Thursday, June 20, 2013

Anna Pump's Grilled Fresh Tuna Steaks with Lemon Sauce

        The Hamptons are rich in culinary talent. And Anna Pump is at the top of that list.  Her influence on local cooking and eating reaches back to her arrival here in the late 1970s.  Born in the town of Tarp, Germany, Anna and her late husband, Detlef, came to the United States with their two children in the 1960s. The family first settled in New Jersey where Detlef had a brother.  Offered a house in Southampton for two weeks one summer, the two fell instantly in love with the area, which reminded them of Tarp.  Even the potato fields felt familiar.  Tucked up next to the Danish border, the town has the Baltic on one side, the North Sea on the other.  The couples’ two children, son Harm and daughter Sybille were off to college so their parents went home to New Jersey and came right back out looking for a house.  The one they found and lovingly saved from ruin is the same house Anna lives in to this day. 
Best of Friends
Anna started cooking professionally in 1979.  She’d taken courses from James Beard among others and she says of herself  “ I learned that way.  I’m not a chef at all, I am a cook and I just loved it.”  My favorite story about Anna’s introduction to cooking in the Hamptons involved that other Food Goddess in our midst, Ina Garten.  At the time, Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa was located in Westhampton.  Anna answered a classified ad for a cook, which Ina responded to by asking her to come into the store and demonstrate her skills. Instead, Anna invited Ina for a meal.  Ina was bowled over by Anna’s cooking, gave her the job and remains to this day one of Anna’s closest friends.  In fact, Ina’s admiration is on full display on the cover of Anna’s most recent cookbook “Summer on a Plate” (Simon and Schuster 2008).  She writes “No one has inspired me more than Anna Pump.  Her recipes are simple, elegant and absolutely delicious.”  I think everyone who has ever eaten anything Anna ever cooked feels exactly the same way.  And we’ve all had plenty of opportunities to sample her wonderful food.
Anna wasn’t with Ina very long before a tiny little roadside food shop came up for sale.  In 1980, Anna bought “Loaves and Fishes”  in the equally tiny hamlet of Sagaponack.  There her output of wonderful things to eat continues to this day.  Her fans are legion and while the place gained local notoriety when Lobster Salad hit $100. a pound, there’s no stopping the store traffic.  It’s good to remember that last time we looked Sagaponack was the third most expensive zip code in the country, helped no doubt by the presence of the largest private house in the country, Ira Rennert’s Fair Field, a 63 acre property last valued at $170,000,000 in 2004.  It’s not for sale.  But right down the road is another little piece of heaven that’s just taken a price drop to $59,000,000.  But I digress.        
In the Garden of
The Bridgehampton Inn
“Loaves and Fishes” is not Anna’s only venture in the Hamptons. In the early 1900s she and Detfer bought a local landmark built in the 179os.  With their daughter Sybille, they turned the place into The Bridgehampton Inn where they not only have lodging, they also have cooking classes.  And right down the street is the Loaves and Fishes Cookshop which Sybille and her husband, Gerritt van Kempen, own and operate. It’s locally famous for its “We accept Euros” sign and for the fact that miraculously it carries merchandise no Williams-Sonoma store ever has.                 
A colorful side dish of Grape Tomatoes
Today’s post is an homage to Anna.  Our dear, mutual friends Michael and Jim have birthdays very close together. And to celebrate, Michael asked if we would make a recipe from Anna’s first Cookbook, 
“The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook” (MacMillen 1985).  It was the first time in years that we’d had the dish which is an absolute shame.  We used this as a dinner party dish for several seasons when it was first published.  At the time, tuna was not the premium priced fish it is today.  Before the arrival of Sushi in every supermarket, tuna was a bargain.  Not any more.  Even though this is a local fish, it rang up at $24.00 a lb.  But if ever a dish were worth splurging on, this one is.  The big fish ‘steaks’ are first marinated for just one hour—no longer.  While they sit in their mustard-lemon marinade, you can put together your side dishes.  I made a Grape Tomato sauté with shallots and thyme and roasted some local asparagus in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  The fish can be grilled outdoors or in.  You can even use the broiler if you want.  It takes all of 4 minutes a side but check for doneness which will depend on how hot the grill is and how thick your fish is.  Pop the cooked fish into a warm oven, keeping all the marinade that will then be added to the Lemon Sauce. And oh what sauce!  It’s light and lemony, with a hint of rosemary and touch of garlic.   It looks beautiful on the fish and tastes even better on the plate.  And if you have any tuna left over, you have the makings of a flawless Salade Nicoise in your future. Here’s the recipe and here’s to our heroine, Anna Pump.

Recipe for Grilled Fresh Tuna Steaks with Lemon Sauce
Serves 6 generous portions.  Takes 1 hour 20 minutes to make including 1 hour marinating the fish.

For the Marinade:
1/3 cup Dijon Mustard
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, peeling and minced
3 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced or 3 tsps. Dried
1 1/3 cups olive oil      
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

3 pounds of fresh tuna, cut into 6 steaks.

For the Sauce:
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter
3 tbsp. unbleached white flour
1 ½ cups Chicken Stock
1/3 cup Heavy Cream
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper

1 Lemon sliced for garnish
Any fresh herb for garnish (I used marjoram)

Combine all the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade in place.  Puree for 30 seconds or until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Pour the marinade into a casserole or pyrex dish then place the tuna steaks in the dish and make sure they are completely covered with marinade.  Marinate 1 hour.

Pre-heat a grill or broiler until very hot.  Pre-heat warming drawer or oven to 200 degrees.
Take the tuna from the casserole dish, reserving the marinade for the sauce.  Grill the steaks until done.  This should take about 4 minutes a side but it’s highly dependent on how thick your tuna steaks are and how your heat source. Test for doneness. 

Arrange the tuna steaks on a warm platter and put them in the warming drawer or 200 degree oven while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the flour.  Simmer stirring until all the lumps are gone.  Add the chicken stock stirring constantly until the sauce begins to thicken.  Add the cream, salt and pepper.  Bring to a bubbling boil. Remove from the heat.  Add the marinade and stir.  Cover the fish lightly with sauce.  Put the rest in a sauce boat and serve it on the side.  Garnish the platter with the lemon slices and herbs.