Sunday Dinner: Sicilian Tuna with Marinated Fennel

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The only thing that lingers around The Wife’s family more than my family is Catholic Guilt. It strikes The Wife during the midway point of Lent, after multiple Friday dinners of burgers and another year without attending Ash Wednesday mass. To calm this, she will bring tuna salad for lunch on Fridays. She takes a can of tuna, mixes it with just enough mayonnaise to dirty a spoon, and eats it with crackers.

That’s a rather pedestrian blend for me. My go-to tuna salad mixes chopped black olives, chopped dill pickle, a little minced garlic, dill, salt, pepper, celery, red onion and enough mayo to bind everything. Slap that on a heel of Italian bread, crush some potato chips on it and we’re talking mana right there.

I was going to make that for dinner tonight, but decided to try something different. A few weeks ago, I run across a Sicilian tuna salad recipe in one of Tom Colicchio’s Wichcraft cookbooks. I decided that I wanted to use his recipe as the base of a sandwich but without the lemon confit, lemon mayo and, well, lemon. This was because, well, I forgot to buy lemons and lemon juice today. I’m terrible.

2014-08-24 at 17-09-47WHAT WORKED: Tuna in water. One might think that since we’re mixing tuna with oil that we should use tuna packed in oil. One would be wrong. You want to control the quality and quantity of oil that you are using here, so go with the stuff packed in water, drain it well, and go to town. I used an artisan hojiblanca olive oil from The Filling Station in NYC, which has a very herbal, grassy flavor that complements the rest of this sandwich. My point is that you should control the flavor here, not the tuna company.

WHAT DIDN’T: Lemons would have been nice, but I made up for the acid with red and white wine vinegar.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “I like this more than I thought I would.”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: I think we have a new tuna variation to work into the rotation.

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Sicilian Tuna with Marinated Fennel
Inspired by ‘wichcraft: Craft a Sandwich into a Meal by Tom Colicchio

  • medium fennel bulb
  • 3-4 thin slices of red onion
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2-6 oz. cans solid white albacore tuna in water
  • 3 oz. cured Greek olives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • loaf of Italian or crusty French bread

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Pick the fronds off the fennel bulb and reserve. Slice the stem off the bottom and, with a sharp knife or mandoline, thinly slice the bulb. Combine the fennel slices, fronds and red onion in a medium bowl and mix together with your hands. Drizzle 2 tbsp. of olive oil and white wine vinegar over the top, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Set aside for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

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Drain the packing water from your tuna and add to a mixing bowl with the olives. Add the remaining olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper to the bowl and toss thoroughly. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

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Slice your loaf of bread lengthwise and tear out some of the bread from each side. Add the tuna to the bottom of the loaf, followed by the marinated fennel. Place the top of the bread on the loaf and cut into the desired portions.

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