We’re huge fans of grillmaster Steven Raichlen’s smoky, meaty cookbooks. His latest work focuses on updating our beloved grilling techniques. Dive into recipes for grilled meats, vegetable sides, desserts and more. Here’s a way to really class up your albacore tuna.
Most of the dishes you see on my TV shows are carefully planned in advance. This one I created on the spot to showcase some gorgeous, astonishingly fresh albacore fillets a local fisherman brought to the set of Project Smoke. Plancha searing gives you a crisp smoky bacon crust on the outside, but you keep the grilling sufficiently brief to leave the fish sushi-rare in the center. Cut crosswise, the albacore looks like bacon-wrapped filet mignon. To continue the beef metaphor, you serve it with a Peppercorn Cream Sauce.
Insider Tip: This recipe calls for a technique I call plancha grilling: You cook the fish on heated cast iron, adding hardwood to the fire to generate wood smoke. Alternatively, you can direct grill the tuna, but the bacon won’t be quite as crisp.
Peppercorn Cream Sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, plus extra sprigs for garnish
- A few drops fresh lemon juice or tarragon vinegar
- coarse salt (sea or kosher)
- 2 trimmed sushi-quality albacore tuna loins, 3/4 to 1 pound
- Coarse salt (sea or kosher) and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 to 8 strips artisanal bacon
- Vegetable oil for oiling the plancha or grill grate
- 2 hardwood chunks or 1 1/2 cups unsoaked wood chips
- plancha or cast-iron skillet
For the cream sauce
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the shallot and pepper and sauté until lightly browned. Increase the heat to high and add the white wine. Boil until reduced by half. Stir in the cream and mustard and boil until the sauce is reduced to about 1 cup—it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the chopped tarragon, lemon juice, and salt to taste; the sauce should be highly seasoned. The sauce can be made several hours ahead.
For the tuna
Season the tuna loins well on all sides with salt and pepper. For each loin, cut 4 lengths of
butcher’s string, each about 10 inches long, and line them up parallel to one another, 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Place a strip of bacon in the center, perpendicular to the strings. Lay a tuna loin on the bacon. Lay 2 more strips of bacon on top of the tuna (3 if the loins are large). Bring the ends of the strings over the loin, and tie so that the bacon is held firmly in place. Repeat with the other loin.
Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to high. Place a cast-iron plancha on the grate and heat it as well. To test whether it is ready for grilling, sprinkle a drop or two of water on the plancha—if it evaporates in 1 to 2 seconds, the plancha is hot. Lightly oil the plancha.
Arrange the tuna loins on the plancha (or directly on the grill grate if not using a plancha) and grill until the bacon is browned and crisp, about 2 minutes per side, 6 minutes in all (less if the loins are really small), turning with tongs. Do not overcook; the fish should stay rare or raw in the center.
Transfer the tuna loins to a cutting board. Reheat the cream sauce as needed. Remove the strings from the tuna, then slice the loins into 1-inch-thick medallions and serve with the sauce spooned under or over them and tarragon sprigs on top.