Food & Drink Magazine

Oil Poached Montauk Tuna Nicoise

By Skfsullivan @spectacularlyd

OIL POACHED MONTAUK TUNA NICOISETuna Niçoise calls for canned tuna. Sure, California-style versions featuring thick strips of grilled red-rare slices of tuna are pretty to look at and tasty in their own right. But the real deal? No.  Oil-packed canned tuna (don’t get me started on water packed) imparts the unmistakable character of this classic.

Seriously people, haven’t we learned by now that our European forbears do it their way for good reason?

Still, Americans that we are, it’s hard to suppress the urge to go it one better. Enter the estimable Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune whose oil-poached tuna technique provides the necessary familiar flavor with the added benefit of big, American sized pieces of fresh fish.

And dare I say fresh oil-poached tuna in silkier and more luxurious than canned? Yes, I dare say it — and defy any  who dare to contradict.

Have your candy thermometer at the ready to ensure even poaching temperature.

Balsamic and red wine vinegar balls add a bit of dazzle and intrigue — and they’re just vinegar so no need to get your knickers in a twist.

Gabrielle has a bit more to say on this topic on House Beautiful with her preferred salad greens and stuff.

If you’re scratching your head about the absence of green beans (haricots vert to you purists), wonder no more.  Not a fan. Add them if you’d like; I used corn as a stand in.  We’re not on the Mediterranean coast folks, were in East Hampton. Cut me some slack.

Using Gabrielle’s tutelage on oil-poaching,  I got me some same-day Montauk tuna steaks and went to work putting together this recipe for Oil  Poached Montauk Tuna Niçoise.


1 lb. fresh tuna, cut in two pieces
3 c. good extra virgin olive oil for poaching
1 lb. small new potatoes
3 ears of corn
2 hard boiled eggs, shelled
1/4 c. sliced black olives, the tasty kind, such as kalamata or alfonso
1/2 lb. cherry tomatoes, popped in hot oil (see technique here)
Mixed baby lettuces
Olive oil for dressing
red wine vinegar for dressing
1 T. finely mince shallots
2 T. fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade
balsamic and red wine vinegar balls (see technique here)

Get all the prep work out of the way first.
- Pop the tomatoes.
- Make the vinegar balls.
- Boil the potatoes until an inserted knife slips out of the potato (stop before the soft mashed potato stage). Cool and cut in half
-  Hard boil the eggs, let cool, peel off the shells and slice in half
- boil the corn for 5 minutes, let cool and cut the kernels from the cobs
- Wash and dry the greens.
- Cut the basil leaves into a chiffonade of ribbons and whisk with olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced shallots and s&p into a perfect vinaigrette

Let tuna come to room temperature. Fit into a snug saucepan or deep sauté pan. Completely cover with extra-virgin olive oil. Turn heat to medium low. Use a candy thermometer to maintain the oil temperature at 150º.

Poach for 20 minutes. Let cool in the oil. Remove from oil, blot dry.

On a shallow serving platter or in low, flat bottomed dish create a base of salad greens. Toss the potatoes and corn in the vinaigrette. In an attractively random pattern arrange the potatoes, corn and the popped cherry  tomatoes. (Don’t toss the tomatoes in the dressing lest the skins detach.)

Transfer the tuna to the platter. Garnish with the hard boiled egg haves and the vinegar balls.

And there you have it. Enjoy.


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