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.
- 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
1. Stir the breadcrumbs and pepper together in a bowl. Spread the mixture out on a large plate. Coat the tuna with the mixture by pressing all sides of each steak on the plate, pressing down so the coating adheres.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Cook the tuna in the pan without crowding until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn the steaks over and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes for rare, 3 for medium-rare. Remove the tuna to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Set aside.
3. Add the chayote to the pan, raise the heat to high, and wilt for 1 minute. Add the carrot and cook for 2 minutes. Add the shallots, olives, thyme, gin, and vermouth, stir to combine, and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, and let boil for 1 minute to reduce slightly. Stir in the butter; season with salt and pepper; and remove the pan from the heat. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove and discard the thyme sprigs.
4. To serve, slice each tuna steak in half. Arrange some of the sauteed vegetables in the center of each of 4 plates and stack 2 steak halves on top. Drizzle some sauce around the fish on each plate and serve.
Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving.