I have a husband who won’t eat fish. This is especially painful because I am the type of person to desperately covet what I cannot have. If someone tells me something is unattainable I will hit the wall at the end of the internet looking for it. Usually I am victorious. Case in point: my doorbell is actually made from two wine glasses that sound like they are clinking together when a little spring-loaded electromagnet chimes them. I truly found it at the end of the internet and I’m pretty sure it was because someone told me I couldn’t. This long diatribe is all to say that Jonas’ lack of fish fortitude only makes me crave it all the more. Especially in summer. Strangely enough, he has one exception in the seaward realm: tuna. He will order ahi with abandon, despite its sustainability implications. I feel bad buying it given said implications, but when a girl craves fish and there isn’t another option, she’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.
Hence, I give you ahi poached in duck fat prepared l’orange. The whole l’orange thing came about because I was contemplating a way to tie my duck fat in with the dish and I decided adapting a classic duck preparation to fish would make an interesting juxtaposition. I was right. It was one of the most succulent slices of fish I have had in years. I did my poaching in the sous vide bath, thus enabling me to use far less duck fat than I would have needed had I poached stovetop in a pan. Because the poaching is for such a short time relatively speaking, however, you could probably get away with poaching in a food-safe vacuum-sealed bag on the stovetop in temperature-controlled water.
I was a little worried all the elements of the dish might not play nice with one another, but my concern was all for naught. The key players- ahi, duck fat, oranges, figs and translucent potato rounds- all clung together like star-crossed lovers about to be damned. The duck fat brought out a brilliant silken texture in the tuna that made biting through it a dream. The figs, from a neighbor’s tree, bathed luxuriously in the caramelly citrus sauce and lent a sense of cohesion between the potatoes and the rest of the dish. Who knew figs and potatoes paired so perfectly? I’m dreaming up a figgy gratin melange as I type… Pommes Maxim are a wonderful, and relatively simple, take away from The French Laundry. It’s a fun process that involves making 1/4” slices of potato on the mandolin, then using a 2” cutter to stamp them into rounds. They come together as wheels on parchment, then get pan-fried in (you guessed it) duck fat (my addition). It’s all you can do not to devour them straight from the pan when they develop a golden crust and fill the kitchen with their sweet perfume.
Ahi Poached in Duck Fat L’Orange with Caramelized Figs
- 1 lb block of sushi-grade ahi tuna (COLD)
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 4 tbsp duck fat- solid
- Juice of one organic orange
- 1 tsp organic orange zest
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp champagne vinegar
- 4 quartered figs
- 4 slices of orange or 8 slices of mandarin
- ¼ c duck stock (can use chicken if duck is not on hand)
- Bring sous vide bath to 138°. Pat tuna dry, season with salt and pepper, and seal into food safe bag along with duck fat using a vacuum sealer. Poach tuna in water bath for 17 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet just large enough to hold the tuna, reduce orange juice, zest, honey, and vinegar to thin syrup consistency. Be careful not to reduce too much or you will not have enough syrup to glaze the tuna.
- Remove the tuna from the water bath and pour two tablespoons of the duck/tuna fat into the skillet. Heat the skillet to medium high and sear the tuna on all sides in the orange glaze quickly so as not to further cook the inside of the tuna block. Remove the tuna to a cutting board to rest.
- Add the figs and orange slices to the skillet and coat with the remaining glaze. Add the duck stock, scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze, and again reduce by half. This should take two minutes. While the stock is reducing to sauce, slice the tuna into quarter inch thick rectangles. Arrange on a plate along with the figs, orange slices and sauce.