I’ve had the pleasure of making a couple more dishes for the Seafood for the Future program. So far, I’m extremely pleased (to put it lightly!) with the dishes and the quality of the food. I’ve learned so much about cooking, eating, and even the sustainability of fish. I’ve even done some research on my own about fish. If you would like to read some of this research, please take a look at Fish 101 – fish, from the culinary point of view and Fish 102, categorization of seafood and Seafood 103: cooking it!
This time, I made Seared Albacore Tuna and served it on a bed of Potato Puree (which was from last night’s leftovers) with Roasted Asparagus. I wanted to prepare and serve the tuna as simply as possible. As I learned in my research, “the best fish dishes are where the fish is simply prepared. It should begin with good quality ingredients.”
This was great quality tuna. The raw meat was thick, sturdy, and a beautiful deep red color. I could clearly identify the flakes of the tuna. And, as this was a thick hearty piece of fish, I wanted to try pan searing it, a similar method to grilling it, but I didn’t have to go outdoors to do so. Searing or grilling it would get a nice char on the fish, adding to the flavor. I decided to prepare the fish to a rare stage.
Please see the recipe below for detailed cooking instructions. But, simply put, I oiled the fish and seasoned it very simply with salt and pepper. The oil in the pan should be right before the smoking point. It will begin to shimmer when it has reached the right temperature. You want this super hot oil to help make a nice char or crust on the fish, because this is where most of the flavor comes from.
This tuna was about an inch thick, so it was a large piece of fish, which I cut in half to make two tuna steaks. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. You can insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the fish (see Seafood 103: cooking it! for times and temperatures as well). Once the first side was done, I flipped it over with some sturdy tongs (and, I’d recommend getting tongs with nylon heads so that you can use them on a non-stick skillet) and waited for the other side to cook. I cooked each large side for only about 2 minutes each. I also seared each of the smaller sides to seal in the juices by holding the uncooked side of the tuna to the hot pan until it was uniform in appearance on all sides. The short time to cook this tuna makes this an idea weeknight meal: super quick, super tasty!
The tuna didn’t stick to the pan at all. It released nicely and was really easy to flip. The fish was hearty and there was no worry about it falling apart in the pan. I loved cooking it. And, the nice thing about cooking it in the pan inside on the stove was that I could clearly see how the tuna was cooking, as the color of the fish changed. So, it made it really easy to see if it was done, or nearing doneness. The grill pan made those really nice grill marks on the fish. And, if you wanted to do cross hatches, all you have to do is turn the fish a quarter turn while it’s cooking. I didn’t want to have too much visual distraction the first time I made seared tuna, so I went with the simple one way grill marks.
I think the way that I prepared this Albacore tuna could be summarized with one word – simple. Well, two words – simple and delicious. It didn’t have a lot of extras going on. It didn’t need a lot of extras. The tuna had a nice deep flavor. Lightly salty from the fish and the added sprinkling of salt. The freshness of the asparagus. A little spice from the freshly cracked black pepper. The creaminess of the potato puree. The crunch of the crust that developed from pan searing the tuna. All of this working together to make a nice presentation that allowed the flavors of each element to shine.
I’d recommend this meal to even the busiest person. The total cooking time for the tuna was about 10 minutes (including the time to heat the pan). The time to roast the asparagus was only 15 minutes. And, the asparagus can roast while the tuna cooks. The potato puree was actually leftover soup from the night before that I reheated for one minute in the microwave. So with a little planning, you have two excellent meals.
And, the taste of this tuna was divine. It was as close as I’ve come to eating a steak in many many years. It satisfied my desire for something meaty. In fact, my husband (who is a big fan of red meat) said it would be a great compromise between red meat and vegetarian fare for people who are trying to limit their intake of red meat. Cooking the tuna rare to medium-rare keeps it tender and moist. And, the tuna wasn’t fishy at all. One of the nice things about cooking an Albacore Tuna like this is that most people are familiar with tuna; I mean, who wasn’t sent to school with a tuna sandwich as a kid? So, it takes something super familiar and elevates it to a new level.
I didn’t have any worries that the tuna was cooked properly because of the method of the cooking. It allowed me to see very easily how it was cooking. In fact, it could have been cooked even another minute or two per side if you wanted a more well-cooked tuna, and none of the flavor or moistness would have been lost.
I’ve never cooked a tuna steak like this before. The tuna that I’ve made has always been from a can. I’ve eaten tuna steaks at some restaurants before, and I’ve always really enjoyed them. So, I’ve happy to learn that cooking them at home is easy. I suspect that a large part of the wonderful flavor of this tuna came from the high quality of the fish. So, I’d recommend getting a really good quality fish from your fishmonger.
I love tuna from a can, here’s my recipe for Tuna, Asparagus, Red Potato, and Hard-cooked Egg with Sweet and Soy Dressing.
As for tuna’s sustainability, this albacore was U.S., caught Pacific albacore. Most of the albacore harvested in U.S. commercial fisheries comes from the Pacific. U.S. caught fish are caught according to laws which are stricter than other countries. U.S. caught fish must be well-maintained and sustainable. Albacore is a migratory fish, and typically doesn’t swim with dolphins, so it’s dolphin safe. Mercury levels can be high in albacore, and therefore many people are advised to limit intake of albacore. But, all in all, it’s my understanding that overfishing is not occurring with most albacore, and therefore, it’s a great choice. Also, check out NOAA’s Fishwatch site for more info on the sustainability of fish.
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- Olive oil, or oil of your choice
- Salt and pepper
- Potato Puree (previously made from last night’s dinner) http://lifecurrents.dw2.net/irish-potato-soup/
- Albacore Tuna Steaks
- 1 tablespoon olive or safflower oil, or oil of your choice
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- The woody root end of the asparagus needs to be snapped off before cooking. Take the end of the asparagus between your thumb and forefinger and bend until it breaks; the asparagus breaks (or snaps) where the woody part ends and the fresh delicious juicy asparagus begins.
- Drizzle a small amount of oil in a 13x9-inch baking pan. Place trimmed asparagus in the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil. Roll the asparagus back and forth to coat them with the oil. Bake in the 400° oven for about 15 minutes, or until the asparagus is bright green and tender when pierced with a fork. Set aside.
- Reheat the potato soup in the microwave, and spoon a shallow serving, about 1/3 cup, onto the serving plate. Top the soup with 3-5 asparagus per serving.
- Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and allow the oil to heat just until it’s about to smoke; it will begin to shimmer.
- While the pan is heating, pat the tuna dry with a paper towel, and season on both sides with a small amount of oil, salt, and fresh pepper. (I pour a small amount of the oil in the palms of my hands and rub my hands with the oil on the fish. Sprinkle the oiled fish with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and rub lightly with your hands to get the spices to stick to the fish.)
- When the pan is hot, place tuna in the pan, making sure not to crowd the pan. Sear the tuna on both sides for about 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the tuna. Test for doneness by inserting an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the tuna. Look for 120° F for rare and up to 130° F for medium-rare. You’ll also be able to see the fish cooking on the side, so you can watch its progress. Sear each of the smaller sides of the tuna by holding the steaks with heavy tongs on each side of the tuna steak for a few seconds.
- Place the seared albacore tuna on top of the asparagus on the serving plate. Serve immediately, and enjoy!