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Fish and Shellfish

Conserved tuna

Conserved tuna
Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Improbable as it may have seemed a few years ago, canned tuna is one of the hottest ingredients around today. Good quality stuff, of course, not lunchbox fare. Imported from Spain or Italy, it can sell for as much as ... Read more

Total time: 25 minutes, plus cooling time | Makes about 1 pound, or 2 cups flaked
  • 1 pound fresh tuna (albacore or yellowfin), cut 1 to 2 inches thick
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons sliced garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 piece lemon peel (about 3/4 inch by 2 inches)
  • 1 cup olive oil, plus more if necessary

Step 1Trim any skin, bones or dark blood spots from the tuna and discard. Cut the tuna into large cubes (at least 1 inch) and place them in a 1-quart saucepan. Add the salt, red pepper flakes, garlic and a pinch of black pepper and stir gently to distribute seasonings evenly. Arrange the tuna snugly in the pan so you won't need to use too much additional oil. Add the bay leaf and lemon peel and pour over enough olive oil to just barely cover the fish. It will be about 1 cup, though you may need a little more for topping off.

Step 2Place the saucepan over very low heat and cook until the tuna just begins to flake, about 15 minutes. The oil may get hot enough that a few bubbles rise from the bottom, but it should not simmer. The top temperature shouldn't exceed 160 degrees.

Step 3Cool the tuna to warm room temperature in the oil before transferring to a container for storage in the refrigerator. If you're going to use the tuna the same day, refrigeration is not necessary. The tuna will keep, tightly sealed and refrigerated, for at least a week, but not more than 10 days. Warm to room temperature before using.

Note: Conserving tuna takes very little time and even less effort, but if you're in a real hurry, these recipes will work quite well with high-quality canned tuna, which can be found at import stores, on the Internet and even at some Southern California farmers markets. Traditionally, the best tuna has been canned in Spain, Portugal and Italy: Look for such brands as Albo, Genova, Ortiz and As do Mar. But there is a new group of artisanal tuna canners operating along the West Coast, under brands including Dave's Albacore, Wild Pacific Seafood, Tuna Guys, Wild Planet and Shamrock. In general, look for brands that offer large pieces of tuna, often labeled as "fillet" rather than "chunk," packed in high-quality olive oil.

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