Atún Encebollado

Tuna in a Rich Onion and Manzanilla Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • 6

    Medias Raciones

Appears in

MoVida Rustica

By Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish

Published 2009

  • About

TRADITIONAL ENCEBOLLADO IS A RICH, BRAISED ONION SAUCE THAT FORMS A GOLDEN-BROWN COLOUR DURING ITS LONG, SLOW COOKING. IT IS OFTEN USED TO COOK SEAFOOD SUCH AS SAND CLAMS, AND CAN BE SLIGHTLY FIERY WHEN THE CHEF GIVES IT A GOOD HIT OF WHITE PEPPER. THE DOWNSIDE IS THAT WHEN TUNA IS COOKED IN ENCEBOLLADO THE FLESH CAN DRY OUT. ALTHOUGH I RESPECT THE CHEFS WHO COOK THIS DISH, IT DOES COME FROM ANOTHER ERA WHEN THE SPANISH ROUTINELY COOKED THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS OUT OF THEIR FISH. MANY OF THE YOUNGER SPANISH CHEFS NOW HAVE A LIGHTER TOUCH AND PREFER FISH ‘JUST COOKED’. I USE SALAD ONIONS AND INSTEAD OF CARAMELISING AND REDUCING THEM I COOK THEM UNTIL QUITE SOFT BUT NOT DEFEATED. THE TUNA IS LIGHTLY SEASONED WITH OREGANO AND GIVEN A LITTLE EL SCORCHO’ IN A HOT FRYING PAN AND THEN DRESSED WITH THE COLOURFUL, FLAVOURFUL SHERRY AND SAFFRON SAUCE.

Ingredients

  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
  • 7 white salad onions, finely sliced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 160 ml ( fl oz) manzanilla sherry
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) yellowfin tuna, cut into six equal portions
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Method

Heat 140 ml ( fl oz) of the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the onion, bay leaves and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8–10 minutes, or until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add the garlic, then cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the sherry, half the oregano and all the peppercorns. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 20–25 minutes, or until the onion is very soft.

Toast the saffron threads in a small dry frying pan over medium heat just until the threads begin to darken. Place in a mortar and pestle, add 2 tablespoons of the onion cooking liquid and pound until dissolved. Stir the saffron mixture into the onions and cook for another 3 minutes.

When the onion sauce is cooked, place the tuna in a bowl with the remaining oregano, sea salt flakes, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and the remaining 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil. Mix well.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat and cook the tuna for 2 minutes on each side, seasoning both sides with sea salt as you go. Place in a large warm serving dish, pour the onion sauce over and serve hot.