Hearty Grilled Tuna Nicoise

I was very excited to make this dish, and I can’t tell you what that means to me.  I’ve been suffering from some serious food blogger ennui lately, and it ain’t pretty.  It’s just been hard to be excited about cooking. Isn’t that weird?

Maybe it’s the end of summer blues? I don’t know, but rather than fight it, I figured I’d just sit around and eat Doritos while it ran its course. Thankfully, when my dear wife called and said she’d found some nice yellowfin tuna, I knew exactly what I wanted to make – Tuna Nicoise.

Tuna Nicoise is a traditional French composed salad usually served as an appetizer or a light dinner. I wanted something a little heartier that would benefit from some time on the grill, so I bumped up the amount of meat and potatoes and substituted grilled asparagus for the usual haricots verts.

Note: this recipe looks complicated, but the walk though is pretty straight forward.  If you have everything prepped and ready before the tuna comes off the grill, it goes together in moments.

The Tuna
2 pounds yellowfin tuna steaks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup of the marinade (recipe follows)

The Marinade & Dressing
2 anchovy fillets, drained (or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence

The Nicoise
1 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into thick rounds
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
4 cups mixed greens or Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup halved and seeded black brine-cured olives
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Make the dressing and marinade first by putting the garlic, shallots, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the garlic and shallots are minced. Add the anchovies, pepper, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, and herb blend and pulse to combine. With the processor running, add the oil in a steady stream. The mixture will begin the thicken and form an emulsion, kind of a like a thin mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Marinate the tuna by pouring about a 1/4 cup of the dressing/marinade onto the bottom of a lidded container. Arrange the tuns steaks on top of the dressing and turn to coat. Season both sides with a little salt and pepper. Stash in the fridge along with the remaining dressing.

Combine the potato slices, butter, and parsley in a microwave-safe container. Nuke for a couple of minutes until the butter melts. Stir to coat and nuke another 5-10 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in the microwave.

Put the asparagus in a zip-top bag and season with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Shake to coat and stash in the fridge.

Set your grill up for a direct cook over high (600°F) heat.

Grill the asparagus for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until the spears start to brown and caramelize. Set asides and keep warm.

Grill the tuna steaks for between 30 seconds to a minute per side, checking for doneness often. For this dish, I like the steaks medium rare where the tuna will be gently yielding when you press on it with the tongs. Anything past medium is headed for cat food territory, so it’s best to pull the steaks off the heat just before they are done and let the carry-over heat do the rest.

Remove the steaks to a plate and drizzle with some of the dressing.

To serve, arrange all the goodies on the table and let everyone assemble their own plates. I like to put down a layer of mixed greens; top that with the tuna and some capers; then surround it with the potatoes, olives, eggs, asparagus, and tomatoes; and top it all with a healthy drizzle of the dressing.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wow, this was good! The meal was rich (perfect for a chilly early fall day) but not overwhelmingly so. I like grilled tuna anyway, but the marinade keeps the fish moist while adding an herby zip. All the other goodies then just come together to compliment each other. The olives and capers play off the salty tang of the dressing while the eggs and asparagus help to ground everything.

I can see mixing the leftover dressing with some canned tuna for an outstanding tuna sandwich.

2 thoughts on “Hearty Grilled Tuna Nicoise”

  1. That’s a great looking dish. You’ve just cured me of my end-of-summer blahs. Time to get cookin’ !

  2. Dude…..dude……you make me almost forget that I don’t like fish. Actually I can sometimes handle meaty fish like tuna so maybe I’ll try this one.

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