Sesame Tuna

Iavarone Bros., the specialty Italian grocery store where we do the bulk of our weekly shopping, has been carrying some absolutely gorgeous sushi-grade tuna steaks every week for the past couple months, and every single time we’re there I gaze longingly at them, consider buying one, then glance at the price tag before shaking my head mournfully and walking away. But this week I vowed that we would have one for dinner, and I kept my promise, walking resolutely up to that fish counter with head held high and declaring that I would have on of their fine sushi-grade tuna steaks, please. And then the fishmonger handed over that parcel of pure culinary gold, and all pretense of sophistication disappeared as I skipped off to present J with our newest treasure, giggling maniacally.

This, my friends, was some truly beautiful fish.

What a shame that I didn’t think to snap a photo before it was cooked. It was about a 3/4 lb steak, all deep red and semi translucent, just barely marbled, firm but ever so slightly soft to the touch, practically glowing with fishy goodness.

For once I really took my time on this meal, being careful to time things correctly so that everything would be done just when the fish was medium-rare and slightly cooled from a brief rest after cooking in the fridge. I kept things simple so that the flavor of the fish would really show through, and paid special attention to things like complimentary textures and temperatures. And my, oh my did it pay off. I don’t like to toot my own horn too much, but honestly, to me this rivaled anything I’d ever had at a restaurant. The fish was tender and buttery with a delightfully crisp and crunchy exterior from a generous coating of white and black sesame seeds, and especially flavorful from a brief marinade in soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and black pepper. Sticky jasmine rice seemed to be the obvious pairing for such perfect fish, and a quick stir fry of simply seasoned, still-crisp veggies rounded out the plate quite nicely. This was a truly special meal, one worth savoring. And a good thing too, because I doubt I’ll be shelling out the cash for one of these babies again anytime soon, however much I might like to. 😦

Check it out, I finally got a tripod and set up my light box at home, and I really think my photos are coming out much better now. I still have to get the lighting and backdrop right, but at least they aren’t blurry and washed out anymore!

Sesame-crusted Tuna Steak with Jasmine Rice and Vegetable Stir Fry

Tuna of this high quality really should never be cooked above medium rare, and rare is really preferable. Cooking it all the way through would completely ruin the nuance of flavor and velvety texture of the fish in its raw state. Honestly, I only cooked it at all because although I enjoy raw tuna as sushi or sashimi, I can rarely eat much of it, and I just loved the contrast of crisp, cooked exterior to meltingly soft interior. Best of both worlds, if you ask me. But please, if you can’t handle raw fish, give this dish a pass, because I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t like it cooked well-done, either. Stick to tuna salad, in that case.

1 sushi-grade tuna loin steak, about 1 inch thick and about 3/4-1lb in weight
marinade: 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp mirin, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup each black and white sesame seeds
2 tbsp vegetable oil (we use safflower)

Combine the marinade ingredients in a shallow bowl, whisking gently with a fork to ensure that the honey dissolves and everything combines evenly. Place the tuna steak in the bowl and turn over a couple of times to coat all sides in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand no longer than 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Remove the fish from the marinade and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Combine the white and black sesame seeds on a large plate. Lay the fish on the plate and press gently into the seeds, then flip to cover the opposite side. Use your hands to carefully press the seeds onto the fish to ensure they will stick. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside while you prepare to cook.

Heat a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until a drop of water dances across the surface and evaporates rapidly. Add the vegetable oil and let stand for just a few seconds to heat, then very carefully add the fish (watch out, it’ll sizzle pretty aggressively and some of the seeds may pop). Cook without moving in the pan for approximately 3 minutes. Keep your eye on the sides of the steak: when you see the flesh of the fish start to darken and turn an opaque brownish-grey about 1/4 inch from the bottom, its time to flip. Carefully slide a thin spatula beneath the flesh and flip, using your fingers to help stabilize it. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until cooked to the same degree as the first side – again, watch the sides of the steak to determine how far its cooked. You want the majority of the steak to remain red and uncooked in the middle.

At this point you should remove the fish to a plate (you can use the same one as before, it wont hurt anything) and place in the fridge or even the freezer to stop it from continuing to cook from residual heat. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

To serve, slice the steak into 1/4 inch thick slices with a very sharp knife (if you’re eating with chopsticks) or simply divide the steak into two even portions (if you prefer a knife and fork – trust me though, go for the chopsticks. Its infinitely more fun and satisfying.). Serve over cooked jasmine rice (plain or seasoned with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and/or sesame seeds/oil) with a crisp vegetable stir fry as accompaniment (we chose a mix of julienned broccoli stems, green bell peppers, baby carrots, onions, and sugar snap peas) and garnish with a drizzle of soy and a scattering of fresh-chopped scallions.

(For an extra treat, nibble on a handful of Wasabi-Soy Roasted Almonds for a highly addictive and tongue-tingling pre-dinner nosh! Peanut-free nuts FTW!)

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2 Responses to Sesame Tuna

  1. Hello,While looking for blogs on food, wine and cheese topics, I came across your website and found it very interesting.I’m emailing on behalf of Ile de France, a French cheese importing company(Schratter Foods, since 1936). Their most popular and award winning cheesesare the Ile de France Brie, Ile de France Goat and Ile de France Camembert.(Ile de France Brie being the very first Brie imported to the US over 70years ago.)We would like to know if you would be interested in receiving a sample ofthese French cheeses and write about one of them in your blog.This is our second “sampling project” this year, and you can check online what other bloggers wrote last time: de France Cheese would send you one Goat cheese, or one Brie or a Camenbert to taste and comment on.Please let us know before September 16th which cheese would you be interested in sampling and writing about.We are giving you the choice between these three different products, because we plan to send you another type of Ile de France cheeses to sample later on this year if you enjoyed this project.The cheese will be shipped in a cooler (UPS overnight) the 23rd of September.Therefore we would need from you an address where someone can receive the UPS delivery.We hope you will be interested in participating. In case you are not, rest assured, that we would not contact you anymore.In addition to the sampling program, we are also launching a recipe contest.The first prize will be $1000. The second and third prizes will be a cheese basket worth $150.In order to participate, you would need to send us a picture/pictures or a video of you cooking with Ile de France cheese as well as the recipe itself. You may enter any type of dish (soup, sandwich, desert, etc.), as long as it includes Ile de France cheese. (There are no obligations to participate in the contest, weather you accepted and received the cheese or not.)The recipe contest will start on September 25th and will end on October 15th when the voting will start.More information on the contest will be posted soon on you are interested in participating please let us know.Please do visit our website ( anytime, it is full of cheese recipes, tips, pairing ideas, and much more, regarding other specialty cheeses such as Morbier, Comté or Boursault.Feel free to pick any of our recipes to write about as well, just remember that you need to mention the source and place a link to our website.Looking forward to hearing from you,

  2. Don says:

    (For an extra treat, nibble on a handful of Wasabi-Soy Roasted Almonds for a highly addictive and tongue-tingling pre-dinner nosh! Peanut-free nuts FTW!)I bought a can of these tonight and they are incredible! Full of win!

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