I got the idea for this dish after having some truly exceptional Portuguese tuna that had been canned in olive oil. It had a great rich flavor and a firm texture that was very moist.
To recreate this at home, I decided to go with something a little more complex and earthy. I started with 2 tuna loin steaks that were about 3/4 of a pound each. I seasoned them with kosher salt and a little fresh cracked black pepper on each side and sat them in a earthenware baking dish.
The general method behind making a confit is to slowly cook the meat in seasoned fat to boost the flavor and preserve the meat. To this end, I used a cup or so of nice, green, Greek olive oil poured directly over the steaks. To the oil I added a 1/4 cup of diced roasted red peppers, 1t red pepper flakes, 3 chopped cloves of garlic, 3 bay leaves, and a little preserved lemon. This all sat overnight in the fridge to let everything meld.
To further intensify the flavors, I decided to bake the dish on our Big Green Egg ceramic cooker. I set the BGE up for indirect cooking and brought the dome temperature to 300°F. I didn’t add any smoking wood, as the lump charcoal would give it plenty of flavor on its own.
The steaks slowly roasted in the oil until they were cooked through, about 30 minutes. Normally, I like tuna medium-rare, but for this dish I wanted to be able to preserve the meat as well, so I took the internal temperature to 140°F.
After it had cooled, I flaked the tuna into a container and covered it with the olive oil. This sat in the fridge for another 2 days to further set the flavors. To serve it, I let it come to room temperature and spooned it onto warm, toasted ciabatta bread.
To say that this was the best tuna salad ever would be a gross understatement. It was also wonderful a couple days later as the center of a very fine nicoise salad.