Wednesday, August 24, 2011


At one time or another you have had Albacore tuna, I would further wage that you have had Albacore caught from my local waters at some point. Not one but two of the big tuna companies used to be based in Astoria Oregon, just a few miles north of my house. Albacore is the tuna that we see packed in tins on shelves at the grocery store. It is the only species of tuna that can be sold as "white meat". It is an amazing fish that is better then it is given credit for. To properly can a fish you have to cook it to death. I have read recipes that call for boiling the tuna itself for 45 mintues, then shredding it, and then jarring it up and pressure cooking it at 15 #'s for 90 minutes. For those of you not familiar with the pressure cooker I can cook black beans from raw to finished in 15 minutes at 15#'s of pressure. It is a horribly destructive amount of heat, but it is absolutely neccesary to kill off the threat of botulism both at home and on your grocery store shelf, and of all the food borne ilnesses people stress about, botulism is one you dont want to mess with. It wont make you sick.... it will just kill you. The canning then subsequent eating of those meats should be approached by only those people that are very highly expreinced. Because of all of this, and the fact that there are many more prized types of tuna in the seas the Albacore has gotten a pretty bad wrap. Fear not though, there are a few talented chefs I know that are trying to bring it back, and I am going to ride their curtails. Albacore is good, sustainable, and cheap. My efforts are working towards only local seafoods on the menu at the restaurant, and if I am only going to showcase local seafoods at the restaurant, then you wont see any Ahi or Bluefinn tuna on my menu, because they don't swim in water this cold. Sure I can get it, I can buy it from a guy in Hawaii today and it will be on my back dock in a super cool chrome cardboard box by tommorow by 2pm, and if I buy 20#'s he will even ship it for free, and I can sell it. It just has always seemed silly to me to do that, as my customers sit in the dining room they can see the ocean, it seems pretty basic to me to serve only food that came from that water, the same water they are seeing. You wont find lobster on my menu, ever, if you want lobster I can pull a string or two, but I am trying to put foods from Oregon and the Northwest at the forefront. There are no lobster on my coast...... sorry.  So to give the customer the tuna they want I have to feed them albacore, but they have to be educated on the differences or the meal wont exceed their expectation. Most people are so used to the sight and flavor of fully cooked Albacore that they are off-put by a piece of rare seared Albacore, even though a piece of Ahi cooked identically would be perfectly acceptable, even though the Albacore has had the same sashimi grading process and treatment. On top of all of this- Albacore gets the wrath of the high mercury level frenzy as well. Warnings against expecting mothers, children, etc are rampant on some types of fish, and tuna is always involved. Any time you eat an animal that has lived for over a few years you run the risk of ingesting some of the things it has ingested. The solutions are very involved but the fix is simple- limit your large fish consumption to once or twice a week and a healthy body will take care, naturally, of any mercury that you ingest.

Albacore is an amazing looking fish, they swim fast and like most other tuna they are shaped like a cartoon rendition of a bomb that would be dropped from an airplane. Very streamlied head into a fat round body, tapering into a slim and efficient tail. In whole fish form they are much heavier then they look and the rounded seams and shapes are a perfect example of a animal that has evolved out of neccesity. I will also add that I despise grilling almost all fish especially salmon, and halibut. I dont think that it is the proper technique for the texture of the meat. Grilling is an abrassive technique that requires very high heat, and the flesh of most fish is too soft to properly move around the grates of a grill. Albacore is one of the few fish that I will gladly grill, as it will easily stand up to the heat and is firm enough that I can move it, spin it, turn it, and remove it without destroying its flesh. It only needs to be seared but again to meet expectation I will usually go into medium type temps for service purposes. It is great in a sashimi format as well, raw with some oil and flavorings. Cooked and cooled it can easily be shredded into a tuna sandwich or over a simple salad. It can also be caught for recreation but they tend to be 20 -30 miles off the coast so you need a big boat. If you can get there it is rumored that there isn't a limit on take home, and that if you can get on a school of them it is as simple as drop a baited line and pull one up... then repeat. While much of the canned Albacore tuna was at one time caught off of the Oregon and Washington coasts it was overfished, but local populations are coming back now. The best news is that Oregon Albacore tuna no matter how it was caught is always "dolphin safe".

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