This is a recipe for Tuna Pot Roast from Molly Stevens’ book All About Braising. Don’t let the length of the recipe scare you away–the technique here is so simple you probably won’t need to read it again save to check for ingredients after you’ve made it once. And if you make it once, you will most definitely make this one again. I would also try this set of sauce/braising liquid ingredients with chicken, pork tenderloin and quite possibly even tofu. It’s a lovely blending of flavors vaguely reminiscent of pasta puttanesca, but softer and more suited to the delicate flavors of the tuna.
Tuna Pot Roast with Tomato, Basil & Capers
(adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens)
Braising Time 20-25 minutes
The Basil-Anchovy Paste
2 large garlic cloves
3 anchovies, minced (Courtney note: vegetarians or those who hate anchovies can generally get away with subbing a few oil-cured black olives for the anchovies, minced fine)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil, stems reserved
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 to 2 pounds tuna loin in one piece, at least 3-4 inches thick
all purpose flour for dredging (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, sliced
1 small celery stalk with leaves, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 cup chopped ripe or canned tomatoes
course salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup loosely packed shredded fresh basil leaves, stems reserved
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
Season the tuna–1-4 hours in advance: Coarsely chop 1 garlic clove and combine it with the anchovies and basil in a mortar. Season with salt and pepper, and crush and grind the garlic, anchovies, and basil into a paste using the pestle. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, combine the ingredients on a cutting board and using a combination of chopping motion and smearing with the side of the blade, reduce them to a paste.) Slice the remaining garlic clove into slivers. With the tip of a sharp knive, make small incisions all over the tuna loin and stuff a sliver of garlic into each one. Smear the anchovy-garlic-basil paste over the entire surface of the tuna. Cover loosely with plasic and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
Dredging the tuna: Spread the flour out on a plate. Roll the tuna loin, paste and all, in the flour. Some paste may come off, but don’t worry. Lift the tuna loin out of the flour, and pat it to shake off the excess. Discard the leftover flour.
Browning the tuna: Add 2 tablespoonsof the oil to a heavy high-sided lidded skillet or braising pan that will neatly hold the tuna without much room to spare, and heat over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Lower the tuna into the oil, using your hands or sturdy tongs, and sear it on all sides, turning with tongs, just until a pale brown crust forms, 2 minutes per side. Transfer the tuna to a plate, using a large spatula to lift it and a pair of sturdy tongs to steady it so as to avoid piercing the fish with a fork. Discard the oil. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
The aromatics and braising liquid: Add the remaining 2tablespoons oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and saute, stirring occasionally, until translucent and limp, about 8 minutes. Pour in the wine and simmer until reduced by about half, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Tie the reserved basil stems together with kitchen string, then stir in the basil stems and capers and simmer for 2 minutes to meld the flavors.
The braise: Return the tuna to the pan, again using the spatula and tongs, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Lift the lid after a minute or two to make sure that the sauce is just barely bubbling. If it is simmering too vigorously, lower the heat or set a heat diffuser beneath the pan. Baste the tuna every 5 minutes or so, spooning the tomato braising liquid over the top. After 10 minutes, carefully turn the tuna using the spatula and a sturdy pair of tongs; do not drip too tightly with th tongs, or you may tear the tuna. Continue braising until the tuna is just cooked through, another 10-15 minutes. An easy doneness test is to insert a narrow blade or skewer into the center of the tuna. Wait a moment, then pull out the blade or skewer and touch it gingerly to your lip or the inside of your wrist. The blade or skewer should feel just warm to the touch, not cold and not scorching hot. You can also insert a small knife into the tuna and pull back the flesh to peek. The fish should be just cooked through but not at all dried out. Transfer the tuna to a serving dish, and cover loosley with foil to keep warm.
The finish: Remove the basil stems. Bring the sauce to a simmer, and taste it to evaluate its flavor and texture. If the sauce appears thin, boil to thicken it some, about six minutes. It should be thick enough to spoon over the tuna. Stir in the shredded basil and taste for salt and pepper.
Serving: if serving immediately, carve the tuna into thick slices or chunks and spoon the sauce over each. Or leave the tuna to cool in the braising liquid, then carve the tuna into slices or pull it into chunks and serve with the braising liquid.
Variation: Tuna Pot Roast with Tomatoes & Black Olives
Add a scant 1/4 cup small unpitted black olives (such as Morroccan oil-cured or Nicoise) and 2 strips of orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler (each about 3 inches by 3/4 inch) to the braising liquid along with the capers and basil stems in Step 4.