Monday, February 22, 2010

Tuna Steaks au Poivre

Traditional steak au poivre ("poivre" is pepper) is a French bistro dish using strip steaks coated in cracked peppercorns, sauted quickly over high heat. The cracked pepper is not as hot as regular ground pepper.

One of my favorite TV chefs is Jacques Pepin. He had several cooking series on PBS, some with only himself, some with his daughter, and one with Julia Child. One of the accompanying cookbooks had a recipe for tuna steaks au poivre, a variation on the classic method. Here's my take:

The Fresh Market had sashimi grade tuna steaks on sale and I got three. Take out of the fridge about 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.

Our friends Steve and Amy gave us this peppercorn blend for Christmas. Put several tablespoons in your mortar and pestle and crack them. If you don't have a blend, use regular black peppercorns. If you lack a mortar and pestle, crack the peppercorns with a large heavy skillet (put them on the counter or cutting board and press the skillet on them to crack them) or rolling pin (you might want to put them in a ziplock bag first).

Sprinkle both sides with the cracked peppercorns and press in. Sprinkle the steaks with salt.

Get your skillet hot, add some olive oil, add the tuna steaks.

Turn steaks over after a minute or two. Time depends on how thick the steaks are and how well you like them cooked. I try to cook mine to medium rare, but the wife likes her seafood fully cooked. Remove from pan when done and pour out extra oil. In the original Pepin recipe, this was the end. I've added a sauce.

Pour some red wine (merlot or cabernet sauvignon) in the pan and reduce this over medium-to-high heat. Scrape any cooked-on goodies from the pan so they dissolve in the wine. You want about 1/4 cup of liquid left; it starts to thicken and get syrupy.

When ready, add a pat of butter and turn off the heat. Swirl to incorporate butter.

Serve the tuna and spoon some of the sauce over it. Here we had fresh asparagus and brown rice. We enjoyed the dish with a Seghesio Family Vineyards 2008 Zinfandel. Two and a half years ago our friends Clark and Henrik introduced us to a Seghesio 2005 zin and we really liked it. We still have a few bottles left from the case(s) we later bought. Recently the 2008 version was out and I got a bottle to see if it was as good as its earlier version. It was. Both have generous fruit flavors. Some red wines work with some fish, i.e. pinot noir and wild salmon. I was thinking that the peppery notes in a zinfandel would match the tuna, but the Seghesio has little peppery notes. Still, the concentrated fruit made it a joy to drink.

If you don't drink red wine, you can try making your sauce with a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, and drink either varietal with the dish.