CAJUN TUNA PIPERADE

Source: BBQ USA by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2003)

Method: Direct

Yield: Serves 4

Advance Preparation: 30 minutes for marinating the tuna

FOR THE PIPERADE:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut lengthwise into thin slices
1 small yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut lengthwise into thin slices
1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut lengthwise into thin slices
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and thinly sliced (for a hotter piperade, leave the seeds in)
2 ounces tasso or andouille sausage (see Note) cut into matchstick slivers
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons sweet, hot, or smoked paprika
1 large luscious, ripe red tomato, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE TUNA:
4 sushi-quality tuna steaks (each about 1 inch thick and 6 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Cajun Rub (recipe follows) or your favorite commercial rub
2 cloves garlic, minced,
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, or 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

You’ll also need:

2 cups wood chips or chunks (optional, preferably oak), unsoaked

1. MAKE THE PIPERADE: Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet over high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeno(s), and tasso and saute until the onions and peppers are lightly browned, 4 minutes, tossing or stirring the ingredients to ensure even browning. Add the sliced garlic and paprika after 2 minutes. Add the tomato after 2 more minutes, and cook over high heat until most of the tomato juices have evaporated, about 2 minutes longer. Season with salt and black pepper to taste; the piperade should be highly seasoned. The piperade can be prepared up to 48 hours ahead and kept refrigerated, covered.

2. Trim any skin or dark or bloody spots off the tuna steaks. Rinse the tuna under cold running water, then blot it dry with paper towels. Lightly brush the tuna steaks on both sides with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle the tuna on both sides with the Cajun Rub and minced garlic, patting the seasonings onto the fish with your fingertips. Let the tuna marinate for 30 minutes.

3. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks, if desired, in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to high, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks, if desired, on the coals.

4. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Brush the tuna steaks with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange the tuna on the hot grate, placing it on a diagonal to the bars. Grill the fish until cooked to taste, 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare, 4 to 6 minutes for medium, rotating each steak a quarter turn after 1-1/2 minutes on each side to create an attractive crosshatch of grill marks. Test for doneness using the poke method: A medium-rare tuna steak will be gently yielding; a medium steak will be firm. Reheat the piperade on the side burner or on an empty area of the grill.

5. Transfer the grilled tuna steaks to a platter or plates and spoon the piperade over them.

Garnish or sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve at once.

Note: Tasso, cured pork shoulder, is a spicy, smoky Cajun specialty. As an alternative, you could use the smoky Cajun sausage called andouille. Both are available at gourmet shops.

© 2006 Steven Raichlen | site design Benjamin Wilchfort