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Tuna Naanwich with Harissa and Olives: Inspired, Adapted, Augmented

Tuna Naanwich with Harissa and Olives

I’ve been pecking out words for this blog and bringing them to your virtual table for almost 10 years. Yet I still have no tried and true formula for the process. Sometimes I write my own recipes. Sometimes I adapt a recipe from another source. But there are still other recipes that are born in a place that’s somewhere in between. The genesis for this Tuna Naanwich with Harissa and Olives is Melissa Clark’s recipe for Slow-Roasted Tuna. I found it in her book Dinner: Changing the Game.

The recipe instructs the cook to submerge chunks of tuna in oil and bake them in the oven at 350 F degrees for 12 to 20 minutes. It’s a novel approach. One that I would describe as a poaching “shortcut”. In Melissa’s words the method “splits the difference between confited tuna (tuna thoroughly submerged in oil and cooked at low heat) and roasted tuna (tuna drizzled with oil and cooked at high heat).”

Which is true. However, I often poach fatty fish at a higher temperature than a lot of recipes suggest. Fattier fish such as tuna or salmon can take a bit more heat and not suffer the way a non-fatty fish such as cod, sole, or halibut would. Melissa’s method, however, calls for a lot less oil than other recipes for oil-poached fish I’ve tried. So I may not like the moniker “roasted” (slowly or otherwise) but I love the cooking method.

Tuna Naanwich with Harissa and Olives

As I said, I got the inspiration for this Tuna Naanwich from Melissa Clark. I find I’m easily motivated by her recipes. She has an uncanny grasp of what people want to eat and she knows how cooks want to spend their time in the kitchen. At least this cook. Still, I did make a few changes to the cooking method.

The original recipe asks us to cut the tuna into 1″ x 1 1/2″ chunks and place them in an 8″ cake pan. The only way to get all that fish into an 8″ cake pan is to stack the chunks fairly tightly to the rim. However, at 350 degrees F. I found that the fish in the center of the cake pan cooked at a drastically different rate than the fish at the surface of the oil. I tried unsuccessfully stirring the fish halfway through cooking. Not only did I make an oily mess on the counter but the fish began to break up – further adding to the inconsistent rate of cooking. I had more success attaining a uniformly pink interior when I cut the fish into 1/2″ x 1″ x 1 1/2′ slabs as there was no need to stir the fish during baking. I served the fish at room temperature tucked into warm naan and drizzled with some reheated poaching oil. I also added slices of moderately hot Fresno chili peppers. I like the splash of color and the nip of heat. My version of her recipe reflects these changes. GREG

Tuna Naanwich with Harissa and OlivesTuna Naanwich with Harissa and Olives

Naanwich with Tuna and Harissa

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Source Inspired by Melissa ClarkPublished
Naanwich with Tuna and Harissa

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pound fresh tuna fillets (cut into ½″ x 1″ x 1 ½′ slabs)
  • 2 tablespoon harissa (or more to taste)
  • salt and pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • ¼ cup halved and pitted kalamata olives
  • 2–3 Fresno chili peppers (sliced, seeds discarded)
  • 2 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2–3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • extra-virgin olive oil (as needed)
  • 4–6 naan (about 8 inches in diameter)
  • baby kale leaves (to taste)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay the tuna slabs onto a clean work surface. Gently massage the harissa onto all sides of each slab then season with salt and pepper. Spread the olives halves and Fresno chili slices across the bottom of an 8 or 9‑inch cake pan or equivalently sized oven-proof dish. Place about half of the tuna on top of the olives and chili peppers then tuck in the garlic, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs. Lay the remaining fish on top and pour in enough olive oil to barely cover all the fish. The fish should fit snuggly, but not be packed in. You want the oil to engulf the ingredients.

Cover the pan with foil and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer to the heated oven and cook the fish 12 to 15 minutes. You will want to check the fish at about 10 minutes. You’ll want to remove it from the oven while it’s still quite rare. It will continue to cook as it cools. Use your judgment.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool while still covered. You may make the fish several hours ahead of time to this point.

To serve use a slotted spoon to gently remove the fish, olives, and peppers to a plate. Transfer the poaching oil to a small saucepan and gently reheat it over medium heat.

Meanwhile, heat a griddle or large skillet and warm the naan, on both sides, until pliable and just beginning to toast. Generously spread some tuna, olives, and peppers onto the center of a piece of naan, then top with some baby kale leaves. Drizzle with hot poaching oil then fold the naan in half like a taco, and fasten it closed with 1 or 2 toothpicks. Repeat with remaining pieces of naan. Serve immediately.

Tuna Naanwich with Harissa and Olives

 

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