"Some people have an espresso to wake up a dull party; I have a wasabi pea."
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I think it was my unhealthy college years when I first discovered the medicinal properties of seared tuna. Growing up, I used to make my mother cook my tuna steaks absolutely through, so they were splitting at the seams and dry as Bumblebee in a well-drained can.
But after a week of studying finance with an entire thin-crust Domino's pie every night for a week, I decided it was time for something light. And happily, at a corner Japanese sushi bar, I stumbled upon my treasured "reset" food upon which I've relied ever since.
I wrote last week about my standard quotidian interaction with wasabi: the dull lime flesh green paste I sculpt onto my sushi. Wasabi peas, however, were always something of a bar snack or cocktail party refresher.
Some people have an espresso to wake up a dull party; I have a wasabi pea. Wasabi will wake a deep sleeper in a matter of seconds—a fact that attests to the specific airborne heat of wasabi, one that billows vaporously through your head, rather than settling definitively and rancorously on your tongue. You don't need a hefty gulp of milk to put out wasabi (the heat doesn't stick around). It is a blast blaze, white heat, not the smoldering red licking flames of chili.
In an effort at reinvention, I blitzed the wasabi peas in my food processor and crusted the sushi-grade tuna steak in the green-hot pebbled coals. Then, I sear the steak for seconds on each side, slice, and serve with lime wedges, flakes of sea salt, and a drizzle of last week's wasabi oil.
The fresh, light tuna is like soft, Italian leather, studded with the hard-rock crunch of crispy, feisty wasabi peas. It is playful, but seriously good. You could also drizzle some of last week's wasabi mayonnaise over it, or serve with some ponzu or soy.
Wasabi Pea-Crusted Rare-Seared Tuna
- 2/3 pound tuna steak
- Coarse salt
- 1/2 cup wasabi peas, ground to rubble
- Vegetable oil
- Wasabi oil
- Baby arugula leaves
- Lime wedges
Pat the tuna steak dry, and season it with coarse salt. Crust with the smashed wasabi peas, and place the tuna in the freezer for just two or three minutes while the pan heats up. This will keep it as rare as possible in the center of the fish.
Place a nonstick frying pan on high heat, and allow to get very hot.
When the pan is very hot, drizzle the fish with a bit of vegetable oil, and sear in the hot pan 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, then cut very thinly, about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (or as you like it), against the grain.
Fan the tuna slices out on a plate, and drizzle with a touch of coarse salt and wasabi oil. Serve lime wedges alongside to squeeze over the fish. Toss some baby arugula leaves or mâche with a touch of coarse salt, wasabi oil, and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve the little salad on the side of the fish.