This doesn’t happen often, but I’ve been at a total loss as to what to name this dish. It’s not quite a salad, not quite a ceviche, and not quite a terrine. Sure, I could have just stretched the definition a bit to fit the dish, but it always irks me when people go naming things loosey goosey after dishes that have a long illustrious tradition. It’s a kind of cultural defilement that’s akin to calling street graffiti art.
Salad’s are typically an assortment of chopped vegetables covered in dressing, neither of which holds true for this dish. A ceviche is a citrus cured seafood dish originating in Peru. While this dish is definitely citrusy and tangy, the uni never sits in the citrus juice, and the last time I checked, Asian Pear and Grapefruit weren’t exactly native Andean crops. These ingredients are all quite Asian (grapefruit is a descendant of the South East Asian fruit Pomelo), but the preparation is definitively un-Asian. A real enigma indeed!
Out of ideas, I reached out to my friends in Twitterland for suggestions. There were some amusing suggestions — “Asian melange to die for” and “Golden Summer Paradise” where two that come to mind — but none really captured the spirit of this dish. I decided that I just needed to go with a plain ole’ descriptive name which is how I came up with: “Golden Pacific Uni Atop a Bed of Crispy Asian Pear, and Ruby Red Grapefruit Segments with a Yuzu Dashi Gelée”. But like a kid with a long first, middle, and hyphenated last name, it was a bit too unruly and I nicknamed it “Uni with Yuzu Gelée”.
I hope I haven’t lost you amidst my long naming saga, because despite its identity crisis, it’s a real gem for anyone who likes uni. The sweet and tangy fruit keeps the unctuous uni in check while the umami laden gelée literally acts as the glue that holds these complimentary ingredients together. The mild bitterness of the grapefruit and the garlicky chives keep your tastebuds interested and ready to accept the next bite of heaven.
If uni isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry, it wasn’t mine either up until recently. I could see the fruit and gelee going well with yellowtail, snapper, or amberjack sashimi. It might even play nicely with a seared and thinly sliced rare steak (reminiscent of my warm beef salad). Replace the chives with some mint and you’d have a nice accompaniment to lamb. The possibilities are endless.
Uni with Yuzu Gelée
for yuzu gelée
1 Tbs water
1 tsp powdered gelatin
1/3 C dashi stock
2 Tbs yuzu juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 chilled asian pear cut into 1/8″ cubes
3-4 chilled wedges of grapefruit peeled and torn into small segments
1 Tbs chives finely chopped
3 oz uni (sea urchin)
Add the water to a small ramekin and sprinkle with gelatin. Let it rehydrate for a few minutes. Put the ramekin in a microwave and zap for about 20 seconds or until it just starts to bubble (careful it will boil over quickly). Add the melted gelatin to the dashi, yuzu juice and salt, stirring to combine. Cover and refrigerate until set.
To make the salad, just add the pear and grapefruit into a bowl. Use a fork to crumble up the set gelatin and add it to the fruit. Sprinkle with the chives and gently mix together. Using a 2.5″ round ring mold (I used a round cookie cutter), put down a layer of the fruit and yuzu gelée. Top with uni in a spiral pattern and remove the ring mold.