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tuna confit with tomato salsa and tapenade {ffwd}

Tuna Confit

Confit is an ancient French preparation for cooking and then preserving meat in its own fat. This is classically done with duck (a favorite at my house) and sometimes pork. This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie was something more modern, but in the same spirit: Tuna Confit. In the case of the tuna, which doesn’t really have any fat that would render during cooking, it is mixed with a variety of aromatic seasonings, then covered in olive oil. First, the tuna marinates in this oil bath for the day, then spends an hour in the oven at a very low temperature, before being sliced and served with a summery tomato salsa and some olive tapenade.

Over the weekend, I scoped out availability and price of tuna. Whole Foods had it, at $25/pound. I wasn’t planning to make the tuna until later in the week, so I thought I’d come back later in the week. I also decided that at that price, I’d make a half batch. On Tuesday, I went back to Whole Foods, but they were out of tuna, and didn’t expect more until Friday. Ugh. I stopped at another store with a decent fish counter, but they didn’t have any either. As a last try, I checked at Trader Joe’s. Though I don’t usually buy it, I remembered they carried frozen fish. Well, the stars aligned in my favor. Not only were there ahi tuna steaks in the freezer, but they were only $9/pound. The packages were about a pound, so a full batch it would be.

Tuna in Its Oil Bath

Tuna in Its Oil Bath

Whenever a recipe calls for preserved lemon, as the tuna confit does, I always make a batch of Mark Bittman’s quick preserved lemons, which takes only 3 hours, no more advanced planning than that required. In addition to preserved lemon, the tuna is flavored with fresh lemon (juice and zest), sun-dried tomatoes, scallions, garlic, celery, and fresh herbs. Besides smelling extremely fragrant, I loved how colorful the mixture was.

Confetti Tuna
The colorful theme continued with the tomato salsa that tops the tuna. Chopped cherry tomatoes, fresh from my garden, along with diced pepper (both fresh and pickled) and more preserved lemon. I’ve been trying to avoid using the word “confetti” because I overused it a few weeks back, however, it’s the perfect word, so I have to use it to describe how the salsa looked.

I served slices of the warm and rosy tuna, topped with the cooking mixture, the tomato salsa, and a dab of (green) olive tapenade with some leftover Swiss chard ravioli on the side. Delicious!

Even better was night #2 when I used the tuna as the star of a salad Niçoise. I tossed lettuce and cherry tomatoes with a light mustardy vinaigrette for the bed for the salad. Then, I topped this base with steamed potatoes chunks tossed with the same dressing, slices of cold tuna confit with leftover tomato salsa and tapenade spooned on top, and these unusual green beans tossed with a chorizo dressing (sort of like a meaty Romesco sauce). The final composition made a fabulous dinner.

Salad Nicoise


Some of you might groan, but I didn’t like it quite as much as Salmon in a Jar. Head-to-head, it would be a close contest. Used as an ingredient, there are so many possibilities for what to do with the tuna confit that the gears in my brain are turning. Howard wants to give this a whirl with one of us sous-vide devices. I suspect we’ll be making this one again.

If you want to try this yourself, check out the recipe (in two parts) at the Washington Post (part 1 and part 2). Of course, you can always find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To see what the other Doristas thought about tuna confit, follow their links here.