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Outsourcing my Smoke:

I’ve got a problem.  I’ve got too much tuna!
buck tuna fixed

Granted, it’s a high quality problem to be sure.From just one day out on All Washington Fishing’s tuna boat with Captain Mark Coleman, my friends and I ended up with what I believe is technically known as a metric ass-load of albacore tuna.

I’ve got a whole story to tell about that day, involving trolling at waterskiing speed, feeding frenzy mayhem, big fish on tiny hooks and a lawn sprinkler.  I even have video to go with the story.  That’s going to be a hell of a post though.  I need to set aside plenty of free time and restock my bar before I’m ready to write that epic.
I figure I’ll wait and put that up shortly before next summer’s tuna season.  That way I’ll be ahead of the season rather than behind it.

Look at me, all planning ahead and considering being timely.  Go me!
(editors note: I didn’t actually do that in 2013, fingers crossed for 2014)

Before next season rolls around though, we still have to eat up what tuna we have on hand already.  Check this out: that’s over 140 vacuum sealed chunks of albacore tuna, each between 1 1/2 & 2 lbs; and that’s less than half what the boat took that day.  Tuna

I’ve been searing it, grilling it, making tuna tartare.  I canned a bunch and gave many away as holiday gifts.
Soon I want to try smoking it.  I need to fire up the smoker again anyway.  Remember all that lox I made? It all got either eaten or given away over Christmas as well.  It was a Merry Fishmas around my place this year.  Cheesy joke I know, but I should be allowed to use it once.

Before I attempt it on my own, I had an opportunity to get some of my tuna smoked by old hands at the game.  My fishing buddy Jim was taking some of his portion of the catch up to Jensen’s Smoke House and have them throw their smoke to it, and he was kind enough to add some of mine to the batch.

Jensen’s is a Seattle fixture, well known and used by sport and commercial fishermen alike.  You drop your catch off raw and pick it up smoked, sealed and frozen.  Or you can just stop in and pick up any number of smoked meats, seafoods or cheeses they have for sale in their display case.

In fact, while I was waiting for them to get my tuna from the freezer, they were kind enough to offer me a sample of their trail mix.  Unlike the usual blend of nuts, raisins, and M&Ms, their trail mix is a mixture of small pieces of various smoked meats and cheeses.  It was not only extremely good, but I imagine it gives you a bit more fuel than traditional trail mix.  I may have to get some of that for Superbowl Sunday.  That has to go well with beer.

We split our order between their traditional smoke and garlic pepper smoke.  They are both damned tasty.Tuna-2
I just sat down with a hunk of the garlic-pepper tuna, some cream cheese and crackers.  That’s a simple a delicious snack.Tuna-3

You know me though, I can’t seem to leave delicious enough alone.
Taking another cue from my friend Jim, I decided to try a simple smoked tuna spread.

This is an easy one.

  • 1 cup of broken up smoked tuna
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese … or mascarpone if you are feeling fancy
  • 1 Tbs chopped scallions
  • 1 tsp chopped cilantro
  • a few drops of lemon juice.  Seriously, just like 3 or 4 drops
  • 2 dashes of hot sauce  *optional*

OK, to be fair, everything after the tuna & cream cheese is optional, but I highly suggest the other ingredients as well.
Anyway, just take all those delicious ingredients and mash them together with a fork.  Then spread it on crackers, bagels, celery sticks, your significant other …. whatever you prefer.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy smoked tuna that don’t involve crackers.  If you are searching for ideas, keep in mind that you are working with smoky, salty flavors.  Considering using it in dishes the way you use bacon.  It’s great crumbled over salads, stirred into scrambled eggs, and in pasta dishes.

Classic pasta carbonara is made with pancetta, eggs, and cheese.  The Americanized version is more like Fettucini Alfredo with cream, bacon and peas.  Being a chef, I should probably get my snoot on and only make the classic version.  However the thing is, I do like a touch of cream in my carbonara, and who doesn’t love peas?  To make matters worse, I go even farther off the reservation by adding onions and tomatoes to the dish, not to mention sustituting smoked tuna for the bacon/pancetta.
I’d feel guilty of the dish wasn’t so damned delicious.

Smoked Tuna CarbonaraTuna Carbonara-3

  • 1/2 lb of dry pastaTuna Carbonara
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 6 – 8 ounces of smoked tuna, broken into flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

Cook the pasta in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water.Tuna Carbonara-2

While the pasta cooks, sauté the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until they are translucent and fragrant.  Add in the garlic, half the tomatoes and the peas, sauté for 3 minutes, then toss in the tuna.

Beat together the egg and the cream.  Once the pasta is cooked, transfer it with tongs to the sauté pan and toss with the other ingredients. You’ll get a little of the water along with the pasta, but that only helps the dish.
Remove from heat and immediately stir in the egg & cream mixture, as well as half the cheese and half the parsley.

Transfer to serving dishes and garnish with remaining cheese, tomatoes, and parsley.  Then just dive into some Tuna Carbonara-4

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