The Spanish Pantry: Bonito del Norte
We know that chefs Eder Montero and Alex Raij have chops. The husband-and-wife team established a reputation for serving excellent Spanish cuisine at their first two New York City restaurants, Txikito and El Quinto Pino.
At the couple’s latest restaurant, La Vara, in Brooklyn, Raij recently wowed us with moje—a simple salad of grated tomato, olives, endive and almonds, topped with a hefty pour of olive oil. And bringing it all into focus: chunks of tender, rich tuna.
The secret to the delicate fish? A can opener. Raij uses bonito del norte, canned or jarred albacore from Spain, for the salad; she also stuffs it into hand pies and rolls it into meatballs. And it's stunning when mixed with mayonnaise to make a classic tuna salad.
The fish is a far cry from the usual canned supermarket tuna: Steak or belly pieces are packed in high-quality olive oil rather than water. “The Spanish view canning as aging,” Raij told us. Whereas most cultures can in order to keep the original flavor intact, the Spanish want the flavor and texture of their conservas to change and evolve over time.
Raij uses the line-caught tuna from the family-owned company Ortiz; now we’re following suit.