Poached Tuna, Easy As Pie (well, easier really)

The chef of the restaurant where I work gave me some sushi grade tuna last night. Actually, a whole hunk of it. Filet would be the proper term. Probably 3 pounds. It had been in the restaurant a few days, long enough that it became unacceptable to serve to customers. But still edible. I took it home, and when I could not manage to sleep past 6 AM this morning, I got up and poached it. The whole process took less than an hour. Maybe an hour because I am finicky and like to look at it as it goes, turn it, watch it, play with it….sometimes I am more hands on than I need to be.


What you need:

Fresh Tuna

olive oil

citrus (lemon is best, I used grapefruit this time for lack of lemon in my house. Orange would work too, I would not use lime with this recipe.)

fresh thyme

bay leaves

kosher salt

white wine for cooking


Some mason jars (number depends on how much tuna you poach. I used the gallon sized ball jars.)

What you do:

Step 1. Prepare a large pot of water and bring it to a simmer (the water level should be enough to cover the ball jars you are using, standing up vertically).

step 2. Slice the citrus into rounds. For the liquids, I used 4 cups water, 2 cups wine, 1 cup olive oil. That was enough liquid for all the jars, but you could use more or less liquid in this 4:2:1 ratio. Combine citrus rounds with the liquid in a pot, add salt to taste, and bring to a simmer.

Step 3. Sterilize your jars and lids. Place them in the simmering pot of water for 10 minutes. Then pull them out with tongs and place them on a clean surface, such as a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Keep the pot of water simmering after you remove the jars.

step 4. Prepare and season your tuna. Cut it into pieces that will fit inside the mouth of the ball jars. Season on all sides with salt and pepper.

step 5. Divide the tuna amongst the jars, and pour the heated poaching liquid over them. Place a couple slices of citrus in the jars with the tuna. Place a few sprigs of thyme, one bay leaf and some peppercorns in each jar.

Step 6. Wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel. Cover them with the lids, and place jars in the pot of simmering water. Let the jarred tuna cook in the pot of water for about 20 minutes. Time will depend on the size of the tuna pieces.

step 7. Remove from the water with tongs, and let cool. The lids should pop shut and seal. Refrigerate.

I followed a similar recipe to this one over the summer, except the tuna was not cooked in the jar. It was wrapped in cheese cloth and put into the pot with the water, wine, oil and aromatics, and then, once cooled in the liquid, I pulled it out f the liquid in stored it in a separate jar. I like the idea of cooking in the jar, and leaving the tuna in the liquid. It is beautiful and efficient and less messy. It may last longer too. I will post the recipe I used this summer soon, because it is a published one, and this one here is loosely based on it and on advice from a friend chef.

Martha’s Vineyard is quiet at this time of year. Most restaurants are not open 7 days a week, and where I work, we are open only four nights. This means, unfortunately, that sometimes food which is night sold on the last night we are open will go bad before we reopen the next week. This mean, fortunately for me, that the staff can sometimes take food home. Hence the tuna. No longer up to sushi grade par, but it should still be great poached, slightly acidic and therefore bright, and put on some bread with a little herbed mayo. Yum. A hint of summer. 


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