In August and September, Pacific Coast residents can enjoy one of our ocean’s finest gifts: fresh-off-the-boat albacore tuna. Our family’s traditional favorite is grilled albacore loins; but before any of that delicious tuna lands on the grill, about a pound of to-die-for shiro maguro (white tuna) sashimi will find its way into the mouths of the “assistants” gathered in the kitchen. Not to worry — with a 10-lb tuna, there’s more than enough for everyone.
The wholesale price that sushi restaurants pay for a fresh, trimmed loin of shiro maguro is about $35/lb. However, if you love sushi/sashimi, and you’re willing to try something a little different, you can buy an albacore from the fisherman who caught it for about $30 (total!), have all the heavenly sashimi you can eat, and then enjoy a fantastic grilled tuna dinner!
WARNING: If your only experience of Albacore is the overcooked tuna puck in a can, beware — fresh-off-the-boat Albacore is so much better than the canned stuff, it might be difficult to go back!
Here’s how to enjoy your own Albacore, step by step:
- Get the Fish. Find out who’s selling fish off the boat at http://fishline.me/. [The link will take you to the FishLine website, or to the appropriate app store for your mobile device.]
- Grab a cooler. Put a couple bags of ice in it. Load it into the car.
- Go to the harbor, meet the fisherman, buy the fish.
- More often than not, the Albacore will be frozen solid. Since they’re so far out at sea, they’re typically frozen immediately. Once the tuna is thawed, it’s as fresh as the day it was caught. Put the tuna in the cooler, and make sure that it’s covered with ice. Plan on a 24-hour thaw. Don’t rush it. The meat degrades & gets mushy if it’s thawed too quickly. Keep your tuna 35F or colder.
- Once it’s thawed, it’s time to loin the tuna. If you’re willing to do it yourself, this video will come in handy. Otherwise, take it to a local fish market, and let them take care of the cleanup!
- Preparation: Before cooking, make sure that the skin is removed, and that the dark red meat is trimmed from each of the loins. At this point, cutting each of the loins into 2, 3, or 4 pieces makes them easier to grill. [Note: This is the point at which the sashimi lovers in your family will want to gather around, help, and enjoy their fill of delicious shiro maguro sashimi! Put a little soy sauce in a dish, cut yourself some slices, and have at it. Mmmmm!!]
For grilling, here’s a method I’ve developed that’s a sure winner:
- Marinade. Combine the following ingredients in a large measuring cup or bowl:
1.5 c (12 oz) soy sauce (*optional – if you use low-sodium soy sauce, add some salt [if you can])
12 oz fruit juice; (Kern’s Apricot or Peach Nectars are great, but I’ve used anything from strawberry jam to margarita mix)
1/3 c brown sugar
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, pressed
small handful of fresh rosemary, chopped (~3 Tbsp)
- Place the loins in a ziploc bag (or bags) and add all but 1 cup of the marinade. Seal the top, except for the last inch.
- Hold either side of the opening of the ziploc bag, suck the air out of the bag, and quickly seal it. This helps to keep all of the meat in contact with the marinade.
- Get your tuna back into the cooler, on ice, as quickly as possible. With albacore, an hour or so in the marinade gives a nice flavor, but still lets the flavor of the fish come through.
- Start the BBQ. It’s best to grill albacore with a slow, indirect method, so when I dump the hot coals into the grill, I have them in a pile on one side. Fire on one side, fish on the other.
- Once the fire’s ready, I put some aluminum foil down so that the fish doesn’t stick to the grill.
- Place the marinated loins on the grill, on top of the foil. Cover the grill so that the fish cooks with that nice, smoky flavor. Mesquite charcoal works very nicely.
- Albacore is much less forgiving than salmon. Use a digital thermometer, and don’t let your fish get overdone. Lots of people like their tuna rare (raw) in the middle, but many don’t. I usually go no higher than 125-130F in the center of the loin. That will be cooked, but still moist and delicious.