Wine With Seared Tuna and Soba Noodle Salad
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
We received an email a couple of months ago suggesting we find good wine matches for seared tuna, a dish that's all the rage in restaurants these days. We prevailed upon Chef Ben Erjavic at The Oceanaire in Baltimore, to share the recipe for his immensely popular seared tuna with sesame seeds and a spicy soba noodle salad. Our friend Lisa joined us to sample a dozen or so wines with the dish.
As it turned out, this proved to be a less challenging exercise than we might have expected. Seared medium-rare tuna is, on its own, a remarkably easygoing partner for wine. Because it is, intriguingly, simultaneously delicate and robust--with the subtle flavors of fine seafood and the appearance and texture of very tender meat--it adapts well on its own to both reasonably hearty white wines, and light-to-medium reds. When the overt earthiness of soba noodles, plus the distinct spiciness of sesame and chilis enter the picture, the wine possibilities expand to include both reds and whites that have more oomph: a slight jolt of oakiness, a trace of tannin, and the juicy sweetness of ripe fruit all seem congenial with this dish.
Lisa-who recently christened her new 30 foot sloop 'Syrah'--was especially pleased that the Syrah in our lineup made the final cut. This wine was among the biggest and boldest on the table, but with its fine balance between fruit, alcohol, acidity and soft tannins it was entirely compatible with the dish. (Runner-up wines in our pairing included a smoky/ oaky California Chardonnay, and both a Viognier and a Riesling that might have been winners except for their exhibiting a tad too much sweetness.) Our overall conclusion was that for some occasions and certain climates, the refreshing quality of white wine might best suit this delicious dish. On this particular evening, however, we were generally more attracted to the mellow richness that red wine brought out in the tuna and spicy soba noodles.
SEASAME SEARED TUNA WITH SOBA NOODLE SALAD
4 8-ounce pieces yellowfin tuna
Salt and pepper
½ cup mixed black and white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound soba noodles, cooked according to package directions and chilled
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 small red onion, julienned
1 tablespoon wasabi paste
2 tablespoons sesame oil
¼ cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons Thai sweet chili paste
To sear the tuna: Season the tuna pieces with salt and pepper. Dust with sesame seeds. Heat oil in a sauté pan until just smoking. Sear tuna for 1 minute on each side for rare to medium rare.
To prepare salad: Toss cooked soba noodles, scallions, bell pepper and red onion in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over noodle mixture and gently toss.
To plate: Portion salad onto chilled plates. Cut tuna into thin slices and arrange them on top of the salad.