I first saw a grill pan used in 1996 at the Monkey Bar when John Schenk was its chef and I was trailing Adam Shepard while reporting The Making of a Chef. I was surprised and thought it was kind of cheating, implying to the diner with those grill marks that some smoky goodness was sure to come with it. But I saw it again and again in kitchens and when I finally was sent one as a gift, a rank second-bester compared with A-1 Le Creuset (which I still don’t actually own), well, I kind of liked it. If I cooked a tri-tip sirloin sous vide from Under Pressure, I could mark it off after in a grill pan and not only did it look great (a matter of no small consequence), but also the small amount of char contributed just the right bitter counterpoint to all the other flavors going on.

Someone tell me how the video is. I refuse to watch it. It was the first one of a long day’s shoot and I was shaking so bad from the suddenness of being in front of a camera at the unhappy hour of 9 am—on a Sunday morning in lovely Charleston, SC, no less—that I could barely dress the dish without flinging vinaigrette all over the place. (Here’s a link to all the technique videos we did.)

The below recipe is one of those no-brainers that never fails to impress. It’s important to let the tuna sit out for an hour at room temp before cooking. You want it raw in the center but not freezing cold. The sweetness from the orange balances the bitterness of the char marks from the grill pan.

Coriander–Black Pepper Crusted Tuna with Orange-Shallot Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 4 (4-ounce) tuna steaks
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for oiling the grill pan
  • 4 ounces mesclun greens or other fresh salad greens
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (optional)
  1. In a grill pan or skillet over medium heat, combine the coriander seeds and black pepper, and toast until they become fragrant, about a minute once the pan is hot. Remove to a mortar and pestle, and coarsely pulverize them.
  2. Season the tuna steaks with salt. Coat them liberally with the coriander-pepper mixture.
  3. Start the vinaigrette by combining the shallot, lemon juice or vinegar, and orange juice. Season to taste with salt and set aside.
  4. Set a grill pan over high heat. Oil a paper towel and rub the pan with it. The oil should smoke. Press the tuna steaks onto the grill pan and sear until the pan has left distinctive marks, about a minute.
  5. Lift the tuna steaks, rotate them a quarter-turn, and set them back down on the grill pan, pressing down to complete the hash marks. Continue cooking another minute. Then flip and continue cooking about 2 more minutes or until done.
  6. While the tuna is cooking, whisk the 3 tablespoons oil into the juice mixture. Combine the greens with the optional cilantro. Toss with half the vinaigrette and divide among 4 plates. When the tuna is done, slice in half and serve with the greens, spooning the remaining vinaigrette over the tuna and greens.

Serves 4


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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.