Pan Seared Tuna Steak with Toasted Coconut and Honey-Lime Glaze

IMG_1091Creativity thrives in an open mind. It’s easy to attach yourself to a plan, insisting to yourself that you must have this one dish and you must make it the way you always do, but sometimes the world begs you to do something different. I was in such a situation at the grocery store yesterday.

I came with a plan: I would buy a portion of salmon, no matter the price, as treat for my birthday and cook it with my favorite pesto and cedar plank preparation, which I’ve blogged about here. The problem was the price: it was just plain outrageous, a price I was barely willing to pay even for a special treat. Tuna steaks, however, were on sale for a more reasonable price. I wanted salmon, had only made tuna steak once in my life and wasn’t quite sure I did it right, but I decided to try to tuna steak. The rest quickly fell into place. Coconut oil was on sale, which brought my mind to a Thai-inspired preparation. Tuna tends to pair well with Asian flavors, so I thought why not break away a little from the usual sesame seed crust and play with coconut?

When I got home, I did some more research. I regarded recipes online, read about coconut oil, and watched videos on cooking technique (I recommend this one from Jamie Oliver, who seems the most knowledgeable and is possibly the most pleasant chef personality on air: As Oliver notes, the key is to cook the fish over high heat for a short period of time. You do NOT want to cook the fish, just give the outside a nice crust. As with burgers, most people prefer tuna steaks partially cooked, usually in the medium rare to rare range. You could technically cook a tuna steak all the way through if the entire concept of raw fish horrifies you, but if that’s how you feel, you probably want a different fish. Tuna steaks will be sad and dry if cooked completely, which is not an issue for many other types of fish.

A word on prepping: do NOT put the fish in the pan until you’ve prepped everything and you’re satisfied with the sauce. A tuna steak will cook incredibly quickly and you don’t want it to just sit around while you continue to fuddle with the sauce (trust me, it takes a lot of tasting to get it right).

Anyway, I was generally happy with this dish. It lent itself to beautiful plating, the crust was nice and crunchy, and the flavors encompassed my favorite triad of sweet, sour, and spicy. The only issues I had were that I wanted the fish just a tad bit more cooked (it was more rare than the medium rare I wanted), the glaze had too much soy sauce, and the coconut oil didn’t taste like shit (I should have done research before buying it; apparently I bought the refined kind, which means it doesn’t taste or smell like coconut, just a bland butter-like blob).

Here’s a recipe:

  • Dry rub: salt, pepper, chili powder or cayenne, ginger
  • Coconut oil and canola oil for marinating the fish, plus more canola oil for the pan
  • Honey-lime glaze (heat in sauce pan over low-medium heat until reduced to a molasses-like consistency): honey, lime juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce
  • Garnish: unsweetened coconut chips (toasted in over until golden, about 4 minutes at 35o), green onions, lime wedges for that extra bit of lime flavor you know you want

That’s it 🙂


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