I’ve been canning tuna fish for years, but after trying this crazy good (and super simple) tuna confit recipe, I may never bother again.
Neni’s tuna confit is a short-term preservation where chunks of tuna are simmered in olive oil and stored in the fridge. When I first tasted it I did the chair dance–I was just shaking and wiggling with pleasure. It was the one of the most tender, delectable, soft and sweet tuna dishes I’ve ever had. Not only that, it’s a great way to utilize this very special fish and have enough product on hand to make other dishes.
So what to do with this splendid stuff? Neni uses it in a non-mayonnaise salad with preserved lemons; with pasta in a white wine sauce; on toasted bread with avocado; in a summer tomato salad; and just by itself, with freshly ground black pepper and lemon wedges. I prepared numerous delicious dishes with it, too. I made a pesto of boiled broccoli, pignoi, and garlic, and tossed it with linguini fini and pieces of the tuna confit; a warm potato, olive tapenade and potato salad, garnished with parsley; a pureed tuna sauce with a little homemade chicken stock and lots of black pepper, and poured it over thin slices of roasted lamb to make a quick Lamb Tonnata; and combined the bits and pieces at the end of the jar with homemade mayonnaise and chopped pickles and dumped the tuna salad onto a potato roll. We both used the flavored oil in all these dishes and, after the tuna was gone, continued to use the oil (refrigerated of course) in other recipes.
Tuna is a low acid food so it must be pressure canned to be shelf stable. Pressure canning brings the interior temperature up high enough to kill all spoilers that might be present in the flesh. Because we are not pressure canning, this recipe must be refrigerated.
Neni’s Tuna Confit
You will need a 4 to 6 cup capacity wide mouthed jar with a tight lid for this confit (I used a hinged lid jar.)
1 1/2 lbs tuna, washed, dried, cut in the largest chunks possible, skin off
2 bay leaves
1 heaping tablespoon sliced garlic
Small bunch fresh thyme (10 to 12 sprigs)
1 heaping tablespoon dried marjoram (See Note)
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups olive oil
Sterilize the jar and lid by boiling in water for 10 minutes at sea level, adding 1 minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level.
Place the tuna in a small heavy pot (I used a #18 Le Creuset dutch oven) so it fits snuggly. Cover in olive oil. Depending on the size of your pot, you may need more or less oil. You don’t need fine olive oil for this recipe. Add the bay leaves, garlic, thyme, and marjoram. Cover, place over the lowest heat you can (I have electricity; I put it on “low.”) Simmer for 20 minutes, until you see miniscule bubbles coming up from the bottom in a continuous ribbon. Cook this way for 10 additional minutes. You will smell the tuna cooking.
Remove from heat and pull out the tuna with tongs. Pack into a sterilized jar. Cover with oil and add salt. Cover the jar with a dishtowel and allow the tuna and oil to come to room temperature, 6 to 12 hours. Cover the jar with its cap and refrigerate. You can use the tuna for up to 10 days according to USDA standards, but Neni says it holds for up to two weeks.
Note: The flavorings can be altered to taste. A 3-inch rosemary sprig is nice, too.