Pistachio Crusted Tuna Recipe
I recently was gifted the most incredible piece of tuna. The fisherman, who caught it just off of Nantucket Sound, said the whole fish must have been 120 pounds - and the fish meat was high quality enough for sushi. I stared in wonder at the ruby red flesh, knowing that I held in my hands a great prize, but not quite sure how to best make use of it.
I called in my friend and chef, Gaby Redner, hoping she'd have ideas. Sure enough, Gaby came armed with this fantastic Pistachio Crusted Tuna recipe. For sides, we made wild rice and a squash-chard-corn stir fry.
Preparing the Tuna
Use a sharp knife. Cut into serving sizes before cooking. Know the quality of your fish.
We knew that we wanted to keep the tuna raw and pink - the texture of quality raw tuna is amazing, and the taste is so fresh you'll think the fish is still swimming.
Tuna tartare was one recipe idea, but I then learned that this dish is usually reserved for lower quality tuna for which you want to hide the imperfect or fatty flesh. My particular tuna cut could definitely stand alone! So we decided to go more the sashimi style, but with a crusted pistachio exterior.
First we half-cut, half-peeled away the skin of the tuna, as exactly as possible so as not to lose any precious flesh. Note: You'll need a very sharp knife for slicing through raw tuna! Don't squish or mangle that gorgeous stuff with a dull knife. We then cut it into four smaller serving sizes (this will also cook better on the skillet).
Next, we salt and peppered it generously. Professional chefs know you can't skimp on the seasonings, especially salt.
Seasoning the Tuna
Next, Gaby brought out her special weapon: powdered pistachio. She mentioned that she would have preferred to use whole pistachios and grind them in a food processor or coffee grinder to get a slightly courser texture; it's nice to have a little crunch when you bite down on the soft tuna. But we certainly made do!
We coated the tuna on all sides in the green pistachio powder, on top of the salt and pepper seasonings. As well as being delicious, the crust holds the moisture inside the fish as it is cooked.
Cooking the Fish
Use enough oil, and put the heat on high!
Next we heated a bit of oil in a skillet, enough oil that it wet the powdered pistachio covering.
Gaby informed me that when cooking fish you want the pan really hot, so we turned the flame on high. We only cooked two cuts of tuna at a time - because the fish had been sitting in the refrigerator that day it was cold, and too many cuts of cold fish would have lowered the pan temperature.
We rotated the cuts of fish so that all sides made contact with the hot skillet. At this level of heat it took only about a minute on each of the four sides of fish. With only four servings to fry, this had to be my quickest fish cooking experience!
The colors were beautiful: ruby red interior, a thin circle of cooked white flesh, and the outer circle of the dark green pistachio crust.
A Creamy Basil Dressing
To make a creamy basil dressing for drizzling over the fish and side dishes, Gaby threw into the food processor:
1 clove garlic
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
shake of salt
several leaves of fresh basil
Serving the Tuna
As Gaby explained, as delicious as the tuna is because it is raw "you don't want to just have a big ol' hunk of it" on your plate like a steak. So, to make things a bit more delicate, and to fully appreciate the texture of the fish we cut it into slices.
Accompanying Side Dishes
Using what was fresh in the garden, we shaved corn off a cob, diced up some patty pan squash, and threw it all into a pan with some chard for light sauteing.
And what fish dish would be complete without a side of rice. We however made wild rice - not a rice at all but a grass seed high in amino acids and extremely nutritious.
Enjoy the whole plate with a glass of white wine!