Cucina bene; mangia bene (tonno favoloso)
It’s albacore tuna season here on the Oregon Coast. Starting in mid-to late July, every summer, these beautiful fish migrate within 50-100 miles off the Washington and Oregon coasts. The tuna are caught using hook and line methods, which minimizes bycatch. All tuna species are warm-blooded so they must be handled very carefully once caught. Here in Newport, there are fishermen that have special licenses which allow them to sell whole fish directly to the consumer. For a small fee, the fishermen will fillet the tuna for you (highly recommended). The tuna caught here on the Oregon Coast are smaller than the albacore tuna caught for commercial production. These fish are younger and are usually between 10-30 lbs, and they have little to no mercury in them because of their youth and size. An added benefit is is that they contain the highest amount of Omega 3’s over any other tuna species.
Most of the locals home can the tuna they purchase; I just canned 15 lbs. myself last week with the help of my next door neighbor. The locals might grill 1 or 2 loins at the time they purchase the fish, but the rest goes into the canner. Home canned albacore tuna is far superior in flavor over the commercial varieties sold in the grocery stores, but we are going to focus on discussing fresh tuna in this post.
There are few restaurants here that serve fresh albacore. If they do, they wrap it with bacon and mask the flavor, or they overcook it. Tuna is a very dense fish, much like swordfish, and it needs to be cooked medium-rare to medium in order for it to have good texture or to taste good. Albacore tuna is best grilled, but can be seared or roasted with good results. One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh albacore is to marinate it in soy sauce and wasabi, then roll it in sesame seeds and grill it. I like to serve it with more wasabi and soy sauce, steamed rice and sautéed shiitake mushrooms and spinach.
Fresh Grilled Albacore Tuna with Wasabi, Soy Sauce and Sesame Seeds
Here on the Oregon Coast, we get fresh albacore tuna in the summertime which we can buy directly from the fisherman. This recipe is one of our favorite ways to serve it. We like it with steamed rice and sautéed mushrooms and spinach. Serves 4.
1 tuna loin sliced into 4 pieces (about 5-6 ounces each)
2-3 tbsp. wasabi paste
1/4 cup soy sauce (we use San-J Tamari; you could also use Bragg’s liquid amino’s too)
3/4 cup sesame seeds
Mix the wasabi and soy sauce together. In a non-reactive container (I use a large zip-lock bag) add the soy sauce-wasabi marinade and the tuna pieces; marinate for 2-8 hours.
Put sesame seeds in a pie plate. Remove the tuna from the soy sauce-wasabi marinade (discard the marinade), season with togarashi pepper and roll in the sesame seeds.
Heat a grill on medium and grill the tuna pieces for 6-8 minutes for rare, and 10-12 for well-done. Tuna cooks fast, so be careful. Serve with more wasabi and soy sauce.
Tuna also does well simply grilled or seared and served with sauces such as Nuoc Cham, Romesco, Salmoriglio, Salsa Verde, and Green or Yellow Mole. We’ve made Asian tuna balls that have been served in lettuce wraps with Nuoc Cham, tuna tacos with green or yellow mole, tuna ‘mayonnaise’ (Tonnato Salsa) served over pasta, tuna rolled in fennel pollen and panko and served with Romesco, and grilled with olive oil and served with Salmoriglio.
For more information on Albacore tuna, see the following links:
Oregon albacore Commission: http://www.oregonalbacore.org/index.htm
If you are lucky enough to visit the Oregon Coast during albacore tuna season, or have it available to you in the local fish markets, I hope this inspires you to try it if you’ve never had it or cook it in a different way if you have. Buon Appetitio!