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In the Kitchen with Giancarlo Valera, Executive Chef of Tanta Chicago

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Given the weather in Chicago right now, it’s totally understandable to want to take a trip to warmer destinations. We all miss the sun and the heat, and the idea of sipping a cool drink along the beach likely sounds like an absolute dream. But, even if you can’t take that perfect vacation, you can still get a taste of warmer locations like South America thanks to the heat and excitement happening at Tanta Chicago {118 West Grand Avenue, Chicago; 312.222.9700}.

To get a true look at the kitchen magic, we spoke with Giancarlo Valera, executive chef of Tanta Chicago about why we should all be focusing on lunchtime dishes, and how we can integrate Peruvian flavors into our daily dining.

Why should we all be eating better at lunch?

A lot of people are busy in the morning. Lunch becomes prime time for nourishment to power through the day. In Peru, we take an extended lunch break to refocus, and so this essential meal period should awaken our palates and set the tone for the rest of the day.

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How is Tanta helping with this?

Work-life balance is different in America, so we are offering an essential Peruvian power lunch to get our guests back in the office in an hour. Our Executive Lunch is a three-course menu that showcases the vibrant flavors of Peru—no mundane soup and salad combo here! And you’re still in and out in a timely manner.

We wanted guests to experience how Peruvians dine. We like bold flavors and variety and being able to connect with our dining companions. Food is how we connect with others.

What are some of your favorite items on the menu right now?

Arroz con Mariscos is a special dish for me. It reminds me of the good days eating at cebicherias in Lima with friends and family, not to mention the abundance of seafood!

Tuna Montadito is a great way to start the meal, a golden brown semolina toast, guacamole with leche de tigre (cebiche juice), Nikkei style tuna tartare, and sunny side up quail eggs. I’ve shared the recipe for this dish (at the end of this article) so you can create this at home, too!

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If we wanted a cocktail with lunch, how does the menu support that?

You can never go wrong with Peru’s national cocktail: the Pisco Sour! But we also offer spirit-free and low proof cocktails for weekday guests who need to head back to work.

What other exciting things are coming to Tanta?

We’re expanding on our Executive Lunch Menu with a dinner counterpart very soon. It’s been a frequent request from our regulars and new adventurous diners for us to surprise them with a menu.

We currently offer a Chef’s Tasting Menu for large groups, and we’re excited to now offer this option daily! Chef Gaston Acurio and I wanted to create a tasting menu that will deliver on flavor and value without sacrificing the Peruvian experience. It’s a balance of delivering Peruvian flavors and making sure our weekday guests can still get to work on time.

Every weekend Friday through Sunday, we will also offer a chef special using more elevated ingredients. Lots to look forward to!

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Chef Valera’s Tuna Montadito

Ingredients

TOAST

  • 2 pieces of semolina bread (or brioche toast) sliced
  • 1 oz butter

ROCOTO AIOLI

  • 2 oz rocoto pepper
  • 4 oz mayo
  • Lime juice
  • Salt to taste

GUACAMOLE CEBICHERO

  • 1 avocado mashed
  • 1 1/2 oz of red onions
  • 1 tsp cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 tsp of habanero minced
  • lime juice from two limes
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 oz leche de tigre

LECHE DE TIGRE

  • 1 oz celery, juice from 3 limes
  • 1 oz red onions, 1 garlic clove
  • 4 oz fish stock, 2 ice cubes
  • 1 oz rocoto pepper
  • 1/4 oz fresh ginger peeled
  • salt to taste

NIKKEI TUNA TARTARE

  • 4 oz fresh raw tuna cut medium dice
  • 1 oz sweet chili sauce
  • 1/10 oz shichimi togarashi
  • 1 oz red onions small diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1/2oz mayonnaise
  • salt to taste

GARNISH

  • Two quail eggs
  • 1/4 micro greens
  • Olive oil

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Method

To create the toast, melt butter in a pan, and then place the bread to toast until it gets a golden brown color on both sides. Set aside and reserve.

For the Leche de Tigre, place all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Keep cold in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the cebiche. Then it’s time to assemble the Guacamole Cebichero by placing all ingredients in a bowl for the guacamole mix. After that, pour in 3 oz of the leche de tigre.

To make the Nikkei Tuna Tartare, place the tune and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Incorporate/mix well and salt to taste.

For the quail egg garnish, place the quail eggs in a nonstick pan on medium heat, and cook sunny-side-up. Remove them and reserve.

Then create the Rocoto Aioli by using a blender to puree the mayonnaise, rocoto pepper, lime juice, and salt. Blend for 2 minutes or until you get a smooth sauce.

Then plate by spreading the Guacamole Cebichero evenly on top of the toast. Next, evenly spread a layer of the Nikkei Tuna Tartare on top of the guacamole. Top with the two sunny-side-up quail eggs, and drizzle the Rocoto Aioli on both sides of the toast. Garnish with micro greens and drizzle a touch of olive oil. Sprinkle some shichimi and enjoy!

By Kaleigh Glaza | Online Editor