We have to admit, if we have a “crutch” as cooks, it’s our love of serving tacos. They are fun, easy, and you can please a crowd with very diverse tastes. And kids simply love them. They choose what goes in the taco (up to a point), they build it the way they want and they can eat with their hands. Come to think of it, that’s why adults enjoy them, too. But if we are going to serve tacos as often as we do, we at least try to mix things up a bit. And that is where tacos like these come into play. Still simple, still good, but with a few extra flavors that, we hope, elevate the dish.
And what makes this taco recipe somewhat special is the use of seared tuna (Yellowfin, in this case) the wasabi-lime crema, and quick pickling of some of the veggies. This adds a bit of Japan to an otherwise Mexican dish. The flavors are a bit lighter and brighter, so they don’t hide the flavor of the fish. But make no mistake, these are still fish tacos. And if you don’t have access to tuna steaks, or just don’t like their cost, this recipe will still work with any firm-fleshed fish, just don’t serve it rare like tuna.
As for searing tuna on the outside and still being rare on the inside, there are a few tricks. Firstly, your pan needs to be rocket hot, and cast iron works best. A very hot grill also works. Secondly, the exterior of the tuna should be free of moisture, you need the tuna to sear, not steam. Use a high-temp cooking oil like peanut or safflower or it will break down and hurt the flavor. And finally, you need to stop the cooking quickly, or the tuna will continue to cook from residual heat, even when out of the pan. Many chefs will plunge the tuna into an ice bath, and that does work. The easier way is to simply slice the tuna when it is cooked the way you like it, letting the heat escape the fish and stop the cooking. This works both ways. If the tuna is a bit too rare, just wait 30 seconds and look again- it will have cooked quite a bit in its remaining heat. (FWIW, taking the photos cost us a few extra seconds and we got a bit more of the cooked outer layer than we like- that is how quickly the tuna cooks in its own heat.)
Making the crema for this dish is as easy as it gets. A crema combines sour cream, heavy cream and your choice of seasonings. In this case we add some wasabi powder, prepared horseradish (it amps the wasabi), rice wine vinegar, lime juice, lime zest and salt. Blend the ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Great on almost any fish, and tasty on veggies. Hard to go wrong here. Continue reading