- Servings: 2 pounds of tuna confit.
The method for making tuna confit is very similar to what's done with duck: thick pieces of raw tuna are rubbed with a salt and spice mixture, refrigerated to cure for several hours, and then slowly poached in olive oil so that the fish is cooked to complete tenderness without absorbing the fat. (It's essential that when you do the poaching the oil doesn't boil because then you'll get fried tuna, which is something else.)
Tuna confit is like the best imported canned tuna you ever ate, only better. You can flake it into a salad, as I had in that wedding sandwich. You can combine the tuna with small, tender potatoes and a little lemon juice to mix with any lingering olive oil. It is brilliant when added to buttery cannellini beans and pasta, maybe with a dusting of a little lemon zest and grated bottarga (see our article about bottarga).
When making tuna confit you'll need four hours to marinade but only about 15 minutes to poach the fish. Then let it completely cool in its poaching oil. This recipe produces two pounds of tuna confit, enough for six to eight servings of salad or pasta. The finished confit can be stored, submerged in its poaching oil, and refrigerated, for about two weeks. You can also use the oil in other cooking but keep it refrigerated because it's been cooked with food and otherwise it will spoil. Despite being used for the tuna poaching, the oil isn't fishy -- although it has some added flavor -- and can be used in other cooking and in salads.
- 2 pounds good tuna (albacore or yellowfin/ahi) in a single piece
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
- 2 bay leaves
- Peel of 1/2 lemon, removed with a vegetable peeler
- Olive oil, enough to cover, about 1 quart (you don't need to use your best olive oil for this)
- Cut the tuna into four pieces of about equal size. Rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Combine the salt, pepper, sugar and red chili flakes. Rub on all sides of the tuna pieces.
- Place the tuna in an ovenproof baking dish, one that is deep enough to hold the fish in a single layer.
- Add the thyme, parsley, garlic and lemon peels to the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for four hours.
- Remove from the refrigerator and place in a small-to-medium pot with the bay leaves and tuna. Don't use too big a pot because you'll waste olive oil filling it up to cover the fish. Instead choose a pot that holds the fish without crowding.
- Add about 2 cups oil, or enough to just cover the tuna. Over medium heat, and using an instant thermometer, bring oil to about 140 degrees and gently poach for 10 minutes, adjusting or turning off heat to maintain temperature, until tuna is cooked through. Turn off heat and allow tuna to cool in the oil for 10 minutes. Cut into 1/4-inch slices.
- Remove the tuna from its pot baking dish and strain the olive oil using a fine sieve to remove and discard the herbs, garlic and lemon peels. If you're not going to use the tuna immediately it will keep, covered in the strained poaching oil and refrigerated, for up to one week.
Tuna Confit Salad
1/4 pound tuna confit
3 tablespoons of olive oil from the confit
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 cups of very thin slices of raw fennel, about 1 large fennel bulb (if you don't like fennel you can substitute raw celery)
1/4 cup pitted green olives (check each olive individually to make sure the pits are all out)
- In a medium bowl combine the olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar until emulsified (don't add salt and pepper because the tuna is seasoned).
- Add the raw fennel and olives and toss to coat.
- Add the tuna by flaking pieces into the mixture and carefully toss so to not break up the tuna too much.
- Serve in a sandwich made with ciabatta or focaccia or alongside salad greens, slices of red onion and fresh tomato.