Think beautiful, rare tuna. Little new potatoes. Market-fresh green beans. Perfectly cooked eggs. And a yuzu miso vinaigrette to tie it all together. That’s what Japanese tuna niçoise is all about.
Simple. Clean. Fresh. Delicious. And dare I say it? Healthy. This dish would be on my dinner menu if I had a restaurant. And it would be the star of my lunch menu.
And it would sell. Not quite signature dish level. But it would sell. Because it is all about balance. Everything cooked separately. And brought together at service.
And it’s an actual dish. Google grilled tuna. You get a million recipes on how to grill tuna. Maybe some sort of dipping sauce to go with it. But no plates. No integrated dishes. Just fish. And fire.
And then try googling sides for grilled tuna. You get brown rice. Salad. Potatoes. Come on. That’s not a plate. That’s a jumble of random bits on a plate. No inspiration. Just stuff.
Japanese tuna niçoise isn’t even a thing
I made this up. I admit it. This isn’t the latest craze. Not trendy. Can’t order it anywhere.
It isn’t even really niçoise. No black olives. No anchovies. Or tomatoes. If I lived in France they would probably deport me for this. For messing with a national treasure.
This one is just tasty. It isn’t the usual slam your tastebuds into submission glebekitchen style. But it works. It works well.
I love a good salad niçoise. Don’t get me wrong. It is one of the truly great salads. Japanese tuna niçoise is inspired by the real deal. It is a testament to it’s greatness. At least that will be my argument at my deportment trial…
Yuzu miso vinaigrette is a bit of magic
Pretty hard to miss the yuzu thing that’s going on these days. So apologies for boring you with this. If you know yuzu skip this section…
Yuzu is a really ugly, incredibly floral citrus fruit. And it’s not easy to find. In fact it’s really hard to find. But you can get yuzu juice. At Japanese and Asian grocers.
Used to be I’d have to beg people to bring it back from Japan for me. Or get it when I was there. Not the fruit though. Just the little bottles of yuzu juice.
“Anything to declare?”
“Just some yuzu juice.”
“Come with me, sir.”
Bit of a pain but it was worth it. Much easier now.
It’s kind of halfway between a grapefruit, a lemon, a lime and an orange. If you can be halfway between four things. I know. That doesn’t make any sense.
But it’s the best I can come up with. Yuzu tastes like yuzu. What does a banana taste like? See my problem?
It’s getting trendy. There’s even a national brand of yuzu ice cream in Canada these days. It’s on menus. Yuzu cheesecake. Yuzu hot sauce. It’s around. Although you may have to hunt for it a bit.
Meyer lemons are a reasonable substitute if you can get them. They are similar. Sort of.
You can try lemon for this recipe. Or a mix of lemon and grapefruit or lemon and orange. Not quite the same but pretty tasty.
Rare tuna – please…
Tuna is an interesting fish. Cooked rare it is amazing. A wonderful thing. A thing I just love.
But cooked through? Terrible. Fishy tasting. Tough. Dry. Just not good.
I’d rather eat my boot. And my boot is probably about the same price as a good quality piece of tuna. So please don’t waste it.
If you must have it cooked through just use cheap, bulk frozen supermarket tuna. Six pieces of tuna for around $15. The cheap stuff. I can’t imagine you’ll be able to tell the difference once it’s well done.
That was harsh. I know. Probably alienated a bunch of people. “I’m not making your recipe. You’re a knob.”
And that’s probably fair. But what isn’t fair is destroying a perfectly good piece of fish. So I probably won’t cry myself to sleep tonight.
Seared tuna makes Japanese tuna niçoise
Seared tuna isn’t hard. And it’s my second favourite way to eat tuna. My favourite? Sashimi. Hands down. No contest. So good.
Second place. Seared tuna. Bit of a distant second, mind you. I love raw fish. Sashimi even. You can keep the rice. I just want the fish. But my wife isn’t such a big fan. So seared it is.
It’s the best of both worlds though. You still get the flavour. Plus you get that seared flavour mixing in. Really tasty. Just not as good as raw. Did I mention raw is my favourite?
Not hard to do either. High heat. Short time. Flip. Shorter time. Done.
You can do it on your BBQ. If you can get it hot enough. Or you can use a frying pan. That works too.
The key is not to overcook it. Err on the side of underdone. Watch the edge of the fish. The side closest to the heat. When the colour change is about 1/8 of an inch up the side it’s time to flip.
Same thing on the other side. It is a leap of faith. But it works.
Perfect hard-boiled eggs every time
There is an easy way to make perfect hard-boiled eggs. Not just for Japanese tuna niçoise. For egg salad. Devilled eggs. Cobb salad. Whatever you want.
And I’ve never found a better way. It’s foolproof. Works perfectly for graded large eggs. Yolks nicely set. No nasty ring. Tender.
Pick a saucepan that allows at least an inch of water above the level of the eggs. Put the eggs in the pot. Add enough water to cover the eggs by – you guessed it – an inch.
Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Turn the heat off. Cover. Move the pan off the element. Wait ten minutes.
Transfer the eggs to an ice bath to stop additional cooking. Peel. Perfect hard-boiled eggs. Every time.
Niçoise salad re-imagined
This is not a traditional niçoise salad. Not even close. And it’s not really Japanese either. But I made this up. So I can call it whatever I want.
I’m calling it Japanese tuna niçoise. But I could call it grilled tuna with yuzu miso vinaigrette. Or grilled tuna with beans and potatoes.
Doesn’t really matter what I call it though. It’s just a fun little dish. Not another recipe on how to grill tuna. A dish that uses grilled tuna as an ingredient.
I did this one for me. So I would remember to make it three years from now. For friends.
It’s not a classic. It’s not even really a thing. Except in my head. And my kitchen. And hopefully in yours too.
Japanese tuna nicoise with yuzu miso vinaigrette
Yuzu miso vinaigrette
- 1 1/2 tsp yuzu juice (or lemon juice. See note.)
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp olive oil – break out the good stuff
- 1 tsp shiro miso white miso
- 1 tsp water
- pinch sugar to taste (depends on how tart your yuzu juice is). You may need more.
- a few grinds of black pepper
Japanese tuna nicoise
- 10 oz tuna steaks two small steaks – each 5 ounces and cut about 1 inch thick
- 8 oz small new potatoes
- 6 oz green beans the smallest, freshest ones you can get
- the yuzu miso dressing
- a little fleur de sel to spinkle if you have it
- white sesame seeds to garnish
Make your vinaigrette
- Don't use a metal bowl to make your vinaigrette. I don't know why it doesn't ever work but it doesn't. I can never get the dressing to emulsify in metal.
- Add the yuzu juice and dijon mustard. Mix with a teaspoon until combined.
- Drizzle the olive oil in slowly, stirring constantly and vigourously with the spoon. You want an emulsification. It should happen. Just take your time.
- Add the shiro miso. Smush it under the spoon. Chase it around. You want to get it to dissolve into the emulsion.
- It will be pretty thick at this point. Add about a teaspoon of cool water and stir.
- Stir in a pinch of sugar. Taste. It will likely be a little tart. That's OK. If it's really tart add a little more sugar.
- A couple of grinds of black pepper and you are good to go.
Cook the potatoes
- Do this after you make your vinaigrette. The potatoes will cook while you do everything else.
- Put the potatoes in a sauce pan and cover them with salted water.
- Bring to a lively simmer and cover.
- Let cook until they are fork tender. I can't tell you how long this takes because I don't know how big your potatoes are.
- Start checking them after about 15 minutes. When they are fork tender drain and set aside. They go into the salad warm.
Perfect hardboiled eggs
- While the potatoes cook place the eggs in a small saucepan. Cover the eggs with one inch of cool water. You want the water one inch higher than the eggs.
- Bring the water to a boil (uncovered) over medium high heat.
- As soon as it boils, cover the sauce pan and move off the heat. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- At the 8 minute mark grab a fairly large bowl. Fill with cold water and toss in a some ice cubes.
- At the 10 minute mark remove the eggs from the hot water and submerge them in the ice bath. If the ice melts and starts to disappear add more. Swirl the water. You want to stop the eggs continuing to cook.
- Peel and refrigerate. You can do this ahead of time of course.
Blanch the beans
- Take that sauce pan you used to cook the eggs. It should still have the hot water in it. Toss in a big pinch of salt.
- Add the beans. Cook for around 3 or 4 minutes. You want them barely tender.
- Once they are to your liking use tongs or a big slotted spoon transfer the beans to the bowl you used for the eggs. Add a bit more ice. Again, you want to stop the cooking process. Drain when cool and set aside.
Prep the salad
- You will want everything ready to go when you grill the tuna. The goal will be to drop the cooked fish on the salad, garnish and serve.
- Toss the beans and the potatoes with the vinaigrette.
- Slice the egg – around 3/16 of an inch thick. Push the slices back together in an egg shape to keep the yolks from drying out.
- Plate the salad. Beans and potatoes first. Egg to one side. Have your plates lined up on the counter for when you get back from the grill.
Cook the tuna
- Rub the tuna with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Prepare your grill. I like charcoal for this. You want it hot. Think under one Mississippi. Your hand cannot stay over the heat for even one second.
- Make sure your grates are clean. Wipe them with a bit of oil. Sticking tuna is not going to be any fun at all. You do get two tries though – only one side faces up.
- Place the tuna directly over the heat. Watch the lower edge. You want that change of colour to be about 1/8 of an inch up the side. Maybe a bit more but barely. Flip the fish. Again around 1/8 of an inch up the side. That's it. Fish is done. Seared on the outside and hopefully just barely warm on the inside.This can go fast. As little as 90 seconds to 2 minutes on the first side. Probably less on the second side.
- You can do this in a frying pan as well. Something that holds heat and not non-stick. Dry heat your pan over medium high heat. Make sure the fish is well oiled. Around 90 seconds on the first side. Maybe 60 seconds on the second side. Done.
- Place one piece of fish on each plate. Sprinkle with a bit of fleur de sel if using. Garnish with sesame seeds. Serve.