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What’s My Wine? Sancerre with Ahi Tuna

Written By Scott Joseph On May 6, 2011

James Slattery approaches cooking a little more scientifically than most chefs. When he tastes the food he’s cooking, he pictures a gas chromatogram, a readout of chemical components shown as a spectrum of light with peaks and dips on a chart. That’s because before he decided to follow his passion to be a cook, Slattery was an analytical chemist. Slattery changed course in the late ‘90s, obtaining a spot in the kitchen of Emeril Lagasse, no less, eventually becoming executive sou chef at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop before taking on the executive chef position at A Land Remembered and Circa in Winter Park. He now leads the culinary crew at Big Fin Seafood Kitchen.

One of Slattery’s favorite dishes is his preparation of an ahi tuna steak packed with sesame seeds on the outside and pan-seared rare, which he serves with wakame seaweed. “It has sort of the air of the ocean,” says Slattery, “but depending on how you cook it it gives off a nutty aroma.” Slattery sautes the seaweed then deglazes the pan with sake, then adds pear pasta. “You can smell the ocean and there’s a citrus note,” he says.

Next he sautes pickled ginger with garlic and shallots, then adds that to a blender with edible orchids. Then it’s added to heavy cream and reduced for the sauce. “You look at it and you think it’s going to be a heavy dish,” he says, “but it’s light, it’s fresh.”

So if that’s my dish, What’s My Wine?

“For this dish I don’t want something that’s going to wrap around the food,” says Slattery, “I want something that’s going to cut through it.” A chardonnay, he says, with its buttery characteristics would tend to coat the tongue. That would tend to impede the flavors of the food.

He recommends the Vincent Delaporte sancerre from the Loire Valley, made with 100 percent sauvignon blanc grapes. The flavor profile of the wine has marigolds and, coincidentally, seaweed. “I think it goes with the nuttiness, the earthy tone you get from the wakame seaweed,” he says. “It’s clean.”


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