Depending on where you live, you may or may not be eating a good bit of food out of cans in the near future. If your budget allows it, I urge you to get the fancy cans—at least a few—to make whatever degree of isolation you find yourself in a little bit enjoyable, or at least bearable. Fancy tinned fish is the move.
There is a certain can of expensive tuna (packed in oil) that had been taunting me for months. I had heard the difference between “really good” canned tuna and “normal” canned tuna described as “night and day,” but was sceptical it was three or four times as good as the Bumblebee, the Sunkist, and the generic store brand.
After staring at it for at least two minutes every time I went to the grocery store for the past three weeks, I finally bought it. It was good, but it did not blow my mind. The flavour was definitely more delicate, like tuna should be, and the fish was flaky, rather than mushy. Again, it was good, but I am not as obsessed with the fancy canned tuna as I thought I would be. I am, however, absolutely enthralled with the oil it came packed it.
I realise this statement has Dwight Schrute vibes, but please hang with me here. The oil is, obviously, slightly tuna-flavored, but it reads less as “fishy” and more as “rich and meaty.” After eating the tuna, I caramelised some onions in the oil, and they were the best damn caramelised onions I have ever had. The word “umami” gets applied to a lot of things, but this was one of the truest, purest examples of the term I have ever tasted. The onions practically melted into the oil, almost like a savoury onion jam.
There is a fish house in Aberdeen, Mississippi that might be one of my favourite restaurants in the world, at least it was before the original proprietor passed away. We used to there often, but as my grandparents got older we pivoted from eating at the restaurant to taking our catfish to go. The fish came with hushpuppies, a potato, and slices of raw white onion, and the aroma that wafted out of the styrofoam clamshell was the perfect mix of fried fish and pungent allium. The onions fried in the tuna oil tastes like that aroma, only more intense, which is probably why I am still having a strong emotional response to these onions.
After I ate the onions—nearly straight from the pan—I strained the errant browned bits of onion and fish out of the oil, and put the oil in the fridge. This morning, I fried an egg in that oil, and found that to be much more than pleasing. The oil is good, is what I’m trying to tell you, and you should not—under any circumstances—throw it out. This applies not only to the oil from a fancy tuna can, but mackerel oil, sardine oil, anchovy oil, and any other kind of fancy fishy oil. If you don’t want to fry onions, fry an egg, or don’t fry anything and blend it into a vinaigrette. You can also mix it with a little vinegar and some herbs and dip bread down in there. Do you like warm, fragrant olives? Warm them in the dang fish oil. This oil is valuable, I’m telling you. Do not waste it.