Some people are inspired by a star athlete, others, by true love. In this case, my muse is yet another fresh, locally caught fish.
Tuna steaks are one of those aptly named cuts of fish. Seared in an ultra-hot iron skillet, the results are meaty and satisfying. Unlike delicate flounder, which calls for only a smattering of butter and lemon, tuna is a hardy fish that marinates beautifully, taking on vibrant flavors without being overpowered. The marinating time for fish is short, making it an ideal entrée for a busy weeknight or last minute entertaining. While the seasoning in the marinade appears to be rich with Asian flavors, the resulting flavor is subtle and light.
Because the steaks cook quickly, it’s advisable to have the side dishes prepared in advance. Steamed or sautéed vegetables, a salad, small new potatoes, couscous, and quinoa are good, quick accompaniments.
I served these steaks with a creamy and zesty chili and lime sauce spiked with snipped basil leaves. If you do not have lime juice on hand, lemon juice is a perfect substitute.
This recipe serves four.
What You Need:
Tuna Steak Marinade
Pyrex casserole just large enough to hold all the steaks in one layer
Large, seasoned cast iron skillet (I wiped mine lightly with a paper towel that had a dash of oil on it. Do not pour oil into the skillet!)
Metal spatula, preferable a fish spatula
½ C. soy sauce
1/3 C. rice vinegar
2 tsp. finely chopped ginger
2 medium cloves chopped garlic
2 T. chopped scallions
1 tsp. sesame oil
½ tsp. chili oil
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. sugar
4 two-inch thick tuna steaks, total weight just under 1.5 lbs.
Small-medium bowl appropriate for serving
1 C. mayonnaise
2-4 T. chili sauce or hot sauce with a dash of hot chili powder
1 tsp. lime juice or lemon juice
Scant ½ tsp. sugar
8-10 fresh basil leaves, snipped into the sauce at last minute
In the casserole, blend the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, scallions, sesame oil, chili oil, red pepper flakes, and sugar. Place the tuna into the marinade. There should be enough marinade to come half way up the sides of the steaks. Coat one side, then turn the pieces over. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Turn over the steaks and return to the refrigerator to marinate another 30 minutes. If the cuts are thinner, reduce marinating time to 20 minutes.
Let the steaks sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking.
While the tuna is sitting, prepare the sauce. Blend all ingredients in the bowl, adding the snipped basil last. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Heat the iron skillet to a high temperature. When it’s ready, flicks of water will sizzle and evaporate in an instant.
Place the tuna steaks in the hot skillet for 2 minutes, allowing a crust to form on the bottom. Turn with a spatula and cook another two minutes. Assuming the cuts are thick, those who prefer a less pink center can sear the steaks 30 seconds to one minute longer. Be sure to keep the center at least a pale pink.
Plate the tuna steaks with your selection of side dishes and a tablespoon of sauce. Serve additional sauce at the table.
By Lisa Reitman Dobi