Tuna Crudo & Sizzling Oil Go on a Hot Date

March 12, 2018

Sautéing, make way for sizzling, a technique that flips frying on its head. Instead of bringing the food to the oil, we bring the oil to the food. And a mere splash, at that. The result is less waste, zero mess, so much richness. By shocking an ingredient with hot fat—from shaved cauliflower to cubed tofu—you amplify its flavor while leaving its texture intact. This is a downright dreamy combination when it comes to raw fish, as Tim Cushman noted nearly a decade ago.

Originally, Cushman applied the technique to salmon sashimi: Dress the fish with citrus juice and soy sauce. Top with fresh ginger and chopped chives. Douse with a scorching blend of grapeseed and sesame oil. Then, to finish everything off, throw on some cilantro leaves and sesame seeds. Consider this the easiest, most elegant appetizer. Or add in a bowl of steamed, fluffy rice and call it dinner.

Worth asking: Why the two oils? Sesame has a relatively low smoke point—meaning it burns easily—while grapeseed is much sturdier. By combining the two, you get the nutty, toasty flavor from the sesame, with the temperature reach of the grapeseed. This can be imitated with olive or walnut oil for flavor, then peanut or sunflower oil for temperature.

In fact, this whole recipe can—and should—be imitated. Here’s how:

  • First, pick a fish. Salmon and tuna are approachable classics. Hamachi, black bass, and red snapper are lovely, too. If you’re feeling shellfish instead, try scallops or oysters.
  • Prepare it. Like Cushman, you can evoke sashimi with thin slabs. Or channel poke with cubes. If you’re using oysters, keep them in the shell.
  • Top with sturdy add-ons. Say, nuts and seeds (bonus points for combinations like everything seasoning and furikake). Raw vegetables and fruit, like garlic slivers or chive snippets, shaved radish or fennel, avocado or tomato wedges. Maybe something spicy, like grated ginger or horseradish, ground black pepper or chile flakes.
Bring on the dukkah. Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Dress it up. Think something acidic and bright—soy sauce, citrus juice, or any vinegar—then sprinkle with flaky salt.
  • Sizzle. Heat your oil(s). Remember to use at least one with a high smoke point so you can get it hot enough to sizzle. When it’s very shimmery, spoon onto the prepared fish.
  • Finish it off. Now’s when you hit it with the more delicate toppings, like fresh herbs, from basil and mint to dill and tarragon.

My favorite re-creation: tuna crudo. Top with extra-crunchy dukkah, an Egyptian nut-and-spice blend that’s often served with bread and olive oil. My version has hazelnuts and cashews and all the seeds: fennel, coriander, cumin, caraway. Fresh mint, lemon juice, and chile flakes keep everything cheery. And, of course, lots of olive oil for that sizzle.

What’s your favorite fish to eat raw? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.