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step away from the pork chop

Recipe: pan-seared sesame-crusted tuna

Helloooooo September! I’m so happy she’s here now. I love September. Love it. You know how you have 60 days’ worth of stuff to cram into 30 days? That’s my September. Oops! now 29 days…

There is no better way to kick off a new month than with a dinner party. I mean, a dinner partay. I was running a little behind schedule when folks began to trickle in yesterday evening. Luke and Nichole asked if there was anything they could help with. Normally (and my friends will verify) I say no and have people sit down with drinks, appetizers, and let the conversation roll. I’m a bit of a control freak like that. But the appetizers were not assembled yet, Jeremy was tending grill and dishes, and I was still getting my mise en place EN PLACE for dinner. I sliced up the grilled pork chops and showed Luke how to wrap spring rolls while Nichole became the mojito maestra. They took to their tasks like pros. The food was in good hands and I could relinquish those duties without a worry. Nice. I guess you *can* teach an OCD to delegate.

the spring roll brigade at work

It’s times like these when I am reminded why I should only serve Chinese food if the headcount is under 6… because we don’t have burners with enough BTUs to handle the volume. But it’s a known fact that you can’t get decent Chinese food in Boulder. Period. I wanted to treat our buds to something authentic, you know? It would have been great to whip up a quick meal so I could sit down and chill with folks more. I tried a newish recipe this week that was fast and amazing. We both loved it. Unfortunately, at $30/pound (okay, technically $27.99/pound – but when you buy 4 pounds, that $8 becomes negligible) it’s not an especially economical dinner to be serving at a dinner party. I dare say it’s worth the splurge for a lovely dinner for two.

wasabi (powder)!

spice up your life: a little wasabi mayo

I wanted to recreate a meal I truly enjoyed at the Alley House in Pagosa Springs, Colorado – a pan-seared crusted ahi tuna. When I got to the Whole Foods Seafood counter, they were out of ahi tuna so I opted for the maguro (tuna sashimi) which looked particularly fresh and brilliant next to the yellowfin tuna steaks. Not to mention that Jeremy and I are sashimi and sushi whores.

hello, you beauties

black and white sesame seeds

It’s so quick to throw together and cook that you’ll have no excuse not to walk the dog. I mixed black and white sesame seeds with salt and pepper and coated each steak with the mixture. The seeds do a remarkably good job of sticking to the fish (I was expecting a lot of sesame seed confetti everywhere but ON the fish). My dad has done this before with crushed wasabi peas, those munchy little snacks you can find in Asian markets. I didn’t have any on hand, but that sounds fantastic. Something to try later.

coat the fish

slicing avocado

Before I seared the tuna, I prepped each plate with a pile of fresh salad greens and a fan of avocado slices so I could serve the tuna as soon as it was done. Searing goes quickly. I used my All-Clad because it does a great job of getting and staying very hot. Just add a little unflavored oil (vegetable or canola) and wait until the pan is HOT. I seared the pieces for less than a minute on the large sides and for 20 seconds on the small sides (use tongs to hold them in place). We tend to like our maguro raw, but if you’re pan searing, you want a little cooked perimeter for aesthetics. Some folks don’t like raw fish and prefer to cook it mostly through, in which case I think, “Why bother? You can ruin a perfectly good piece of steak for a lot less money.” Okay, but that’s just me and my very opinionated opinion…

pan-searing the steaks

slice the steaks (or not)

A quick drizzle of wasabi mayonnaise and anago sauce (or serve them on the side for dipping) and you’re done! I topped ours with a little masago (smelt fish roe). It’s basically a sushi roll without the rice or seaweed. No wonder we love it! Tender tuna, crunchy sesame seeds and masago, creamy avocado, sinus-clearing wasabi mayonnaise (actually, it’s quite mellow by my standards), and a sweet accent from the anago sauce make for a mouth-watering combination. It’s so easy too!

i love preparing great food at home

Pan-seared Sesame-crusted Tuna
[print recipe]
inspired by Alley House

4 tuna steaks (~6 oz. per person), ahi tuna or maguro (sashimi)
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsps unflavored oil (vegetable or canola)
2 ripe avocados, sliced thin
salad greens
wasabi mayonnaise
anago sauce
masago or tobiko (smelt fish roe)

wasabi mayonnaise
2 tbsps wasabi powder
2 tbsps water
1/2 cup mayonnaise

anago sauce
6 tbsps soy sauce
4 tbsps mirin
2 tbsps brown sugar (or caramelized sugar syrup)
dash of rice wine vinegar

Wasabi mayonnaise: Mix the wasabi powder with the water until it forms a uniform paste. Mix with the mayonnaise. It tastes better if you let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour or so before serving.

Anago sauce: Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Let boil for a minute or so and reduce to simmer until slightly thickened. Let cool (it will thicken some more, so don’t boil it down too much).

Combine the sesame seeds, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Completely coat the tuna steaks in the mixture, pressing seeds and seasonings into the flesh. Heat the oil in a large, shallow frying pan over high heat. When the oil is hot (chuck a sesame seed in and it should sizzle – just take care if the darn thing jumps and hits you!) set one or two steaks into the pan. Take care not to crowd the steaks. More than two at a time will make it hard to sear the sides without overcooking the other pieces. Sear for less than a minute on the flat sides (unless you want it more cooked) and while gently holding the steaks with tongs, sear for about 20 seconds (or more if you prefer) on the short sides. Remove to a cutting board and slice the steaks into 1/2-inch thick pieces at an angle – or leave whole if you prefer. Set avocado slices on a bed of salad green and then fan the tuna on top. Drizzle with wasabi mayonnaise and anago sauce over the fish or serve on the side. Top with a sprinkle of masago. Serves 4.

62 nibbles at “step away from the pork chop”

  1. David Eger says:

    Beautiful! Definitely one of my favorite dishes in the world – very nice version. (Thanks for the Anago sauce recipe, too.)

  2. alice says:

    Stunning photos and I can tell by looking at your recipe it is killer. Thank you.. I plan on making this very soon for my husband, he’ll love it!

  3. TheKitchenWitch says:

    You have some very lucky guests, there, Jen!

  4. Patti Londre says:

    Do not let my husband see this incredibly beautiful post. He will give me a look like, “why don’t YOU make something like this?” I WANT TO, that is for sure!

  5. Manisha says:

    Only two of ’ems making, the other two’s eating. I don’t blame them!

  6. charlane says:

    LOL love the title

  7. Cucinista says:

    Great pics and great recipe. I reckon a dinner party (for two, methinks) is in the cards.

  8. Pearl says:

    oh everything looks so delicious. i hope that one day, i may be able to throw as fabulous dinner parties as you do.

  9. Eesh says:

    So lovely. I’m just never sure whether the tuna I see at my local grocery stores is good enough to be eaten rare. How do you tell whether something is sashimi quality? Does it have to be never-frozen tuna or would thawed tuna also work in this recipe? Thank you!

  10. Bridget says:

    Ooh, that looks amazing! I’ve only cooked tuna at home once, and it was before I ate sushi, so I had trouble getting past the whole rare fish idea. The mentality has since changed, and we are, in fact, going out for sushi tonight. But I can’t wait to try the combination of flavors you’ve described here.

  11. Phoo-D says:

    Beautiful final shot! I love using white and black sesame seeds. They add such a pop of contrasting color and are tasty to boot!

  12. Amy J says:

    I’m so glad you posted this. Seared tuna is one of my favorites but I’ve been too chicken to try it at home. Bookmarking this for a go at it in the near future. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Rosa says:

    That dish looks so beautiful and mouthwatering!



  14. Michelle says:

    this is one of my favorite foods…why didn’t I ever think of the wasabi mayo? thanks for the idea!

  15. Tokyo Terrace says:

    Looks amazing! I love the presentation- tuna is such a beautiful food. Near and dear to my heart. Thanks for the great post! And also- I am just like you for most dinner parties. Usually shooing people out of my kitchen wanting them to relax with a beverage and something to snack on. Sometimes, ya just gotta give in I guess!


  16. christina says:

    the colors in the last pic are so vibrant!

  17. Margie says:

    This is one of those, “To die for recipes”…I’m SURE!

  18. Marti says:

    Mmmmm! This looks so tasty!

  19. natalie says:

    yum! pan seared tuna is one of my favs!! yours looks DELISH!

  20. Jada says:

    Absolutely beautiful! And worth the splurge if you ask me : )

  21. diva says:

    this is so beautiful! and pan-seared to perfection :) x

  22. ChezUs says:

    Stunning, absolutely stunning photograph! I love pan seared tuna but never get it quite right …. I definitely need to try this dish, it sounds amazing, Jen!

  23. heidileon says:

    I’m drooling !!! And looking and reading your post gave me will power to cook (should i say sear) tuna. Odly I don’t know why I almost never cook tuna at home. bizarre. not anymore :)

  24. barbara says:

    I’m so afraid to pan sear tuna. I think I need to come over for a lesson. That looks amazing.

  25. Pan-Seared Sesame-Crusted Tuna « Foodshots says:

    […] There is no better way to kick off a new month than with a dinner party. I mean, a dinner partay. I was running a little behind schedule when folks began to trickle in yesterday evening … [read more] […]

  26. Mrs Ergul says:

    this is awesome! And truly a splurge! But a splurge is good once in a while!! fantastic meal there Jen!

  27. Denise says:

    I can relate to the $30/lb. for the ahi! Used it this summer when I made Mark Miller’s Spicy Pacific Tartares. but it was so worth it, especially to share with good friends. If you like spicy sauces, you should definitely try the two that went with that recipe. Your seared Ahi looks unbelievably delicious.

  28. Ronine says:

    Love the sushi roll with no rice – but when photographed up that close, the sesame seeds look like rice so perhaps it is a full meal afterall :D

  29. TheWoman says:

    Oh my – that looks delicious! I’m with you on eating the fish semi-rare. There’s just nothing like the smooth velvety-ness of properly cooked (and by that I mean scarcely cooked) tuna steaks.

  30. Valérie says:

    Yes, tuna is quite a pricey treat around here too… but so worth it! Your steaks are cooked to perfection, wonderful!

  31. Asianmommy says:

    Looks beautiful!

  32. Lisa says:

    Yummy! I just bought whole tuna and will carve out the loins and make this tonight.

  33. marianne says:

    oh. wow. amazing, jen!

  34. Hana says:

    That looks so amazing.

  35. emhuze says:

    Made it for supper… Easy-peasy, maximus delicious. What a treat! Thank Yu.

  36. Lisa says:

    And…am I the only one who wants to hear what the menu was for the par-tay?

  37. Rebecca says:

    When, when can we share a meal!? Those look delish–I love Spring Rolls, and the tuna looks amazing!

  38. Sally says:

    Just made these today with some sashimi quality ahi. Fast and very delicisious. I especially love the added flavor the wasabi mayo and the anago sauce give it. Thank you!

  39. veron says:

    You just reminded me of how much we loved sesame crusted tuna. time to get those yummy steaks in.

  40. jenyu says:

    Hey thanks, everyone! It’s an easy recipe once you have all of the ingredients ready. Hope you give it a try and lose your fear of cooking tuna :) xxoo

    Manisha – well, two of them have to keep the conversation going while the other two are working ;)

    Eesh – it should say if it is sashimi quality. Sashimi should have been frozen beforehand to a pretty low temperature to help kill any parasites or eggs in the flesh. Only purchase from a reputable fish monger, is my best advice.

    Lisa – a whole tuna!?! oh man, I should come to YOUR house :)

    Lisa – the menu was: viet spring rolls (with grilled marinated pork strips), mojitos, steamed rice, stir-fried beef with stir-fried spinach, chinese fish-flavored pork, stir-fried sherry chicken w/ vegs, blackberry peach crisp, green tea matcha macarons with passionfruit buttercream, lemon custard ice cream.

  41. Marija says:

    OMG! I am so making this!

  42. Columbus Foodie » Blog Archive » Pan-Seared Sesame-Crusted Tuna says:

    […] Sesame-Crusted Tuna recipe from Use Real Butter food […]

  43. kevin says:

    This has become a staple. Simple and elegant.

  44. Seared Tuna with Sesame Seeds « Our Life in Food says:

    […] Seared Tuna with Sesame Seeds Source: Inspired from a local restaurant, with the how-to and side dish ideas taken from Use Real Butter […]

  45. Dave says:

    WOW followed the recipe and looked and tasted as good as yours! Thank you

  46. Jeanni says:

    My husband and I just love the writing the friendship and your recipe!
    Thank you, thank you , thank you.

  47. Deniseks says:

    Just made this, it’s great, and easy!

  48. okisteve says:

    I am always looking for new ways to do tuna steaks, and the sesame seed coating is a winner. Super-easy, and gives it the perfect crunch. I did the wasabi mayo and the kids enjoyed the unago sauce.

  49. Alethia says:

    We made this not one night, but two consecutive nights. It was amazing. I found the wasabi mayo to be a little thick for drizzling, so the second night I made a siracha mayo which was also tasty! Glad I found your blog!

  50. Mike says:

    I made this for my wife and I and it was excellent! Our favorite restaraunt was flooded in September and we always had it there. Restaraunt is still closed so I had to do something!

  51. Nols says:

    one word: delicious

    Great recipe and it is a very quick dish.

  52. Tox says:

    I love tuna. I get seared tuna everywhere they have it on the menu. I have to say there is NO recipe out there that trumps this one. This has become a staple in my kitchen, friends and neighbors invite themselves over when I’m making it. Not only is it better then most seared tuna dishes I’ve had, it blows any out of the water.

    Not only do I make it regularly I have been inspired to actually buy a professional sashimi knife. Now the tuna is sliced thin like the sushi houses. And I feel like a badass with my freaking awesome Dagasi knife, it is worthy of this dish.

    Thanks for the recipe. You have made boatloads of people happy.

  53. Jungle-Jim says:

    Great, simple recipe. I’m lucky enough to be able to catch tuna (southern bluefin) so we’ll definitely be trying your dish on board the next fishing trip. Nice to see another Kyocera Ceramic Knife user! I have one as well and use it exclusively for sashimi and sushi.

  54. Bico959 says:

    Not sure if this was noted for a question above: ocean going fish, wild caught that is, are typically less likely to have any issues as far a parasites or other concerns on that level–when considering for eating raw. Most of the fresh fish you get like Salmon or Ahi will be fine for eating raw as long as it’s wild. There are some very serious concerns with farmed fish (like being fed chicken feathers. Remember how mad cow disease formed?) and fresh water fish when considering eating raw. Certainly some may ask, “why eat it raw anyway?”. This is because of the incredible nutruents and enzymes that are only avaible when the food is uncooked. Cooking kills ALL of the enzymes. So a solution for anyone worried is to freeze the fish. this will kill 99% of the unfriendlies and won’t hurt the enzymes. process the fish minimially (use a recipe like above or use citrus to “cook” the fish–it’s awesome!) and you will be amazed at how good it is and how un-fishy it tastes! G/L

  55. Lindsey says:

    THIS IS DELICIOUS! My mister just came home from a fishing trip with some gorgeous tuna and we googled for good sauce recipes, yours won! And I’m soooooo glad it did. This was so incredibly scrumptious, the perfect pairing of all flavors. Thanks so much for a beautiful post and the sauce recipes! Will definitely be reblogging as well so even more folks can share in the yumminess! xo

  56. Peter says:

    Thank you so much for showing me how easy it is to make a beautiful, delicious and healthy dish that I’ve always enjoyed at restaurants. Wife was impressed. Great blog…keep up the good work!

  57. Lovelle says:

    I’m a bit of a novice cook and Im just now starting to enter the “seafood” world. I was wondering, where do you get your sesame seeds from, the black ones at least because I cant find them. Also mirin? Can that be found in regular grocery stores like Walmart or Sweetbay? I want to plan a romantic dinner for my boyfriend this weekend and tuna is his favorite. I know he is getting tired of the typical chicken meals I make for him all the time lol. Thank you!

  58. Lovelle says:

    I made this last night… DELISH!! The only thing I had trouble with was my anago sauce. For some reason, it just wouldnt get thick. I think it might be because of my non-stick pans because I cant even reduce balsamic vinegar at my house using my own things, i have to use someone else pans. Even though my photos didnt turn out good because of the “runniness” of the sauce, it was still delicious and very easy to make. Thanks!

  59. jenyu says:

    Lovelle – hello dear and my apologies for not getting back to your first comment earlier! the sesame seeds are easily found in Asian grocery stores and probably places like Whole Foods. It’s hit or miss with other places, me thinks. Same for mirin. While you’re at the Asian grocer (if you have one nearby) look for the anago or unagi (I think the one I use now has unagi written on it) sauce. Makes life much easier :) And good job on forging through!!

  60. Love & Onions » Compose yourself. says:

    […] leftover chicken breast, shredded. Cubed tofu. A forlorn garlic sausage, warmed slightly and diced. A piece of fish, leftover or quickly seared, cooled, and thinly sliced. Hard cooked eggs. Some rinsed and drained beans. A few handsfuls of toasted […]

  61. H. Clsrk Anderson says:

    Jenyu (May I call you that and not be presuming too much familiarity?) –
    So, I know this is sort of an old recipe on your website, but I just wanted to let you know it is killer, over-the-top, stupid-good, and I have been making it for years here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is our go-to recipe for fresh ahi, the which we cannot always get here in the arid high desert Southwest, but when we can get it ($25/ lb. – it aint’s cheap!), it is DYN-O-MITE!
    I make a few tweaks to the recipe – for example, the dry wasabi mixed with water and Mayo certainly works, but most of the time I find it easier to use wasabi paste and mayo, and she works just fine. You can adjust the amount of wasabi to your taste. I have actually not tried it with the salmon roe for color, but sometimes I add a little dash of paprika on top to give it a tad more visual appeal (not that it needs it though). I just made it tonight and it was spectacular – the best ahi I have had anywhere outside of Honolulu (where my son the math professor lives – but, that’s another story perhaps).

    I just wanted to let you know I have the deepest appreciation and respect for the work you do on your blog. I was quite touched by your recent remembrance of your sister. I wish you peace and solace as time passes and you remember her with fondness, though I believe you that the pain never goes away. I also want to wish you well with your own non-trivial health issues. I am a retired pathologist and spent decades (literally) looking through the microscope at all sorts of potentially lethal diseases. It all seems to me a great mystery, but I think that’s okay because it also occurs to me that making sense of things is over-rated.
    Thanks and best wishes for continuing success and good health!

  62. jenyu says:

    H. Anderson – Thank you for such a sweet and lovely comment. It makes me happy to know you like the recipe and have gotten many miles out of it! And I appreciate the kind sentiments. Wishing you all the best. xxoo

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