slices. So easy, and yet it looks like something you’d get in a restaurant.
The jicama slaw is simple too – thinly julienne, then toss with a bit of fish sauce and sugar and lime – or again, whatever you think would taste good. Cabbage would probably work just as well, although I love the watery crunch of jicama. (If you’re in town, I found all the ingredients, from fresh ahi tuna to locally-made fresh corn tortillas to jicama – at Calgary Co-op.)
It should be noted that all of these elements can be done ahead and stashed away until you’re ready to assemble them. And it’s satisfying to lay out a row of crisp tortillas you made yourself, and top them with aioli (also homemade, natch), avocado, tuna, slaw, and a bit of radish and cilantro – I skipped the thin slices of pickled pepper.
If you want to see it all come together in a few minutes, Chef Ryan Stone shows us how it’s done in a truly great, well shot and edited video with added graphic tips that I love – there are more to come, but since mocha Kahlúa pie is long since off the menu, I’ll have to figure that one out for myself.
* Yes! Earls compensated me for writing this post – they asked me to give the recipe a try and let people know how it worked, and as always, all words and photos (and dinner) are my own.