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Albacore Tuna


Yeah, I spared you a picture of me this time.  That’s Captain Mark holding that albacore in the photo above.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or following my FaceBook page, you’ve doubtlessly heard me talking about fishing with him.

I first met him after I asked on a local online angling forum for guide recommendations.  I got a number of suggestions, but a solid 80% of the responses threw out Mark Coleman’s name.  From the way he was described, I was picturing a grizzled fishing veteran that looked like this:

I admit to being a little taken back when this guy rolled up who looked like he could have been the cover photo of a Fortune magazine article titled 25 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch.  Nonetheless, this “kid” has more than proved, repeatedly, he knows how to boat fish.

My buddies and I have been making an annual albacore tuna fishing trip on one of Mark’s boats for a few years now.   It’s become a favorite tradition.

This isn’t one of those party boats where you board in the evening, sleep overnight on the boat while it moseys to the tuna grounds, fish all the next day, then sleep on the boat again while it makes the slow overnight crawl home.

Live well full of anchovies. We’re going to use these little pieces of meat to catch big pieces of meat.

On these trips, you spend the night before having cocktails at the bar like a civilized adult. You board the boat in the morning, slightly hung-over, as God intended, load up on live anchovies, and then take a 90 minute-ish cruise to the tuna grounds.
Once you reach the fish, trolling lines get put out and lures get pulled behind boat at near waterskiing speed.   It usually doesn’t take long before one of the lines gets bit, and then IT’S ON!

When you’ve found one fish, you’ve found a school.  That means it’s time for a “bait stop”. While one angler is bringing in the one that hit the troll rod, the engines are shut off, the other troll lines are brought in, and it’s time to put the bait lines out.  And that’s when things get crazy.

The fish are schooling under you right now, and you’re rushing to grab bait rods, get baited up, and get lines in the water.  Bait in the water will keep the fish near the boat.

To assist with that, the crew will toss handfuls of live anchovies over the side, to whet the albacores’ whistles.
The first thing you notice about these bait set-ups is the size of the hooks.  These tuna average 20-30 pounds, and hit the bait at 4o miles per hour, and we’re using little bitty hooks that you might use to rig worms to catch bluegill.

It makes a weird kind of sense though.  The idea is that the anchovy is supposed to swim naturally. A large hook would interfere with that.  So we use the panfish hooks, on a line with maybe a 1/2 ounce of weight, and let that anchovy swim off.  Our reels are set to open spool, and we are feeding out line as fast as that little bait wants to move away.  The  anchovy is swimming along, doing the natural presentation thing.  It usually doesn’t take long, one second you are feeding out line, and the next, the line is being pulled away very quickly.  40 miles per hour, remember?  Give it a 2 or 3 Mississippi, and tighten down the drag.  That little Mustad hook takes hold, the rod bends, and the fight is on.

Here’s a video I made that give you a little taste of what the action is like.

I could go on and on about what the fishing is like out there, but for now I’ll just say that you’ve seriously got to try this.  It’s crazy fun, and ultimately, delicious.
Let’s eat!

The thing about fresh tuna is that you don’t need to do much of anything to it.  Slice it raw, and serve it with a little soy & wasabi …. done, and done very well at that.

Alternately, season with a touch of salt & pepper, and give it a quick sear on a very hot grill. You don’t want it just rare inside, you want it mostly raw.

Rolling the tuna in sesame seeds and pan searing it is popular.  It gives it a nice toasty crust on the outside.  If that’s the kind of preparation you like, I can 1-up that recipe for you.

The good folks at Blue Diamond make Wasabi & Soy Sauce Roasted Almonds.  You can find them at pretty much any major supermarket.   Sometimes Costco has them in big 5 lb jars. That’s a score.
Even if you don’t have any tuna, or have no interest in trying this recipe, I suggest you get some of these anyway.  They’re damned delicious all on their own, or better yet with a cold beer or two while watching the Seahawks play.
Anyway, crusting your fresh tuna with those almonds is… Oh hell, do I really need to explain why that’s a great idea?

Wasabi-Soy Almond Crusted Albacore Tuna

1 & 1/2 cup Blue Diamond Wasabi & Soy Sauce Roasted Almonds
1/2 stick (2oz) butter, room temperature
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 loin** albacore tuna, clean & trimmed of all “blood meat”
1 Tbs canola oil
1 tsp sesame oil

**There is enough ingredients here to cover a larger loin or a couple small ones, but I prefer smaller ones for this recipe.  You get a better almond crust – to tuna ratio if you use the loins of smaller fish.

Chop up the almonds, and set them aside in a shallow dish.

Make sure you tuna is kept cold in the fridge until you are ready to coat it. Mix together the butter, garlic, salt & pepper.  Pat the tuna dry w/ a paper towel, and liberally smear it with the garlic butter, so that it’s evenly coated.  You probably won’t need all the garlic butter; that’s OK.

Roll the tuna in the chopped almonds, giving a gentle but firm pressure.  Try to coat the tuna completely and evenly with almonds.

Heat a thick bottomed (preferably cast iron) pan over medium-low heat.  Add in the oils and any leftover garlic butter.  Carefully set the tuna in the pan.

All right, I’m going to pause here in the recipe, and talk about this for a moment.
Usually when you are searing tuna, you are doing it hot and fast.  You’re trying to get a nice char on the outside, but still keep that center raw.  That won’t work with this recipe.  If you try hot and fast here, those almonds will burn before any flavor has a chance to develop.
Cooking your almond coated tuna on medium-low, or maybe medium, tops, depending on your stove, allows the almonds to toast nicely, producing a great flavor, and you’ll still get that extra rare tuna.

Watch your tuna closely, and gently roll it as each side gets a nice, brown color to the almond crust.

Once the fish is toasted on all sides, remove it from the pan, and let it rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes.  This will help the crust stick to the tuna a little better when you slice it.

Even after resting, you still need to be careful when slicing it.  That crust can be delicate. Your best be is to use a long, thin, and very sharp, slicing knife for this. If some of the almonds do fall off , just sprinkle it back over top of the tuna once it’s on the plate.

You’ll notice, along with the green vegetable rice pilaf, I garnished my plate with some dabs of Wasabi Aioli.  That’s absolutely an optional touch, this recipe is great on its own, but I really like the extra zing the aioli adds to the dish.

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you I’m not a fan of wasabi powder.  If you want to make this, get your hands of some Wasabi Paste.  Although, if you really want to do it up, for this dish and others, I suggest you invest in getting some REAL wasabi from the good folks at Pacific Coast Wasabi Farms.  Just remember to store whatever you don’t use right away in the freezer.

Wasabi Aioli

1 egg yolk
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp wasabi paste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbs canola oil
Pinch of kosher salt

Whisk together yolk, lemon juice, and wasabi in a bowl.

Slowly drizzle the oils into yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until all oil is incorporated and mixture is emulsified. (If mixture separates, stop adding oil and continue whisking until mixture comes together, then resume adding oil.)
Season with salt, adjust if needed.

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