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With the warm water and Albacore Tuna an easy catch here is a recipe to keep you tuna lovers going all year. The summer albacore run is in its prime. But even where tuna isn’t plentiful, this preserving technique is a must have. It falls somewhere between fresh and canned tuna, the Italians called it “conservata,” the old tradition of preserving protein in olive oil.
The flavor is rich the texture is meaty — not mealy the way commercial tuna can be. And because you’re controlling the process, you can flavor the oil any way you choose, giving it flavor you won’t find in regular canned tuna. You can add things like: garlic, red pepper, a bay leaf, a big piece of lemon peel, or any herbs. The tuna can also be cooked in water, though the fishiness will be stronger and the texture more dense. In oil the flavor is richer and picks up the flavorings more readily.
It’s important to use a small saucepan that will hold the tuna snugly, and just enough oil to cover. The most important factor is the temperature. Start the fish in cold oil over the lowest flame and never let it get to even a simmer. Otherwise the tuna will turn tough. You turn the heat off as soon as the fish is fully white and begins to flake. It will continue to cook as the oil cools.
Once the tuna is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a clean, lidded container like a mason jar, and pour the oil and flavorings over the top. Screw the lid on top and let it cool completely.The one thing you can’t do is store the fish in the cabinet unless you seal the jar with a pressure cooker, because the fish doesn’t hold enough acid to store in the oil without refrigeration. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks, however, and it probably won’t last that long anyhow, given how good it is!
- 1 lb tuna
- 1 ½ cups olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 3 sprigs thyme plus any other aromatics, such as bay leaf, sage, rosemary, lemon peel, red pepper flakes
- Rinse the tuna and pat dry. Cut into smaller 1-2 inch portions if necessary to fit snugly into a saucepan.
- Put in a small saucepan with the oil, place over low heat until bubbles start to come to the surface.
- Let cook for about 10 minutes, without letting the oil simmer or bubble too much.
- Turn off the heat and add the garlic and herbs and any other flavorings.
- Pour the contents into a glass jar. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and let infuse over night before serving.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.