September 4, 2015

Blog the Thirtieth: Fish Steaks, Plus

Marinades for Swordfish and Tuna,
plus a bonus recipe for Filet Mignon

In the eyes of the foolish, fish steaks are good food.  Well, they’re not.  Sure, they cost a lot.  Sure, they’re fancy.  Sure, they make a good impression.  But so what?  That’s food for the vain, not the hungry soul.  When you cook fish steaks, what you mostly need to worry about is their drying out. They want to be tough, and you have to stop them. Now, tell me, does that sound like good food?

I live in an old colonial town on a great Bay, once the livelihood of watermen, but now the playtown of perpetual recreants.  Would you believe the place has more good sushi bars than Italian restaurants?  Talk about a transvaluation of values (transpacific, to be precise).  Anyways, the price of good tuna has been driven up beyond the tolerable by this Asian invasion [are only Asians allowed to say that, or do those crazy-high SATS preempt protected class status?].  No way I'm paying twice as much for tuna as for a rib-eye—vanity of vanities!  It’s cheaper in the end just to get the sashimi lunch special at Joss, with a miso soup and salad thrown in for good measure.  Anyway,  even though my parents never bought but fresh fish steaks back in Brooklyn, I make do with frozen tuna, wild from Vietnam, when it goes on sale for $10 a pound, but averring the palpable difference in taste and texture.  (I bet you can still get it fresh for under $15 a pound in Bensonhurst.)

Now, there are two ways to deal with fish steak’s determination to dry out, the Way of the East or the Way of the West.  The Eastern Way is to get the very best and very freshest fish steak and not cook it at all, making quite a fuss about how you slice it up and lay it out.  That’s the Way of the East at its extreme, namely Japan.  I advise you not to try this at home; go out instead for sashimi.  You might think it uncharacteristically ecumenical of me to recommend Asian food to you, but allow me to explain to you how my culinary respect for the East only corroborates my Western chauvinism.

The explanation however requires a prolegomenon of a metaphysics of difference.  There are different sorts of difference, you see.  Let us take color as a paradigm.  The first and finest species of light is white light.  It is finest because it is fullest, containing intensively and hence virtually all other colors of light, and thus differing from them by way of preeminence.  

Other colors differ from the first and foremost by way of partial privation, by way, that is, of lacking something of what white light has in its fullness.  Consequently, these lesser colors differ from one another by a relative privation called contrariety, that is, by each one’s having a part of white light that none of the others has. 

But then there is the difference by way of total negation, namely black, which differs from white light, and hence all other colors, by way of an absence of all light.  But wait, we’re not done yet. Last and least is a specious sort of difference, a difference arising from a privation of integrity, the difference of corruption, like dingy white. 

To review, then:  there is difference by way of preeminence, contrariety, negation, and corruption.  Keep track.  You’ll need these later.

But what has any of this to do with sashimi?  Well, my physical therapist tells me that my brain has a homuncular holograph of me that it uses to decide when my lower back or neck is in need of a paroxysm.  As my spine degenerates, the corresponding parts of this cerebral homunculus grow first hypersensitive, and then hypertrophic, so that my brain pictures me with a big butt and a giraffic neck; if L4 or C5 get a bit jostled, my brain gives me the proverbial pain in the ass or neck, respectively.  In a sense, my pain is all in my head, at least to start with.

But what has any of this to do with sashimi?  Well, I feel sure one of my brain lobes likewise contains a culinary map of the world, divided into two empires, EAST and WEST—the EAST being, for my brain, the OTHER good way to cook.  EAST and WEST differ to my brain by a dyadic difference, equiprimordial hence coeminent, like male and female or ying and yang.  The EAST has for my brain the exotic allure of the other sex, of visceral alterity.  This culinary OTHER is ruled at its center by China, with the extreme limit of its culinary sphere being the sashimic negation of refusing to cook the fish at all in Japan.  

In the WEST, by contrast, all other ways come from and lead back to Rome.  The first and finest species of food, the preeminent, radiates from the Urbs across its Campania.  Thence it is refracted in suburbia of sundry Mediterranean cuisines—Sicilian, Greek, Spanish, Turkish, even Middle Eastern—a radiating archipelago of culinary contrariety [of course I know they're not all islands; but this is brain cartography, and it’s my brain, remember?].  

To the north, contrariety survives progressive privation among the Etruscans, even the Longbeards, only to meet the Alps, whence commences the ultramontane corruptions: French frivolity, Deutsche density, Anglo anemia, the corruption progressing ever northward, until, well beyond the pale of the Campanian sun, one meets its extreme limit, the limit of omnivority itself—the long Scandinavian night in which all fish is black—the impenetrable darkness of fish rotted on purpose, a corruption beyond culinary sublation and transgressive transvaluation of all gustatory values, even called a "delicacy,” non‑contradiction itself flouted.  In extremis, dinner becomes memento mori:  "Horreur sympathique!  Et pourtant vous serez semblable a cette ordure, A cette horrible infection, Etoile de mes yeux, soleil de ma nature."

But if you, Gentle Reader, don't want your fish steaks either raw or rotted, I have a couple of recipes for you that fall somewhere between these extremes of Eastern negation and Western corruption.  Both recipes make use of marinating to militate against drying and hence toughening.  Interestingly, the two ways of marinating present a di-dyadic difference:  the one marinates swordfish with garlic, before broiling, while the other marinates tuna with onion, after sautéing.   The swordfish tastes best to me hot from the broiler, but is traditionally eaten lukewarm; likewise, the tuna is traditionally eaten lukewarm, but could be gently reheated, if you don't mind it medium rather than medium-rare.

Swordfish Steaks Broiled

Like a pampered aristocrat helpless to help himself, sword fish needs help to keep from drying and blanching.  My recipe is the help it needs.  It came back with my father from one of his trips home to Sicily, where swordfish steak is an even pricier item than it is here in America.  This Sicilian recipe marinates the swordfish steaks in advance in the classic Sicilian marinade for fish, a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, some white vinegar, and much chopped garlic and parsley, with pinches of dried oregano.  Besides this advance marinating, the Sicilians also call for a fresh batch of the same marinade to be prepared on the serving platter, for the broiled fish to be dipped in before going to table.  (“Couldn’t you just use the original marinade?”  They say no, it will taste fishy, and you don’t want that.  I’m not sure why I don’t want that, but I obey, and you should too.)

To help the marinating along, I’ve also adopted Marcealla Hazan’s practice of first taking a fork to the sword fish steaks, poking even rows of holes across its two faces.  I’ve also picked up yet another tip to militate against drying, a tip as unlikely as its source.  A butcher told me to slice those inch‑thick swordfish steaks sold in American supermarkets into half-inch steaklets.  One might think thickness would help keep the center moist, but fact is, the steaks cook much faster cut thin and broiled close to the flame, and so have less opportunity to dry out; also, the ratio of fish to moisturizing marinade is better.  Go figure, who knew a butcher would know fish? 

See, you never know where you’ll find the truth.  Even if you happen to have most of it, you never know where that little part you still don’t have is.  Best always to stay humble looking for it.  Gods have even been said to come among us in lowly form, to see whether we will honor truth wherever it may be found.  (And the judgment was this, that when the light came into the world, they loved their darkness better.)

This butcher with fish know-how is, by the way, like me, the son of a Sicilian immigrant.  He is the step‑father of my sister‑in‑law, whom I once held up to you Gentiles as a culinary Ruth, a hope that, though not born to it, you may yet learn to make the food of my people.  Born of an Irish father and Puerto Rican mother, she married my Italian brother, and I previously credited her father’s Italophilia and my mother’s Italian recipes for making her as avid an Italian cook as diner.  But it turns out that her stepfather is also a food‑loving son of a Sicilian mother who is a consummate cook, so her childhood was bathed in that influx of culinary grace too.  

Besides all this, she tells me that her Puerto Rican mother learned to cook many Italian dishes on her own—she knows not where.  It seems that in Brooklyn you breathe in recipes from your Italian neighbors’ windows.  But chances are that you, Gentle Reader, are not in South Brooklyn breathing recipes from kitchen windows, and that’s why you read this blog.  So, here’s a Sicilian recipe for swordfish steaks.    

If I’m not going to make steaklets, I choose the thinnest swordfish steaks I can find, wishing they were instead only a half-inch thick.  If I’m opting for steaklets, then I choose the thickest fish steaks I can find, something over an inch.  Either way, I use a fork to make neat, close rows of holes in the faces of the steak first.  Then, to make steaklets, I lay my hand stretched out flat over the whole steak, bearing down on it with even pressure, and with a long, sharp knife I slice it across the middle, parallel to my hand and the counter, head bent to the parallel for the eye to guide the gliding knife.  With any luck, I come up with twinners; less luckily, I come up with one hearty steaklet for a big-thumbs and a diminutive one for his little lady of light appetite.

Now for the marinade.  First, anoint a marinating platter with garlic milk by crushing a big fat garlic clove in half and rubbing the platter all over with the exposed bellies.  Then chop the halves into little bits and strew them across the platter.  Pour out a shallow pond of regular olive oil to cover the platter completely.  Squirt out slicks of lemon juice evenly throughout the pond, and then dollops of white vinegar here and there (my mother uses regular, but I use white wine vinegar).  Shower the olive pond with salt, grindings of black pepper, and pinches of dried oregano.  Chop fresh parsley roughly and scatter throughout.  Now shake the platter to mix. 

Dip the steaklets in the marinade on both sides and shimmy them a bit, to mix and absorb the marinade. Let them marinate for as little as an hour or as long as a day, turning them over lovingly in the marinade now and again, shifting their positions equitably.

When you’re ready to cook them, turn on the broiler to high and pre-heat a bit.  Meanwhile, scrape off most of the garlic bits and parsley flecks, which might otherwise burn, and pat the steaks with a paper towel to blot excess oil, which might otherwise catch fire.  Lay the steaks out on a broiler pan.  Place the pan close to the heat, a few inches away, and broil for several minutes, just until the edges curl and color; then turn the steaks over, and finish gilding them, which will take even fewer minutes.

While the steaks are broiling, prepare your serving platter just as you did your marinating platter.  When the steaks are broiled, dip each one on both sides in the marinade as you arrange them on the platter, which you should garnish with fresh parsley branches and lemon wedges.  My father’s people leave the swordfish steaks to marinate further, letting them cool down to lukewarm, but I like them hot out of the broiler.

Sweet & Tangy Tuna Steak

This is another recipe my father brought back from Sicily.  The strategy here is to gild the tuna first, and then in the same oil sauté an abundance of sliced onion down into a sweet mush, which is then vivified with a mix of tangy vinegar and sugar, for the classic southern Italian version of “sweet & sour.”  This onion marinade is spread over the fish, which is trusted to absorb it while it cools down to tepid.

But I’m not sure I trust it.  Old time southern Italians are committed to cooking their fish steaks through and through, under which imperative this onion marinade seems remedial, like using a sauce to add moisture to what’s lost it.  I have a skinny glutton of a friend who once seized the spatula from my hand (I’d say violently, but it was her kitchen, so it was not without proprietary right), and she turned those tuna steaks in under a minute, not yet gilded, and before I had time to finish arguing the point, pulled them out of the pan.  Silenced, I watch her cut open one to reveal steamy pink flesh just past raw, and she fed me a piece like a baby.  Okay, so she was right, it stays moist that way. 

But I defy her to convince a tableful of old southern Italians!  So I got the bright idea to first gild my tuna steaks fast on high heat and remove them, then over lower heat do the onions; and once they’re ready, I turn off the heat and nestle the steaks in among the warm onions in the warm pan, and cover to marinate.  The residual heat of the pan and onions warms some of the raw color out of the tuna steaks, but not the moisture. 

Alternatively, if I want to serve the tuna warm but medium-rare (for, say, a skinny glutton), I don’t nestle the steaks in among the onion until it’s time to reheat them.  Then I reheat them gently and minimally, pan covered, for a more cooked but still moist effect (the skinny glutton eyed it disapprovingly, but upon tasting, owned that it didn’t suffer from the usual problems of over-cooked tuna, which I took for rapprochement rather than approval).

[Excursus:  By the way, are you wondering what a skinny glutton is?  Well, in the first place, it’s a good joke.  But like all good jokes, it makes a good point.  A skinny glutton is a skinny gourmand, but that’s not funny.  Properly speaking, gluttony is infinite desire for the tactile pleasures of eating—the glutton classically wishes for a longer gullet.  True gluttony wants ever greater quantity.  In contrast, a gourmand is the complement of a gourmet, an eater who delights in the variety and subtlety of tastes and textures the gourmet delights to create.  In contrast to the glutton, the gourmand wants ever better quality.  But when the mealy mouth of polite society starting using “gourmand” of the gluttons of their acquaintance, the distinction got swallowed up.

These days, does foody perhaps mean gourmand?  But why then isn’t it funny to say “skinny foody,” even with the funny assonance?  Well, plenty of foodies, indeed the most annoying, are in fact skinny.  I’ve noticed that television cooking shows have invented the figure of a big buff handsome chef in pec-hugging button‑ups who looks like he spends all day at the stove cooking and presumably also eating incredible food, and yet remains as DILF’y as ever. (It’s a lie, ladies.)  In any case, a foody’s infatuation with talking about making food is too fatuous to be taken seriously by gourmands who like eating it. 

A skinny glutton really does like eating good food, wherever it may be found.  And yet, though their souls be fat with desire, they don’t want that showing.  So they eat little, and to compensate, their desire multiplies gradations of taste and texture, in inverse proportion to their portions.  To get the most out of the little they eat, they have to think about it minutely, multiplying their portion qualitatively by divisions of tastes and textures. It’s gluttony turned upside down and inside out:  their desire can be infinite without being fattening by being infinitely divisible qualitatively. 

Then they get opinionated, and sometimes imperious.  But I digress ….]  
Lastly, I once accidentally cooked the tuna through, but by flaking the tuna into chunks and nestling sweet & tangy onion in between, the tuna no longer tasted dry.  Similarly, I can picture a nicely arranged platter of rare tuna steaks thickly sliced on the bias, mulched by sweet and tangy onion, with sprigs of fresh parsley, thyme, or even sage.  So, if you want either extreme—cooked through, or rare—mulching may be the way to go.

Okay, let’s start cooking.  For some reason, one flours tuna steaks before browning them, presumably against drying.  I pour out a mound of flour on a paper towel, and shower it with big pinches of coarse salt and fresh grindings of black pepper, using the corners of the towel to mix.  Then I evenly salt and pepper each tuna steak on both sides, press the steak into the flour on both sides, pat the flour into the steak, and then shake the steak free of excess flour. 

In a pond of olive oil pre-heated over medium-high heat (not high, with all due respect, because we are a gentle people and don’t like searing), I gild the tuna steaks on each side, if not quite under a minute (let’s not mention it to the skinny glutton), then under two minutes.  I remove the steaks from the pan and the pan from the heat.   

Perhaps adding a wad of butter (and let’s not mention that to the  old southern Italians), I scrape into the pan from my cutting board a veritable hill of finely sliced onion—a medium onion per large steak would not be too much—and the sweeter the variety of onion, the better (e.g. Vidalia).  I generously salt the onion—for sweetness is cloying without spice—cover the pan, and return it to medium heat.  I let the onion steam to glistening, with a toss or two in between, then uncover and sauté the onion, with frequent flipping in between, to a deep sweet golden walnut. 

Now it’s time for the tang.  If I’m using a naturally sweet variety of onion, such as Vidalia, and naturally sweet white Balsamic vinegar, then I omit the sugar called for in the traditional recipe.  But if you’re using ordinary yellow onion and ordinary white vinegar, you’ll want to sprinkle your onion evenly all over with sugar—the amount is really a matter of taste, and your taste is ultimately a matter of experience, so you best get started right away with experiencing it.

The problem with judging this dish during cooking is that until the onion marinade cools down, the flavors are off:  the hot vinegar seems too assertive and hence the sugar too little.  Yet, yet, too little vinegar will be as unsatisfying in the end as too much is overbearing, and ditto for too little or too much sugar-to-vinegar (although you can much more safely add more sugar to the cooled onion to fix it, than raw vinegar).   How much vinegar you’ll need will depend on what kind you use:  white vinegar, red-wine vinegar, white Balsamic vinegar.  There’s really no substitute for learning by experience the taste of it right when it’s still hot, because it doesn’t taste right when it’s still hot. 

You can try controlled experiments, but I advise you to think proportionally: “how much sugar to vinegar do I like per fish steak & onion?”  A scant espresso spoon to tablespoon?  If when all is said and done, you get your tangy onion wrong and it’s too vinegary, try mixing in scant additions of sugar to offset, or else when reheating it, cook in some white wine to mitigate; if it’s too sugary, try adding some salt to mask.

Whatever you decide, to add the vinegar to the pan, turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the sautéed onion to a lively sizzle before pouring a light stream of vinegar all along the circumference of the pan to puddle shallow in the middle.  Do not toss the onions until the vinegar has worked itself up into a sizzle.  Unpleasant fumes will arise from the pan as the vinegar heats up and cooks off.  When the vinegar sizzles lively, only then flip the onions in it; then keep sautéing and flipping, until glossy. 

I’d be tempted at this point to add in some fresh herbs.  Parsley will at least add freshness, and thyme adds an interesting overtone.  I’ve also been tempted to add sage, because I know Neopolitan recipes that use it in a sweet and tangy onion marinade for fried zucchini, but my mother’s aversion to sage has always made me afraid to do it.  But my mother’s not your mother, right, so what’s stopping you?

Now decide how you’ll finish the tuna steaks in the onion: 
1) either turn off the heat, and add the tuna steaks back into the pan, covering them with onion; then cover the pan and let the tuna cool to tepid and medium, even if not pink; 
2) or, to serve the tuna warm, cooked through, but still moist, when time to serve, flip the marinating steaks over and reheat gently under medium heat, covered, just to a steamy sizzle;
3) or else, for instant serving of rare tuna still pink in the middle, slice or flake the tuna steaks into thick slices on a serving platter, and pour the hot onion marinade over and around the slices, lettting it cool slightly as you get your guests and sides to table. 

Tuna Steak, or Filet Mignon, Frenched

Why a “postscript”?  Because maybe you think this post is longer than it needs to be.  Maybe you think I’m detaining you when I go on “too long”.  If you think you’ve had enough, by all means, be on your way!  My postscript gives you leave to go back post haste to what you’re were supposed to be doing.  And if you have an opinion about how long blog‑posts are supposed to be, I certainly own your right to it, just not a right that I countenance it.  By thus dismissing you, I am  tolerating you, for is it not the extreme of tolerance to honor a right to opinions you don’t honor?  Is not honoring those whose opinions you honor little more than honoring yourself, as in a mirror?  Indeed, is not tolerance most called for precisely when you don’t honor another’s opinions?

Well and good, I suppose, but still, what is filet mignon doing in a blog‑post about fish steaks?  I’ll tell you why, because it, like fish steaks, is food for the vain, nay, for the vainest of the vain, feeding the ego's love of honor more than the soul's love of the delicious.  Its flavor being as flabby as its flesh, it generally needs a Frankish sauce to distinguish it from baby food.  Ah, but how people ahhh over it!  "My God, it's like butter!"  And why is that a good thing, for flesh?  Shall I give you a stick of butter to chew on for your dinner?

Okay, so given my contempt, why do I cook tenderloin at all?  Because being a committed omnivore, I am committed to having a way of cooking anything that might present.  And given the categorical imperative to cook whatever is on sale, if filet mignon presents itself as the sale of the moment, then sive Deus sive Natura must think it a grace, whatever I might think, so I need my thing I do with it.  Thankfully, this doesn't happen often.

But what has any of this to do with fish steaks?  Well, my people don't have a way of making filet mignon (sive Deus sive Natura guised as Lady Poverty mercifully made it unknown in Sacco).    But my aunt Rose used to add it to such holiday banquets as Christmas day dinner or Thanksgiving, which called for sundry meat dishes after the lasagna; in that context, it was enough to just broil it, the price tag making enough of an impression.  It took me many years to admit to myself I didn't like it.  My awakening came when I got my first taste of Porterhouse, a grade of steak unknown to my mother's food budget.  One taste of good rib meat, and my eyes were opened to the vanity of tenderloin.

But what has any of this to do with fish steaks?  Well, my way of cooking filet mignon comes from the Fat Lady.  The Bolognese Lidia Bastianich once showed on the T.V. a way of cooking tuna steaks that somehow struck me as a good way of doing filet mignon.  I can't explain how, only that I tried it and liked it.  I figure Lidia's recipe must be Bolognese, given its Frankish mien.  My use of the recipe with filet mignon is in the same barbarizing spirit, insofar as the "sauce" involves anchovy, and any mixing of meat with fish, let alone pungently salted anchovy, would have been regarded by my father as a corruption not short of rotted fish.  But filet mignon calls for extreme measures, so let this recipe be my culinary extreme, the limit between me and, if not the inedible, then the unthinkable.

I've never tried this recipe on tuna steaks, but one day I will (and meanwhile you can).  The "sauce" includes green string beans, which need to be par-boiled or pre-steamed and then "frenched", i.e., pulled apart in halves, exposing the seeds, for a lighter feel and lovelier look.  They’ll be added into the pan, after the fillets are first gilded in the oil.

In the original recipe you flour the tuna steaks, but I just salted and peppered my filet mignon on both sides.  Then I melt a big wad of butter into extra virgin olive oil (although for fillets of tuna I would use regular olive oil alone), and over medium high heat brown the fillets on both sides; then I remove them from the pan and the pan from the heat

Off heat, I add in a goodly amount of chopped garlic, and flip it in the oil before returning the pan to medium-low heat.  At the first scent of sweet aroma, just before gilding gets started, I take the pan off heat again and add in very finely chopped anchovy, flipping it with the garlic and mashing it into the oil and a sort of sauce, the residual heat abetting.

Then I return the pan to medium heat, and just as soon as the oil begins to sizzle again, I add in the frenched string beans, with a scant shower of salt and much grinding of black pepper.  I flip, to savor and scent the beans in the oil.  When the beans are unctuous with oil and unguent with seasoning, I snuggle the fillets in among them in the pan, and reheat to sizzling.  Once all is sizzling, I turn the fillets over and turn up the heat to high, to add some white wine (red wine with anchovy would transgress the limit—it is unthinkable).  Only once the white wine is likewise sizzling do I reduce the heat to medium and briefly cook the "sauce" down to saucy, perhaps turning the fillets once in it.  Then I decide whether to swirl in a wad of butter at the end.  Probably I do, because if we’re gonna French it, let’s French it.

I doubt it's possible to keep fillet mignon medium-rare in such a recipe as this, unless you opt not to return the fillets to the pan, and instead just top them with the sautéed string beans after the wine cooks off, or else add them after the wine cooks down, barely to reheat in the sauce (with the fresh butter).  But I, for one, am more than willing to trade off tenderloin's signature tenderness for flavorfulness, albeit borrowed.  I'm sure its most ardent admirers will disapprove of me as much as I do of it.  Be that as it may.


 Swordfish Steak Broiled

* Buy steaks less than an inch thick, or else buy the thickest you can find and slice them into two steaklets. Put them to soak in a briny bath of 1 qt. water to ¼ cup coarse salt all day or not less than 3 hours. Rinse them in several changes of water, until the rinse water runs clear. Dry off the steaks and pierce them evenly all over with a fork on both sides. Lightly salt and pepper them all over on both sides.
* In a platter or pan, mix a marinade of regular olive oil, squeezes of fresh lemon juice, squirts of white vinegar, chopped garlic and chopped parsley, salt & pepper, and pinches of dried oregano.
* Dip the fish steaks in the marinade, turning them over in it a few times, to coat well.  Leave them to marinate for as little as a half-hour or all day, turning them over now and again.
* Turn on the broiler to pre-heat.  Scrape the marinade’s garlic and parsley off the fillets and blot the oil with paper towels.  Lay the fillets out on a broiler pan, and place the pan close to the heat, only a few inches away.  As soon as the fillets blush and their edges gild, turn them over to broil on the second side, which will take even less time.
*  Dress the serving platter with a fresh batch of the original marinade, and dip the broiled fillets in the marinade on both sides as you arrange them on the platter.  Wing the platter with lemon quarters and sprigs of parsley.

Tangy Tuna Steak

* Buy steaks less than an inch thick, or else buy the thickest you can find and slice them into two steaklets. Put them to soak in a briny bath of 1 qt. water to ¼ cup coarse salt all day or not less than 3 hours. Rinse them in several changes of water, until the rinse water runs clear. Dry off the steaks and pierce them evenly all over with a fork on both sides. Lightly salt and pepper them all over on both sides.
* Pour out a mound of flour on a paper towel, and season it with several pinches of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  Press the tuna fillets into the flour, on both sides; pat the flour in, then shake off excess.
*  Melt a wad of butter into a pond of regular olive oil over medium-high heat.  Then gild the tuna steaks on each side quick and light.  Remove them to a platter.  Take the pan off heat, to let the oil cool down.   
*  Slice much sweet onion thinly—as much as a small one per steak.  Scrape it into the pan of olive oil, shower it with salt, cover the pan, and put it over medium heat; sweat the onion to glistening, with a toss or two in between.  Then uncover the pan, and sauté the onion down in cheerful sizzling, with much flipping, to a sweet and glossy walnut.  Should the spirit prompt you to it, add chopped fresh parsley, or thyme, or maybe even sage.
*  Turn up the heat to medium-high to bring the onion to a lively sizzle, sprinkle it evenly all over with pinches of sugar, and pour a light stream of white balsamic vinegar all along the edge of the pan, to puddle shallow in the middle.  Let the vinegar heat to a sizzle, before flipping the onion in the vinegar.
 *  When the simmering vinegar has cooked off and the onion returned to a glossy sizzle, turn the heat off and take the pan off heat.      
*  Nestle the tuna steaks into the warm bed of tangy onion, bringing some on top too, and cover the pan.  Let marinate off heat.   When time comes to serve, turn the steaks over in the onion and return the pan to medium heat; gently reheat the steaks, covered, to a steamy sizzle, perhaps turning the steaks over once.


Frenched Tuna or Tenderloin

*  Steam string beans over well salted water to just short of fork-tender.  Then “french” them by pulling them apart into halves, exposing their seeds.  Save them for later.
*  Pierce fillets of tuna evenly all over with a fork on both sides.  Put them to soak in a briny bath of 1 qt. water to ¼ cup salt until you’re ready for them.  When ready for them, rinse them well with fresh water, dry them well with paper towels, and lightly salt and pepper them on both sides.  Pour out a mound of flour on a paper towel, and season it with several pinches of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  Press the tuna fillets into the flour, on both sides; pat the flour in, then shake off excess.

Alternatively, buy thick filet mignon, and salt and pepper them on both sides generously.

*  Melt a wad of butter into a pond of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the butter melts, foams, and finally sizzles, add in the fillets and quickly gild them on both sides.  Remove them to a platter.  Take the pan off heat, to let the oil cool down.  
*  Chop a goodly amount of fresh garlic, and scrape the mound into the oil.  Return the pan to medium‑low heat, and gently heat the garlic to an aromatic sizzle.
*  Now, off heat again, add an anchovy or two chopped, and with a spatula mix and mash it into the garlic & oil.  Then return the pan to medium-low heat and to a gentle sizzle.
 *  As soon as the oil resumes sizzling, add in the frenched string beans with a light shower of salt and fresh grindings of black pepper, and turn up the heat to medium.  Toss the green beans in the seasoned oil.  Sauté them to a savory gloss.
*  Nestle the fillets into the sizzling green beans and turning the heat up to medium-high bring them to a lively sizzle.  Then turn them over in the sizzling oil, tuck a wad of butter into their midst, and pour a light stream of white wine over all the fillets.   Let the butter melt in and the white wine sizzle away, until the pan juices concentrate into a pan sauce.  Then remove the fillets to a platter and spoon the dripping green beans over and around them.