Friday, January 22, 2010

Seared Soy-Maple Ahi Tuna with Savory Polenta

From seared tuna

From seared tuna
Growing up on the east coast of Canada meant an abundance of seafood – salmon, cod, halibut, and lobster. But I have a secret to share… I hated all of them! Unless, my mother made me, I would not eat any kind of fresh seafood (for some reason canned tuna was palatable).

It wouldn’t be until I became an adult and moved to the west coast that I became a more adventurous eater. Sometime during my university years, I started eating, and liking, seafood. My favorites are salmon, prawns, and ahi tuna.


From seared tuna

And even more recently I have dared to cook ahi tuna (sushi grade). I thought it would be a big challenge as I have heard horror stories of friends overcooking it. And since it costs $25/lb and up here, I did not want to improperly cook it and waste that much money! But, honestly readers, it is not that hard to produce a beautifully seared piece of fish. The key is to use medium high heat and cook it on the first side until the flesh changes colour 1/3 of the way up the side of the fish. Flip it and sear it a few minutes more. Voila! flawlessly cooked tuna. Seared on the outside and perfectly pink on the inside.

From seared tuna

From seared tuna
Tonight, I had a craving for seared ahi tuna and instead of the mashed potatoes I would normally serve with it, I tried polenta. I have NEVER cooked polenta before but have eaten it in restaurants (have you tried polenta fries? Yum! That will be a different post someday soon.) Anyways, I looked around the net and chose a recipe from Alton Brown. I used a spicy homemade chicken stock and way more garlic than called for. I also found it called for too much salt so I cut it by half.

From seared tuna

I marinated the tuna for 30 minutes in a marvelous kicked-up maple soy glaze recipe shared by my boss JW (she’s vegetarian but I try not to hold that against her – just kidding!)

Tuna is definitely too expensive to have often but every once in awhile it makes for a special and delectable treat. Enjoy.

Seared Soy-Maple Glazed Tuna

Marinade (enough for up to 1 lb of tuna or 4 servings)

From seared tuna

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dijon or grainy mustard (I prefer grainy)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp wasabi powder (optional)
1. Mix together. Set aside.

  • 1/4 lb per person ahi tuna (sushi grade) – about ¾ inch thick
  1. Place tuna in a bowl or a ziploc. Pour marinade over tuna and marinade for 30-60 minutes.
  2. Heat pan on medium high heat and add 2 or tbsp of vegetable oil.
  3. Add tuna. Do not flip until the tuna has changed color 1/3 of the way up the steak. Once flipped, cook  tuna for another 2 minutes or so depending on how rare you like your tuna.
  4. Remove from pan.
  5. Cut into ¼ inch thick slices.

From seared tuna

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup polenta
  • ½ cup or more grated parmesan
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven: 350 degrees
Special Equipment: Heat proof sauce pan or dutch oven with lid.

  1. Place oil in pan and heat on medium to medium high heat. Add onions and salt. Cook until translucent about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat and add garlic – do not burn garlic! Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add chicken stock. Bring to boil.
  4. While whisking, add polenta.
  5. Cover pan and place in oven.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes. Stir 2 or 3 times to ensure creaminess and prevent clumping.
  7. Remove from oven and stir in parmesan. Add pepper to taste.


Plating suggestion: Place a large scoop of polenta on plate. Gentle top with 4 or 5 slices of seared tuna. Simple yet delicious.

From seared tuna





  1. Hi! You just made me miss home, where fresh seafood abound.

    Anyway, I just wanted to ask if you can share any more ideas about the soy maple glaze you used. Like with what other recipes can it be used in? I have a bottle of barely used Canadian maple syrup and ever since I went on a low carb diet, I've had to find a use for it aside from pouring it over pancakes.

  2. Dear Ceecee, I really liked how you made it very easy to follow the recipe for the seared soy maple ahi tuna. I never liked ahi tuna because of how it was served, but after reading this I am going to try it your way! This is my first visit to your site and it's exceptional. Well organized, well written and great clear pictures. I shall enjoy returning for a bite of more. Thank you for sharing,
    Ciao, Gaby
    You can visit me at

  3. Kookie, this marinade is delicious with salmon and would work with a stirfry (maybe add some ginger too. I haven't tried it but I think it would also work with baked or BBQ chicken (due to sugar content add it towards end of BBQing). I'll try to think up some lower carb maple syrup recipes and post soon,

    Gaby, thanks so much for the great comments. I love your site - I love the way you write - entertaining and thought provoking!

  4. Most people overcook fish. I live in Hawaii. We mostly eat our fish raw!! It is great to see someone cook fish properly!! Your pics make you want to eat it right off the page

  5. What a gorgeous piece of tuna! I've never worked with a tuna steak like this (mine always has been out of a can, a real shame, I know) but I have to say this look so good!

  6. Great looking Tuna, I love seared tuna in salads or any other way. Thank you for sharing this great dish.

  7. Perfectly cooked tuna and delicious marinade! This really sounds like a wonderful dish. A little pop of green would be perfect on top of that tuna.

  8. This looks amazing! I have been wanting to try searing my own tuna as well - Where did you buy the tuna from?

  9. To be honest I don't remember - but make sure it's Sushi Grade. I remember trying Whole Foods but they only had Premium grade which is supposedly ok for searing .... still I feel safer with sushi grade.