Pepper-Crusted Tuna with Green Olive Sauce

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

One of the first specials I offered when I was a sous chef at ’21’ was a peppered tuna steak. Believe it or not, it was something of a novelty back then. I served it with a bracing tomato relish and buttered green beans. This recipe, based on that one, is a real pantry special, if you count your bar as part of your pantry: the key ingredients-olive, gin, and vermouth-are the essential components of a martini. The stir-fry of carrots and chayote is intended to add snap and crunch, like the peanuts or pretzels you might snack on with a cocktail. Be careful not to overcook fresh tuna. Let it come to room temperature just before cooking so the inside can be cooked rare or medium-rare without drying out.

Chayote, or mirliton, is a crisp vegetable used extensively in New Orleans and Caribbean cooking. It looks like a pear and cooks like a zucchini, but stays firm, not mushy. It can be eaten raw or cooked and is especially good in stews. Zucchini or yellow squash can be substituted

Nightly Specials

Instead of green olives, use Kalamata olives for an intense salty flavor or blanched pearl onions for another alternative.

Replace the gin and vermouth, with white wine or tequila, and finish the sauce with a teaspoon or so each of oregano and parsley.


Cooking Methodpan-frying, sauteeing



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturebuttery, crisp, herby, salty, savory, winey


  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, pulsed to fine in a food processor
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • Four 6-ounce skinless tuna steaks (¾ inch thick)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 whole chayote, julienned (see Notes)
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into julienne
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 16 martini olives, pitted, drained, and sliced crosswise
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • ¼ cup gin
  • ¼ cup dry vermouth
  • ½ cup homemade chicken stock or store-bought, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Fine sea salt



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