Oregon albacore are in range of our fishing fleets on the coast, so it’s time to get busy! I put together a quick set of links that will help you buy, cook, and can your own. Our albacore are not only an important part of the state’s fishing industry, they’re a fish that’s sustainably caught wild, the only type of albacore tuna and one of very few types of tuna that meet the “Best Choice” distinction in the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They are caught young, so there’s no mercury build-up issues, either.
You can buy your fish at any of our local fish markets, who get them from the fleets on the coast. Or, if you are in the neighborhood, head down to the docks where the boats are moored, and buy some on your own. You can see what catch is in, and where, in this updated guide from the Oregon Albacore Commission sent to me by a Facebook friend.
This video guide from the Oregon Sea Grant will tell you, if you’re feeling shy, how to buy off the boat.
If you’re interested in canning albacore, which will make all other canned tuna seem like cat food, click for my tuna guide. It’s an annotated and illustrated version of the MFP handout on canning tuna, with a load of tips.
And if you just want to grill some albacore, try this recipe, an adaptation of one of my favorite tuna recipes, tuna with ginger sauce. In college, I received my first New York Times cookbook, and would make tuna with ginger sauce when I lost the battle to be economical at the old Berkeley Bowl. It was a gorgeous recipe invented by the chef at Huberts in New York, a man who lived the dream and left teaching English to become a chef. It called for fresh tuna marinated in the surprising combination of ginger, red wine, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil, paprika, and the surprising ingredient of scallions charred over a stove burner. Then the fish was lightly grilled and served with a sauce that blended light versions of the ingredients in the marinade — white wine, rice vinegar, shallots — and finished with cream and butter.
But because it was just for me, and I couldn’t be bothered with a fancy sauce opening two (two!) bottles of wine, it became Tuna with a Ginger Marinade and Some of the Marinade Boiled Down with Butter to Make a Sauce. I present an only slightly more sophisticated version here, and I apologize about the picture, which features a piece of tuna grilled a bit too long.
Tips: This is a recipe that is made to approximate, really. I just eyeball the amounts, and I’ve even used (egads) pickled ginger instead of the real stuff. You really want to aim for very rare in the middle for the maximum flavor and texture. I like rosé better than the red wine called for in the original recipe, as the red wine does that purple dye thing that always looks unpleasant. I’ve increased the marinade time considerably, which only salutes the strong, bold flesh of the albacore. I have marinated and grilled tuna steaks, a whole loin, and little sashimi-quality medallions. It’s foolproof.
Grilled Tuna with Rosé, Ginger, and Charred Scallions
- 1.5 to 2-lb. albacore tuna loin
- 2 cups dry rosé on the darker side of pink (Spanish, cruder So. France are nice)
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, best quality
- 1/4 cup soy sauce, best quality (I use low-salt Japanese soy)
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- piece of fresh ginger about 2 inches square, grated with ginger grater
- salt and pepper
- 4-6 fresh scallions
Cut the loin into four pieces. Salt and pepper the pieces, and place in a Ziploc bag. Add the wine, vinegar, soy, sesame oil, and grated ginger. Wash and trim the roots off the scallions. Turn on a stove burner on high, and place the whole scallions on the burner. Char the scallions, both green and white parts, all over; about 25% should be black. Add scallions to marinade bag. Place bag in a larger bowl or dish, and refrigerate.
Marinate from 12 to 24 hours, flipping the bag every so often.
When you’re ready to grill, remove the fish from the marinade and cut it carefully into medallions. The size and number will depend on the fish, but aim to serve two medallions a person (the picture above shows that it will fall apart if you don’t cut the fish into medallions before grilling).
Preheat and oil your grill, then sear the tuna pieces over high heat for one or two minutes on each side. Aim to serve very rare in the middle.
Prepare the sauce, if you like. Strain the ginger and scallions from the marinade and bring to a boil on the stove. Reduce the marinade by half. Melt a pat of butter in a hot skillet, then strain the marinade into the butter, whisking gently. The best way to serve it is to slice tuna into strips and arrange on the plate like a little fan, then pour sauce over tuna and serve. I usually just serve the medallions and pour the sauce over, though.
Great with rice and rice pilaf, with a side of steamed spinach.