Food & Wine (April 2013)
We really didn't want to like this dish.
Well, wait, let's back up. Of course we originally wanted to like this dish, which is why we selected it from the most recent Food & Wine. The first time we oil-poached fish had yielded mixed results, so we wanted to try it a second time. Plus, the fennel and orange sounded like a delicious complement to the tuna.
But once we got into the prep, we quickly fell out of love.
Plus, we got irked by the recipe describing itself as a "clever one-pot dish." Sure, you may only need one pot on the stove, but you also need at least a few plates, a bowl and a "heatproof cup."
Whatever, we know we're being petty. It was just one of those nights when everything was taking too long, we kept getting hungrier, we started getting mad at the recipe, and our kitchen was a mess, and we thought the recipe was all just too in love with itself (isn't "oil-poached" really just, um, "fried"?). By the time we plated the dish, we were thoroughly annoyed.
So as we said, we really didn't want to like it.
But then we tasted it.
And here's the thing: It was delicious. Really, really delicious. The oil-poached tuna was full of flavor and perfectly cooked. The fennel and orange were excellent, and the fried crispy fennel was a great garnish. And just look at this plate -- it's so striking. The elegant fennel fronds and the deep jewel-tone blood orange are beautiful. The dish looks composed and sculptural, almost like something you could order at Noma.
It's gorgeous and delicious.
And just like that, we were back in love.
Active time: 30 mins | Total time: 45 mins
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 fennel bulbs—halved, cored and very thinly sliced (about 5 cups), fronds reserved for garnish
2 large shallots, very thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
4 small dried red chiles
Six 1-inch-wide strips of orange zest, preferably organic
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 blood orange, peeled and thinly sliced
Season the tuna with salt and pepper and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. In a large saucepan, combine the oils with the sliced fennel, shallots, chiles, orange zest and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer until the fennel and shallots are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the tuna to the saucepan and simmer until nearly cooked through and the fennel is tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer the tuna to a plate and let cool slightly.
Strain the oil into a heatproof cup. Discard the bay leaf, chiles and orange zest. Shake out as much oil from the fennel and shallots as possible; transfer to a bowl. Return the oil to the saucepan and heat to moderately high. Add one-third of the cooked fennel and shallots and fry, stirring, until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, strain the crisp fennel and shallots and drain on paper towels. Season with salt.
Stir the lemon juice and parsley into the remaining fennel-shallot mixture and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the fennel onto plates. Thinly slice the tuna and transfer to the plates. Top with the crispy fennel. Garnish with blood orange and fennel fronds. Serve.