This spectacular dish from Jay’s Mesteña (offered in the restaurant as a special) features a brilliant fuschia sauce with a sweet-tart, creamy taste. Although the tunas aren’t available all the time (look for them in stores from midsummer to late fall), we couldn’t resist including the recipe. This is Julie Jacob's favorite July dish.
5 prickly pear tunas, dethorned (if necessary) and peeled
1 (8-oz.) box tempura mix (some will be left over)
1 T. achiote paste
1/2 lb. large or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 c. cornstarch peanut oil
Pulse tunas briefly in a food processor or blender; strain. Set aside 1 c. puréed tunas, and reserve remaining 1/4 c. for Cactus-Lime-Butter Sauce. Combine 1 c. tempura mix and the achiote paste in a blender or food pro-cessor, and pulse until smooth. Place mixture in a medium-size bowl, add 1 c. puréed tunas, and mix well. Chill. Dust shrimp with cornstarch. Dip each shrimp individually into tempura-tuna batter, and fry in hot oil (375°) until golden brown, frying only 3-4 at a time. Drain well. Serve with Cactus-Lime-Butter Sauce. Yield: 3-4 appetizer servings or 2 main-dish servings.
1/4 c. white wine
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 shallot, minced
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 c. prickly pear tuna purée (reserved earlier)
Combine wine, cilantro, and shallot in a heavy 2-qt. saucepan. Cook over medium heat until wine is almost gone.
While the wine is reducing, zest the lime; set zest aside. Juice the lime; set juice aside.
When the wine has reduced to almost nothing, add lime zest, lime juice, and heavy cream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Lower heat, and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat for about 5 minutes.
While the pot is still hot, slowly begin whisking in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve. Keep sauce warm—if it becomes too cold or too hot, the sauce will separate, and you’ll have to begin the process again. Fold in the cactus purée. Yield: Enough sauce for Cactus Shrimp.
From the April 1998 issue.