So the holidays are stressful, yes? And lavender is a natural stress relief, yes? So that is what we’re going for this New Years…to draw a line under a really stressful 2015 — terrorist attacks, layoffs, yacht club fires — and sail a gentle beam reach into 2016 amid a haze of herb-induced peace. Three courses, avec lavender: starting with this appetizer of herb-encrusted seared tuna steaks served over greens with a pungent mustard vinaigrette. Tomorrow and Sunday we will complete the meal with lavender Cornish game hens, and lavender chocolate pots-de-creme. So go below, light some candles, and relax into the new year with your favorite culinary bucaneers.
If you ever contemplate any recipe involving seared (aka undercooked) tuna, including this one, and start in any way other than visiting your most trusted fishmonger, we will have to have words. Visit your most trusted fishmonger and ask them for two good-sized steaks of their absolute freshest tuna. If you are in a grocery store environment, go for “sashimi-grade” or go home and make something less raw. Here, as always, Annapolis Seafood Market delivers.
Measure a teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt, 2 teaspoons of peppercorns, 2 teaspoons of fennel seeds and 1-1/2 teaspoons of culinary lavender into a mortar with pestle. No, that’s not what you see above because I didn’t have one aboard…I went with a small plastic bowl and a metal ice cream scoop as a pestle…sub-optimal, but do what you can, and whatever you do…do not stress.
Crush the herbs together as finely as you can. This is nowhere near as fine as you should shoot for, but in a galley…one does one’s best! There isn’t any objective harm in underdoing it…you will just have a more difficult time getting the herbs to stick to the fish, and may lose a fair amount.
Here’s where you love your Galley Pirates: tips for easy clean up and other simplified procedures that you will not get from other cooking sites: if you need to apply anything to your fish — even just salting and peppering steaks before cooking, but particularly something like this, where you are coating steaks with an herb mix — simply use the plastic coated paper wrap that almost all fish markets use to wrap their fish. This makes it easy to wrap the herbs around the fish and basically mold the paper around the steaks to accomplish your goal, then crumple the whole mess up and throw it away. So yes…coat the fish steaks first in olive oil, and then with the crushed herb mixture.
Heat a dry frying pan over high flame. When hot, sear the herb-crusted tuna steaks, turning to sear for a minute or so on each flat surface. You are not shooting to cook the fish beyond the surface!
Arrange four plates with salad greens…I went with simple baby arugula and English cucumbers, thinly sliced, for the crispest, pepperiest, yet least complex salad base I could imagine.
Next, toast 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds in the dry frying pan.
Mix the mustard seeds with 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons of vinegar (I used white balsamic, a favorite for salad dressings), 3 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon of honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk to emulsify.
Slice the tuna steaks and distribute among the salad plates. Dress with the vinaigrette, pour a glass of something lovely, sigh heavily with contentment, and serve. Savor slowly, pour another glass, chat aimlessly and existentially with close companions about the year gone by, the year ahead, any other year worth mention, and get hungry for hens…. See you tomorrow!