We received this beautiful Pinot Noir from Utopia Vineyards as a media sample. What to pair with it? Tea and umami are notes that are often present in Pinot Noir, it is also noted for its earthy notes. The tasting notes from the winery mentioned rosemary and spice notes, so I wrapped this all up in a dish that made me excited to get cooking.
Lavender Earl Grey Tea Smoked Tuna with Roasted Golden Beets and Rosemary
Rather than salmon, we decided to go a bit bolder with tea smoked tuna. I looked for ahi but was only able to find Yellowfin, which worked beautifully.
I riffed on a recipe by Feasting at Home, for tea-smoked five-spiced salmon, using the Chinese smoking technique she describes. We plated this on a bed of rosemary roasted golden beets.
It’s easier than you think
I know this dish sounds fancy, and it is! It looks like something they would cook on one of those fancy cooking competition shows! The truth is, this is not hard to do at home. Quite honestly it was easier than most recipes I put together.
You do need a few pieces of equipment: A wok, a metal vegetable steamer, aluminum foil and a set of bowls that you can nest one larger than the other, for individual serving.
The tuna needs to marinate for 30 minutes and while it is doing that, you can get everything else prepped. Start to finish you can do this dinner in less than an hour. Perfect for a romantic dinner!
Start with the marinade
We began with a marinade of garlic, ginger, olive oil, soy sauce, honey, blood orange juice, and zest with some brewed tea. I incorporated my lavender earl grey tea here. All the ingredients mix up quickly in a blender, then go into a zip lock bag with the tuna steaks. This heads to the refrigerator for 30 minutes (or more).
Preparing your wok for smoking
So let’s get to this smoking in the wok. It’s genius. I love smoked foods, but I am not a big griller, so the idea of a smoker for the patio is just not for me. The idea that I could cook tea smoked tuna and other foods on my stove inside, was very appealing.
In this method, you line the bottom of your wok with aluminum foil. I did an 8 x 8 square that was 4 layers thick. This is important to contain the mess and protect your wok.
In the center of the aluminum foil, I placed my mixture of sugar, tea, rice, and spice (I used 2 broken star anise) This should be in a 4-inch diameter pile. On top of that, you place a metal vegetable steamer. You know, the cute little ones with the feet that fold open like a flower. The feet keep the steamer above the tea mixture, you don’t want this touching the bottom of the steamer.
On to the beets
Once this is prepped, you can move on to the beets. I like the golden beets because they are beautiful and have a slightly more delicate flavor than red beets. They are also decidedly less messy.
I preheated my oven to 450 degrees F, then scrubbed and sliced the beets into ¼ inch thick rounds on a mandoline. These get tossed with olive oil, fresh chopped rosemary, and salt and pepper. Lay these out on a baking sheet. I used a silicone mat under them for an easy clean-up and to keep them from browning too much. I wanted them soft, not crispy. Before these go in the oven go back and get your tuna ready to smoke.
Making the tea smoked tuna
Pull the tuna out of the marinade and discard the marinade (after having raw fish in it, it’s no longer safe to eat unless you boil it). Blot just the bottom of the tuna and place them in the steamer basket so that they are not touching.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and top with a lid (ideally a glass lid).
Now you can put your beets in the oven for 20 minutes, but set your timer to start checking on them after 15 minutes.
Place the wok on the stove over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. You should start to see puffs of smoke. *Tip: turn your vent on! I did not and was watching and watching and not seeing smoke. After 5 minutes, I turned on the vent, and then I could see the smoke. This caused me to slightly overcook my tuna from where I had originally wanted it.
Once you see the puffs of smoke, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for 5 to 8 minutes (5 gets you rarer tuna).
Prepping your plates
While that is cooking, prep your dish for plating. Turn on your kettle with some water to boil. Pull out bowls that you can nest one inside the other for plating. In the larger bottom bowl place sprigs of fresh rosemary and one or two star anise. Place the bowl for your beets and tuna on top in the center.
When your tuna is done smoking, sear it on each side in a rod iron skillet for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side.
Pull the beets from the oven and layer them in your bowl, place the tea smoked tuna on top.
*While I did not do this, I would suggest adding a drizzle of sauce to the top of this. A mixture similar to your marinade with a bit of miso, warmed on the stove, that you can drizzle on top. Finish this with some julienned strips of orange zest.
The magic of serving this
To serve, put your hot water in a teapot and gently pour the water into the bottom bowl with the rosemary and anise. This will create lovely aromatic steam which will enhance the dish and add to the wine pairing.
With this Pinot Noir, we also enjoyed a cheese plate with camembert macerated with ground clove and five-spice topped with black cherry and rosemary and a dessert of mini-pineapple upside-down cakes topped with the same compote. The cherry and rosemary, as well as the caramelized notes on the pineapple, worked wonderfully with the wine.
About the Utopia 2017 Estate Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge
The Utopia 2017 Estate Pinot Noir is 100% Pinot Noir but from multiple clones (variations on the Pinot Noir variety). This gives winemaker Dan Warnshuis the ability to make a beautiful blended Pinot Noir. You can read more on this wine and winery here.
You can visit Utopia located in Washington’s Willamette Valley, more specifically in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, by booking an appointment on their website https://www.utopiawine.com/visit-us. They also have a cabin on their property, which is perfect for a bit of a getaway!
Stick with me here. This sounds really fancy (and it looks really fancy too), but it is really not difficult! A little marinade, a bit of time with a pretty simple stovetop smoking technique. The fancy steam plating? You can make hot water, right?
You do need a few kitchen items to make this work, a zip lock bag, a wok, aluminum foil, a metal vegetable steamer, a skillet to sear the tuna, and a sheet pan for the zucchini. For the plating, you just need 2 bowls that will fit together, one larger than the other, for the rosemary, star anise, and hot water, under the dish holding your tuna and beets.
Cooking time is 20 minutes, add 30 minutes to marinate the tuna and 10 minutes for it to rest.
I've laid the recipe out to cook the beets and tuna simultaneously.
This is so elegant. The flavors and aromas are spectacular. I think I might be hooked on tea smoking tuna! This will also work on salmon.
We paired this with an Oregon Pinot Noir, from Utopia Vineyard that we received as a sample.
- 2-3 Yellowfin Tuna steaks
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tbs fresh ginger sliced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tbs soy sauce
- 3 tbs brewed tea
- 3 tbs honey
- ¼ cup blood orange juice
- 1/2 tsp grated blood orange zest
- 3 tbs rice
- 2 tbs Lavender and Earl Grey tea leaves
- 2 tbs sugar
- 6 whole star anise
- 2 golden beets slice ¼ inch thick
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ¼ cup fresh rosemary
- 4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
- Mix the garlic, ginger, ¼ cup of olive oil, soy sauce, brewed tea, honey, blood orange juice, and zest in a blender until mixed.
- Place your tuna in the zip lock bag and pour the marinade in.
- Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Prep the wok
- Make an 8-inch square of aluminum foil 4 layers thick, place in the bottom of the wok
- Mix the sugar, tea, rice, and 2 of the star anise together
- Place the mixture in the center of the foil flattening to a 4-inch diameter circle
- Place the metal vegetable steamer on top, being sure the bottom does not touch the mixture
- Prep the beets
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F
- Scrub the beets and slice into ¼ thick rounds on a mandolin
- Toss with olive oil, chopped, rosemary, salt, and pepper
- Place on a baking sheet
- Smoke the Tuna Roast the beets
- Pull the tuna from the marinade and blot the bottom of the tuna with a paper towel
- Place the tuna in the steam basket so they are not touching
- Cover the wok with aluminum foil and place the lid on top
- Put the beets in the oven for 20 minutes, checking on them after 15
- Place the wok on the stove over high heat for 2 -3 minutes (you should see puffs of smoke)
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 to 8 minutes
- Prep your dishes for plating.
- Turn on the kettle to boil some water
- Pull out your nested bowls for plating
- Put two sprigs of rosemary and 2 whole star anise in each of the larger bowls
- When your tuna is done smoking, sear each side in a rod iron skillet for about 1 minute
- Pull the beets from the oven. Layer them in the bottom of your small bowls. Place the tuna on top.
- Place the small bowls in the larger bowls with rosemary and star anise
- Pour the boiling water into the larger dish
- Enjoy immediately with a delicious Pinot Noir, letting the fragrant steam wash over you and add to the experience
***I did not have the vent hood on and was watching closely for the smoke. After 5 minutes and no smoke, I turned on the hood, and then I could see the smoke rising. As a result, my tuna was a bit more cooked than I would have liked, but it was still delicious.
*** I left mine smoking for 8 minutes and it was just slightly pink inside. If you would like your tuna steak to be closer to rare, go with 5 minutes.
A sauce might have been nice….
Looking back, I would have made a light sauce to pour on top of this. Use similar ingredients to the marinade and make a sauce on the stove. If you do this, I might suggest adding some miso to it for extra flavor.
I totally meant to top this with small curls or julienned slices of orange zest, but in the fray, I forgot.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.