Finders Keepers: Tuna Confit with braised beans, and celery salad from Alison Roman
With two lovely pieces of tuna in hand, I remembered recently seeing this recipe in her newsletter.
Let me just say, it was the easiest thing I'd cooked in months, so simple to assemble and then glorious to eat. So in other words, folks, BIG bang for your buck.I made the celery and parsley salad as well as the braised white beans, adding some cherry tomatoes. I thought the aoli was one step too far, so didn't bother to make it for this meal, although I might make some up later to have with other things. The left over olive oil is fragrant and so ready for all kinds of wonderful uses....... or to make this dish again!
Over to Alison Roman:
This tuna cooks in a pool of olive oil (more on how to reuse that later, because yes you will reuse that!), with any aromatics you have on hand and little wedges of red onion that get just-tender and are so, so good. The low and slow method ensures nothing will get overcooked. Creamy white beans simmer in the oil at the end, soaking up all the spicy, herby flavors, and rounding out the meal. The aioli made with the oil is easily the best I’ve ever had, and makes for an ideal dipping/dressing experience—perfect for the tuna, the beans, and anything you choose to serve with them.
Wait, did you think we’d forget the substitutions?
If you don’t want to use tuna, swordfish is an excellent alternative here (if you wanted to spring for something like halibut, that would also work but $$$$)
You can cook it with any combination of onions, garlic, lemons, dried chili (or crushed chili flakes, or omit the chilis all together if you’re sensitive to heat), any spriggy course herb (thyme, rosemary, oregano, or marjoram)
Fennel seed or coriander seed would be nice additions to the pot, as would thinly sliced lemon or lemon zest
Use the leftover cooking oil to make aioli, or use it for roasting vegetables or chicken, sauteing greens, salad dressings, etc.
A can of rinsed white beans or chickpeas are great to add at the end, but no pressure
Serve the tuna with a simple celery parsley salad dressed with lemon like we did here, or serve it over simple greens, turn it into a punchy pasta with capers or olives, serve it on toast, serve it over grains or rice with a scallion-y dressing--the possibilities are endless.
The aromatics involved here can absolutely change based on what you’ve got and what you want the oil to end up like. For me, that’s going to always include onions and garlic, but if you’re sensitive to either or just don’t have any, you can leave them out and just go herby, or citrusy/spicy, etc. I don’t include anything I can’t strain out of the oil, so that I can use it for things like aioli (see below).
Depending on how efficient your stove is, you might want to do this on the lowest possible flame you’ve got (my stove is…not strong, so I can do a very light medium-low). The key being to have almost no visible bubbles happening in the oil, just a very hot, steady heat.
FOR THE TUNA 680 grams tuna or swordfish, preferably about 1 ½ – 2 inches thick Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper 2 cups/400 grams olive oil, possibly more if you need to submerge 1 large red onion, sliced into wedges a few sprigs of thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or oregano, if you like a few dried chilies, maybe
TO SERVE 1 15 oz. can white beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced 2 cups parsley, torn into large spriggy pieces Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper 1 lemon, halved for squeezing over Aioli (see recipe below) or mayonnaise spruced up with some finely grated garlic, optional
1. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place in a medium pot. For this, I like the sort of curved edge dutch oven style, but generally you want something that will fit the fish. If doing two fillets, that might mean something wider than taller. If one, you can probably get away with something taller as long as the fish doesn’t feel crowded in there.
2. Cover with olive oil and add the onion, garlic, lemon, herbs, chili, whatever you like. The oil should come up almost over the top of the tuna (depending on the thickness of it, you may need more oil).
3. Turn the heat to low/medium-low and keep an eye on it, making sure the oil doesn’t get too hot too fast. Keep it at a gentle, steady, hot heat, without seeing more than the occasional bubble from the oil. Cook the fish until it’s firm and has turned white and opaque, 12–20 minutes. For me, it’s better to under cook this fish than overcook it.
4. Remove from heat and let cool in the oil (this is the oil I’ll make an aioli with, and also the oil I’ll store the tuna in when I put it in the fridge). You can eat the tuna warm, room temp or cold. Your choice!
5. Transfer the tuna to a large serving platter or shallow bowl and spoon some of the cooking oil over. Transfer all but ¼ cup of oil to a glass jar or other container for later use.
6. Add beans to the oil in the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until they’re warmed through and sizzling at the edges, 10–15 minutes. Taste one! Cook longer if needed to taste as good as possible.
7. To serve, toss celery and parsley together in a medium bowl and season with lemon, salt and pepper. Spoon a little aioli or mayonnaise onto the bottom of a plate or bowl and top with those warmed beans. Using a spoon or fork, break off large pieces of fish and place on top of the beans, followed by the parsley salad.
DO AHEAD: This tuna keeps about a week in the fridge, submerged in as much olive oil as you can spare. Use that oil for your next batch. The aioli will keep in the fridge for about a week. I use it on lots of things, including toast with tomatoes, smeared onto hard boiled eggs, and as something to dip cold roasted chicken into as a snack while I think about what to make for dinner.
FOR THE AIOLI (optional) 1 large egg yolk 1 teaspoon /5 grams mustard (dijon, whole grain, etc) 1/2 cup/100 grams olive oil from the tuna 1/2 cup/100 grams neutral oil, such as canola 1 lemon, halved Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine the olive oil from the tuna and the canola oil in a measuring cup.
2. Whisk egg yolk and mustard in a small bowl and season with salt. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil, drop by drop at first, then a little more steadily, until aioli is starting to thicken. Eventually it’ll be thick like mayonnaise, that’s when you want to add a little squeeze of lemon to thin it out. This will allow you to continue adding the oil without the aioli breaking on you.
3. Once all the oil is added, season aioli with salt, cracked pepper and more lemon juice, if you’d like. It can also be thinned with more lemon or water if you prefer this as more of a saucy dressing.
Leftover tuna chunks were delicious and tender in a salad viscose the next day.