Preserved Peppered Tuna

This idea came to me at the wonderful restaurant at the entrance to the harbor of St. Tropez where, because everyone there was a foodie and the tuna was delicious, we sat around for hours embroiled in the debate over tuna names. Since the names for tuna (especially the one known as albacore) change from country to country, I will not get into that debate here, but stick to my belief that the only good cooked tuna is either in a can or, in this case, a jar.

Use 2 to 3inch tall preserving jars, the ones with the red rubber strips and clamp-down tops. The tuna should fit with a ½-inch space on the sides and 1 inch on top. To serve it, all you have to do is put a jar in front of each person. You can use skipjack, Spanish mackerel, or bluefish if the pieces are big enough and at least 3 inches thick. But whether tuna or one of these others, be sure to use the fattiest fish and tuna you can.

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Ingredients

  • 4 6- to 8-ounce pieces fresh pieces fresh fatty tuna, cut 3 inches thick
  • ¼ cup black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 8 salted anchovy filets
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 8 sprigs Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
  • ½ cup mild black olives, pitted, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 4 cups (approx.) extra virgin light yellow olive oil

Method

Grind up the peppercorns and salt and rub all over the tuna pieces. Let sit 30 minutes.

Put an anchovy fillet in the bottom of each jar. Then divide half the thyme, sage, parsley, rosemary, bay, and garlic equally among the four jars. Place a piece of tuna in each jar, then add the olives and lemon zest. Divide the remaining herbs equally on top of each piece of tuna and the remaining anchovy fillets, and pour enough of the olive oil over each piece of tuna to cover it by at least ½-inch.

Close the jars and put them in a water bath with the water coming up to the necks of the jars. Cover and simmer very gently for 2 hours. Test to see if the fish is tender (timing will depend on the kind of fish you are using) and cook more if necessary. For salmon cook only 30 minutes.

Serve at room temperature with a sauce made from extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, or with Russian dressing, or rémoulade. The tuna makes a perfect Niçoise salad—make sure to use the cooking oil to dress it.