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This month we turn our attention to warmer waters. The open ocean provides us with one of the world's most popular fish, tuna. A member of the Mackerel family, tuna is an extremely widespread fish, due in part to its great abilities as both swimmer and predator. They range in size from the 20 pound Pacific Skipjack, to the 1500 pound Atlantic Bluefin. The U.S. canning industry processes nearly 500,000 tons of tuna a year, the majority of that being Skipjack, Albacore, and Yellowfin. In your local market the choices of tuna will most likely include four major types – Albacore, Bluefin, Bigeye, and Yellowfin.
Albacore is a beautiful ivory color, turning off-white when cooked and is the mildest of these tuna It has a sweet to moderately rich flavor, and has a meaty texture. Comparisons to chicken do spring to mind. Albacore is best cooked to medium-rare, or medium, so that a core of pink remains. Like all other tuna , it will dry out very quickly if cooked too long. My favorite Tuna dish is Grilled Albacore with Pesto, Olives, and Tomatoes.
Bluefin is the only species listed that comes exclusively from the Atlantic ocean, so its availability should be great on the East Coast. Bluefin is a huge fish, and is very popular in Japan as sashimi. It has a dark-reddish meat and is quite rich in flavor due to its high oil content.
Yellowfin and Bigeye are both called "Ahi" in Hawaii.They are the richest flavored tuna, "the beef tenderloin" of the seafood world. Beautiful deep-purple color and firm texture make this fish a very popular sushi fish. Ahi lends itself well to spicy preparations, form blackening to curries to tex-mex. It has the necessary texture and richness to add fullness to the spicy elements of these dishes. At McCormick and Schmick's , Tuna Black and Blue is always a best seller.
R emember, as always, buy your tuna from the most reputable fishmonger you can find. Because tuna is eaten rare to medium it is paramount that the tuna be FRESH, FRESH, FRESH! Find a market where they sell sizable amounts of tuna so you can be assured that they are getting deliveries twice a week. Trust your senses when buying fish – if it smells fishy, you don't want it. If it looks moist and is firm and smells clean than you know you are buying a good piece of fish.
Pan Seared Albacore with Pesto, Olives, and TomatoesTuna Black and Blue