Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peppered Tuna and Hoisin Dipping Sauce with Asian Cucumber Salad

Alex and I made a trip out to Costco today and stumbled upon some thick cut amazing tuna steaks.  They were beautiful.  So we decided to pick some tuna steaks up and make them for dinner!  This has been a very seafood week for us - striped bass one night, then shrimp, then salmon last night and now tuna.  Up until now the shrimp was my favorite dish, but this tuna has supplanted it as my favorite.  Everything about the dish just works.  The recipe was supposed to come with Asian guacamole instead of an Asian cucumber salad, but it is foul outside (wintry mix in late October is not my friend) and we didn't want to go pick up avocados.  We picked up some Persian cucumbers today while we were at Costco and I think cucumbers go really well with seared tuna.  I briefly considered doing asparagus instead, but decided that cucumbers would be the better choice.  So we went with cucumbers and I was not disappointed with our choice at all.  It was fabulous.  The cool and vinegary cucumbers were the perfect contrast to the warmth and spice of the Sichuan peppercorns and star anise of the tuna, and the richness of the hoisin dipping sauce.  Actually, I was pleasantly surprised by the cucumbers.  Sometimes cucumber salads are so lightly flavored that they are forgettable and only really work when served as an accompaniment to a really flavorful meal.  While the cucumbers were a great compliment because they were refreshing and didn't compete with the flavors of the tuna, they were also tasty enough that they stood on their own.  They were really good.  I would definitely make them again, with or without the tuna.  And I definitely plan on making the tuna again.  Maybe next time we will make the Asian guacamole that Susan Spicer intended to go with the dish.  I think if we fried up some dumpling wrappers as if they were tortilla chips to eat with the guacamole that would be pretty fabulous.  This was a really excellent meal - one of my favorites that we have made recently.

Recipes after the jump!

Peppered Tuna and Hoisin Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans
By Susan Spicer

For tuna:
1 piece star anise
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp vegetable oil, separated
3/4 lb tuna loin (we used a really thick tuna steak that we cut in half to form "loins")
coarse kosher salt
For sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp hoisin
1 tsp honey
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp ginger, finely minced (or grated)
1/2 tsp sambal oelek
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat the star anise and peppercorns in a small, dry skillet over medium-high heat until you can smell the pepper when standing over the pan, about 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.  Combine the soy sauce and 1 tbsp oil and brush the mixture on all sides of the tuna.  Sprinkle the tuna lightly on all sides with the peppercorn mixture and salt.  Let it stand for 15 minutes, or refrigerate for several hours.

To cook the tuna, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, then sear the tuna for about 1-2 minutes per side (depending on the thickness of your loin or steaks), just until rare to medium-rare (the sides will be browned, but the tuna will still feel slightly soft when pressed).  Transfer to a plate to cool.

Meanwhile whisk together sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

To serve, cut the tuna into 1/4-inch thick slices and divide among plates.  Serve with dipping sauce.

Asian Cucumber Salad
2 scallions, green and white parts, finely chopped
2 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tsp clear honey
1 garlic clove, minced
4 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced on the bias
kosher salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds

In a mixing bowl, combine the scallion, sesame oil, chili flakes, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and garlic. Stir until well mixed. Let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature for the flavors to combine. Finely slice the cucumbers. Sprinkle with salt. Let sit for a few minutes in a colander, than pat off excess water with paper towels.

Add cucumbers to mixing bowl. Toss and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve.

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