Carolina Tuna Nachos

These sure are purty!

May 21, 2021.  Dear Kids–  When you go to the Carolinas, you expect to be blown away by the barbecue, but you don’t expect to be blown away by tuna nachos, so imagine our surprise when we couldn’t get enough of the blackened tuna nachos at The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. On our first family trip down south, I was immediately intrigued when I spotted a sushi burger bar under “Our Current Location” as I Yelped for lunch while we waited for our rental car. As soon as I looked over the other options, there was no doubt in my mind where we were having our first “southern” lunch, although your grandmother may have needed some convincing.  

Of course, we would also enjoy all the traditional southern foods- BBQ with Carolina Sauce, boiled peanuts, grits, fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese and a whole lot more- and we washed it all down with big ol’ glasses of “sour” tea.  As you may recall, we weren’t really sweet tea drinkers, preferring our iced tea unsweetened, so I tried to get a thing going down there by ordering what I called “sour tea” instead of sweet tea- it didn’t catch on like I’d hoped.

But I digress (as usual), as I was saying, it was straight to The Cowfish from the airport where we walked into an explosion of bright orange (or was it red- I’m not great with colors or memory) and Pop Art to be greeted by a hostess who look like she walked straight out of Vogue.  She led us to our table as we passed giant fish tanks, game consoles built into the bar and staff clad in signature black tees (of course they were).  A very hip vibe- punctuated by the “Learn Japanese” tapes piped into the bathrooms for your listening pleasure.

The menu was as eclectic as the decor, but even with all its unique offerings, like a bento box with sushi and a burger for example, the item that stood out the most to me were the Blackened Tuna Nachos. The explosion of flavors and textures did not disappoint and we quickly devoured the entire platter and ordered another that didn’t last much longer than the first. In fact, there wasn’t a time we didn’t order these nachos on our many return visits and this from a Dad who hates to order the same thing for “fear of missing out on some new food” (“FOMOOSNF”).

So, with out further delay, I give you this recipe, which is much simpler than it looks and delivers a huge payoff in presentation and taste that’s sure to have you making it over and over.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time:  10-15 minutes

Servings: 4-6 as an appetizer

GET YOUR STUFF OUT

Crab Rangoon Mix

  • 6 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4-6 ounces crab meat of your choice and there’s nothing wrong with the less expensive crab in a can, after all, you’re mixing it into cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons onion (scallions, chives or red onions all work well), minced
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, hot sauce or Worcester sauce, optional
  • skim milk or other milk, if needed to adjust consistency
  • 18 wonton wrappers
  • canola oil or canola oil cooking spray to lightly coat wontons
  • 12 ounces quality fresh tuna, brushed with canola oil
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper and/or Hot Spice Blend of your choice to taste
  • 2 ounces microgreens 
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, a colorful variety of grape tomatoes would look great
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime sliced into wedges
  • Sriracha for serving

COOK AND PLAY

Play “Let’s Dance”, by David Bowie while you whip up your nachos because I think there’s a real Cowfish vibe to it!  Click here for the Official Dad’s Dinner Diary Cook and Playlist!

  1. Getting Crabby With It.  Set up middle oven rack and preheat oven to 375.  In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, crab, onion, soy sauce (and sesame oil, hot sauce or W-Sauce to taste, if using) until well combined.  Stir in milk, as needed, to get a smooth and spreadable consistency.
  2. Nacho” Average Chip.  Lightly coat both sides of wontons with oil on a large sheet pan and arrange in a single layer on sheet.  Place in oven and flip wontons after a few minutes, watching carefully, since the chips can burn quickly, and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4-8 minutes.  The chips never cook at the same rate, so as you watch, take out any chips that are nicely browned, leaving any pale chips behind until they are likewise nicely browned. If you don’t do this, you’ll have a not so lovely combination of burnt, perfectly cooked and undercooked chips- it’s just a few minutes of surveillance and I know you can do it!  Set chips on a wire rack to cool. 
  3. Seared Tuna.  Preheat a cast iron skillet or other safe high heat skillet over high heat.  Season oil brushed tuna with salt (careful if using a salty Hot Spice Blend) and pepper and/or Spice Mix (I used Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning and had to adjust salt) and sear a minute or more to taste on top and bottom of tuna and then sear an additional 30 seconds or so on each skinny side with the help of tongs to hold tuna upright to apply heat to each side.  Cook tuna longer if you have any health concerns with fish cooked below government recommended temperatures (I always cook your grandmother’s piece longer to be on the safe side).  Cut tuna against the grain into 1/3 inch-1/2 inch slices.
  4. Stack ‘Em Up.  Skin and pit avocado and mash it up with juice from a few lime wedges, reserving remains wedges to serve on the side.  Arrange crispy wontons on a platter(s) and then stack each in this order: tablespoon or so of crab mix, slice of tuna, dash of  avocado mash, bit of microgreens and a few diced tomatoes.    Serve with lime wedges and Sriracha on the side.
I was able to fit 24 (RIP Kobe!) wonton wrappers on a 3/4 sheet pan.
Ooooh! See the smoke- make sure that pan is rippin’ hot before you add the tuna. Also, look at that nice family heirloom cast iron once cooked on by your great grandmother- how cool is that!
Dad Tip- A pinch of brown sugar rubbed on the tuna helps with browning and flavor.
I cooked some of the tuna longer (upper left- I even put it back in the pan to cook it more after I took this pic) because of potential health risks to your grandmother.

THE LECTURE

Crab.  Crab comes in many forms and at many price points, but no need to blow your crab budget here- you’re mixing it into cream cheese after all!  So save the king crab, fresh lump to celebrate your first sell out job and feel free to use canned crab (checking for and picking out any shell) in this recipe.  

Spice, Spice Baby.  I will be the first to say that most spice blends are expen$ive salt bombs, but I understand the need for a few good ones, if you’re not ready to make the investment in entire jars of spices when you only need a bit of each to make your own blend. When using packaged spice blends, always, always, always take into account the amount of salt in the blend when seasoning your food. As you may know by know, some of my go to spice blends are Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, most supermarket low sodium taco seasonings, Old Bay Seasoning, any of the Penzey Curry Powder blends. As for a make-your-own Hot Spice Blend- 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. Nooch, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper/red pepper flakes or more to taste and salt to taste.

More Crab and Wontons!.  I always make extra Crab Rangoon Mix and wonton chips for a bonus Chips and Dip Snack, which you certainly could make all on its own, which is exactly what The Cowfish does for its Crab Rangoon Dip topped with a Parmesan cheese crust and served with Sweet Thai Chile Sauce topped wonton chips.

© 2021 All rights reserved.  Dad’s Dinner Diary

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