Bonito is a term for several related small members of the tuna family, all with very dark meat — it is as burgundy as venison — and are closer in flavor to mackerel than it larger tuna cousins. Bonito, also known as false albacore, is unloved in the United States but enjoyed in the Spanish-speaking world.
I worked off a recipe from Spain’s Canary Islands I found in Penelope Casas’ Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain that features lots of paprika, roasted red peppers, garlic and fresh chopped herbs. It is one of my favorite ways to cook tuna, and works even better with the little bonito.
Use any fresh tuna except albacore with this recipe; albacore is too light in color. Or, you could use yellowtail, amberjack, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, or even a regular old Boston mackerel, too.
Serve this with Mexican corn or flour tortillas, or with a Spanish style rice.
- 2 pounds bonito, tuna, jack or mackerel
- 2 whole roasted red peppers, chopped
- 1 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper
- 6-8 chopped garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons white wine or sherry vinegar
- Slice the bonito or tuna into large chunks of about 2 inches across. If you are using bonito, cut out the “blood line,” the extremely dark band of meat running along the midline of each fillet; it is very, very strong-tasting.
- Toss the tuna chunks in a large bowl with some salt to coat and set aside.
- Make the sauce by putting everything but the olive oil in a food processor or blender and buzzing it to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in all but about 4 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Get a large saute pan hot and add the remaining olive oil. Heat this for a minute or so, but don’t let it smoke.
- Pat the bonito chunks dry with paper towels and sear them hard and fast over high heat in the pan. You will want at least two of the four sides of each chunk to get a good sear. Take your time and do not crowd the pan — place each chunk down by hand, otherwise they will all stick in a clump if you dump them in at once.
- You will know when to turn the fish when you can lift up most of each chunk with tongs. Try not to scrape the bottom of the saute pan with a spatula, as this defeats the purpose of getting a good sear on the fish. It could take a good 2-5 minutes to get this sear, depending on how big the chunks are and how hot the pan is.
- When the fish has been nicely seared off, pour in the sauce and toss to coat the fish. Turn the heat down to medium and let this simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- Serve hot or at room temperature, with Mexican tortillas, rice or crusty bread.