Ahi Tuna with Asian Barbecue Dipping Sauce

Ina Garten’s recipe for Barbecue Sauce includes Asian and Mexican flavors like soy sauce and chili powder – giving the sauce a more rounded edge. I love the idea of hybrid cuisines – and the Mexican Asian fusion restaurants I see continuing to pop up here in D.C. mean it must be a crowd-pleasing combo. Chorizo potstickers, anyone?

The way her story goes, she made three sauces – a traditional barbecue sauce, an Asian barbecue sauce and a Mexican barbecue sauce. Instead of selecting one, she figured, why not just mix them together?

Here, I honed in on perfecting the Asian barbecue sauce – that brings out Asian flavors and condiments, while still having that traditional barbecue sauce color, consistency and caramelized brown sugar goodness.

Mixed with Kewpie mayo, you’re in for a hell of a lot of spicy, sweet, salty and fishy undertones in a silky dipping sauce. It’s the perfect palate pleaser to go along with a ruby rare Ahi tuna steak, sliced thick.

I’m in the midst of taking a food safety manager class in order to be able to cook in commercial kitchens. I knew it would open my eyes to the sheer number of food-borne illnesses that, if you were a play-it-safe kind of person, might lead you to eat boiled rice for the rest of your life.

But when it comes to something as good as rare Ahi tuna, I’m always willing to take that risk. No amount of facts and statistics are going to sway me to order a well-done cheeseburger. Or avoid those $1 oyster specials.

I think all of us unpasteurized cheese-eating, raw seafood tower indulgers show a true love for food every time we place that order or buy that ingredient. That’s living if I’ve ever seen it.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 as an appetizer.

  • 1 lb. Ahi tuna steak

F o r  t h e  M a r i n a d e

  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon powdered wasabi
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  A s i a n  B a r b e c u e  D i p p i n g  S a u c e

Makes 2 cups.

  • 1 / 2 can tomato paste
  • 1 / 3 cup ketchup
  • 1 / 4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 / 4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 / 2 small medium white onion, small diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Scallions, sliced, for garnish
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Kewpie mayo, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a snug, shallow dish. Marinate the Ahi tuna steak for as long as possible, preferably 1 hour.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper, and saute until the onions are completely translucent, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for additional 1 minute. Proceed to add the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the Kewpie mayo. Stir until all ingredients are fully combined. Simmer on low to medium heat for 20 minutes, until the sauce is reduced slightly.
  3. Allow to cool. Combine equal parts Kewpie mayo and barbecue sauce until you reach your desired amount of dipping sauce, mixing until the sauce is uniform throughout. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds, if desired. Chill the sauce in the fridge while you prepare the tuna.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet with a coating of olive oil. Remove the tuna from the marinade, and place in the hot pan. For a rare finish, cook the tuna for 90 seconds on each side.
  5. Remove the steak immediately from the pan, and slice thick against the grain. Serve alongside the dipping sauce. Eat immediately.

 

Pickle-Brined Fish & Chips

I’ve never brined a protein before – and after this recipe, I’m regretting not experimenting with brining sooner.

I’ve only heard the pros of the brining method, mostly from people who regularly brine their Thanksgiving turkeys. Perfumes meat with desired flavors. Keeps meat juicy and tenderized. Imparts perfect level of saltiness.

All of these held true for the brine I soaked the cod in for these fish and chips. Except I didn’t use anything elegant along the lines of an orange peel, thyme and cardamom-infused brine.  Although that sounds like a good idea.

I used dill pickle juice.

Being careful to keep the cod’s dignity intact, the brine used wasn’t the Yellow 5-dyed stuff from a jar, but leftover from the dill pickles I made a few weeks back (brining liquid instructions per that recipe, excluding the hot peppers).

With time to spare before subjecting my stovetop to yet another splattering frying session, I threw the cod in the pickle juice and allowed it to soak for a few hours.

It wasn’t the pickles that you tasted in the fish meat – I primarily tasted the garlic. Remember, the tartar sauce has a pickle thing going on already, so you are getting a double pickle hit. I welcome this with open arms.

Is it just me, or are fish and chips that much better when you’re holding the scalding hot pieces of fish in a flimsy, poorly-executed paper cone while the grease drips onto your shirt and pants? While there are plates, forks and knives in your kitchen that you could use?

Infinitely better tasting, is where I was going with that. I don’t know why that is.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  B r i n e

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • Approximately 10 cloves garlic, smashed & skins removed
  • Approximately 20 stems fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

F o r  t h e  T a r t a r  S a u c e

  • 1 / 3 cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 dill pickle spear, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill, minced
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

F o r  t h e  F i s h

  • 4 to 6 4 oz. pieces fresh cod fillet
  • Vegetable oil, as needed for frying
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

F o r  t h e  C h i p s

  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 2 stems thyme, leaves removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed
  • Olive oil, as needed

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Heat the water, vinegar, salt and sugar on the stovetop until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the peppercorns, dill and garlic and allow to cool to room temperature. Once room temperature, place the cod in the brining liquid, leaving in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours to soak.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375*.
  3. Cut the potatoes into spears, and place on a sheet pan. Toss with a coating of olive oil, a large pinch of salt, a large pinch of pepper, the thyme and the minced garlic. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and tender, tossing once to maintain even cooking.
  4. Combine the tartar sauce ingredients. Set in the fridge to chill while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Combine the flour, garlic powder, and black pepper. Toss the cod fillets in the flour, then back into the brine, then back into the flour mixture, setting the pieces of fish on a clean plate.
  6. In the meantime, heat vegetable oil in a skillet so there are 1 1 / 2 to 2 inches of oil in the pan. Once frying temperature (test oil with a pinch of flour to see if it starts to sizzle), place the cod in the oil, waiting to flip the fish only after the underside is a golden brown.
  7. Serve the fish and chips hot, in rolled newspaper or parchment paper, if desired, along with the tartar sauce.