Olive Oil Poached Tuna with Caper-Olive Vinaigrette

They say you learn something new every day. Well, yesterday we learned about poaching. Fish, in particular. It’s a pretty cool process. You allow a 1 inch-thick cut of fish (like tuna, halibut or salmon) to sit at room temperature for an hour. Then you submerge it in a bath of warm oil and immediately transfer it to an oven where it hangs out for 25 minutes at a low temperature. At the end of 25 minutes, these weird little white dots form on the surface of the fish (called albumin, which are protein) and that’s your cue that it’s ready to eat. The result is tender, flavorful fish!

This is the first recipe we’ve tried from Fine Cooking magazine, and we loved how easy and straight forward the directions were. (I’m still in denial that Gourmet is gone, but so far Fine Cooking is filling a tiny part of that void in my life). Our tuna didn’t look as pink as the magazine picture when we took it out of the oil, but it tasted amazing, so we’re going to assume that we did everything fine! You’ll love the caper-olive vinaigrette (which we had to make in a food processor, since we don’t have a blender). It’s something that you’ll want to make again to accompany any kind of fish, shrimp, or even lamb. Some roasted vegetables (fingerling potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and red beets) were a nice accompaniment. This recipe serves 4.

Olive Oil Poached Tuna with Caper-Olive Vinaigrette

(From the April/May 2010 issue of Fine Cooking)

For the Tuna:

1 clove garlic
Kosher salt
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 cups extra-virgin olive oil*
4 1-inch-thick tuna steaks (6- to 7-oz. each)

For the Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 TBS. capers, rinsed and drained
4 Kalamata olives, pitted
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp/ granulated sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Peel and smash the garlic clove and a pinch of salt to a paste (using a mortar and pestle or by mincing and mashing with the side of a chef’s knife – we did the latter).
  • Combine the garlic paste, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add just enough oil to turn the spice mixture into a smooth paste, about 1/2 tsp. Rub the paste over the tuna. It will be sparse. Let the tuna sit at room temperature for about an hour.
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 225 degrees.
  • Measure the thickness of the tuna steaks and add the same depth of oil to a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan.
  • Heat over low heat until the oil reaches 120 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Put the tuna steaks in the oil in a single layer and immediately transfer the pan to the oven. Poach until a few small whitish droplets rise to the surface of the tuna, and the center of the fish is rosy, 25 minutes.
  • While the fish poaches, combine the parsley, capers, olives, garlic, vinegar, and sugar in a blender and blend to a coarse puree. With the motor running, pour the olive oil through the hole in the blender’s lid and puree until incorporated. Taste for salt (it may not need any — we didn’t add any) and set aside.
  • Transfer the tuna to a wire rack set over paper towels to drain for a few minutes. Serve with the vinaigrette spooned over each steak.

* this recipe uses a lot of oil, doesn’t it? You can save it to do more poaching (of fish) in the near future – let it cool to room temp, then strain through a sieve lined with a coffee filter (but stop straining before you reach the bottom because the seafood releases some liquid during cooking that settles there). Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. But our advice is just to buy some cheap-ish olive oil at the grocery store, because really, how much poached fish can you eat in 3 weeks?  It’s up to you!

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