Need Help / Ideas - Tuna Dinner Redux

johnliu_gwAugust 15, 2012

Strange, I know I posted a thread on the first tuna dinner chez moi a couple years ago, but I can't find it on GW. Was hoping to refer to it.

Anyway, my esteemed neighbor has brought back another whole albacore tuna, direct from the flash freezers on the fishing boats that work from the Oregon coast. It sits in his freezer and we will have a neighborhood tuna feed on Sep 15th.

The idea behind these tuna dinners is that I defrost the fish, quarter it into loins, then halve each loin for eight blocks of tuna, each close to two pounds. Each block is used to make a different tuna dish, which is served tapas or izakaya style on little (paper) plates to 20 or so guests. Exact guest count TBA but it's basically the neighborhood plus a couple more.

A friend will contribute a keg of beer. Kids will roast sausages and maybe kabobs in the fire pit, so I don't have to care whether they like tuna or not. I will get Peter John from across the street to bring a meat dish, maybe some lamb. Since his partner hates lamb, poor PJ seizes the opportunity to make it for every neighbor function. Someone will bring vegetables and someone else dessert. SWMBO will make a pot of sangria.

It will be our goodbye to summer, a last chance to eat outside before the rains start and we all turn to depressive, snarling prunes.

With everything else handled, I just have to deal with the tuna. The criteria for the dishes is (1) easy to prepare (2) able to be turned out at the rate of one dish every 15 minutes, either through making-ahead or by being very quick-cooking, and (3) interesting. We are not trying to stick to a particular cuisine.

"Experimental" is good. I will buy a couple pounds of sashimi tuna and do a test batch of any dish that sounds dicey. "Daring" is good. I'm not going to all this work to eat tuna salad sandwiches. Even "potentially disgusting" is fine - I'm not going to care if some finicky guest only likes seven of eight tuna dishes. I spit on their food phobias, there!

I cannot remember all the dishes we tried last time. A few that are recollectable were:

- Marinated in tangy soy and sesame sauce, crusted with sesame seeds, blasted over the hottest flame I could produce, for 30 seconds a side, sliced and served with more tangy dipping sauce. We used a charcoal chimney starter, connected a blow dryer to the lower vents, and generated a rocket of flame from the top. Very fun. I think we'll do this again. It is very quick.

- Simmered in sake and dashi for about 60 seconds, served with a teriyaki like sauce. We'll do this again too. Again, meets the criteria of quickness.

- Spicy tuna hand rolls. I didn't do a very good job of this but will try once more. This will need to be part-prepared ahead. Or I can just make regular sushi rolls. Or sashimi. Need inspiration! Maybe tuna and unagi (eel). Or tuna and tamagoyaki (sweet Japanese omelette)? It has to be colorful. And sufficiently or partly make-ahead, like two hours ahead.

- Tuna in a salad. If we do this again, it could be a salade nicoise. Or raw tuna in a vinegared beet salad. Or . . . ?. The salad will be my make ahead "safety buffer" dish. You know, when you trip on the cat and the next dish goes crashing down in a shattering of glass and yowling vertebrae, you're clutching your bloody hand while stuffing kitty down the disposal, and the clock is ticking and the lynch mob is forming - you need a pinch hitter of a dish that you can grab and fling to the hordes to buy yourself another 15 minutes.

- and there my memory ends.

I need four more tuna dishes.

I will start searching the cookbooks but any ideas will be greatly appreciated. Has anyone made a tuna soup, perhaps? Is there a way to tempura deep fry tuna without over cooking it, maybe by half-freezing it first? Do tuna and hollandaise sauce play together? How about tuna and bacon? Can tuna be grilled? Does it cure into "lox" well? There's always tuna ice cream, which I think failed to figure out last time, we could have another go?

I will have the whole tuna, so can I make something fun from the skin? The tail? The head? The organs? The eyeballs? Tuna liver and heart pate, anyone?

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You know, I am vaguely remembering something about salting and grilling a fish skeleton until the bones are crunchy like potato chips. I'm sure I saw it on some cooking program. Anyone know what or how this is?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:32PM
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Searching for "tuna pate" turned up this tuna tartare which sounds like a doctored up ceviche. Sort of interesting? Certainly a make ahead. But the photo looks like spoonfuls of cat barf. And the sidebar says "0 cooks want to eat this". Pass?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:37PM
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Searching for "tuna pate" turned up this tuna tartare which sounds like a doctored up ceviche. Sort of interesting? Certainly a make ahead. But the photo looks like spoonfuls of cat barf. And the sidebar says "0 cooks want to eat this". Pass?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 10:48PM
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Nothing leaps to mind but a lust for an invitation.

If my mind churns out an interesting idea, I'll share.


    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:01PM
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Is this it?

Here is a link that might be useful: John's 17lb tuna thread

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:15PM
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My local fish monger had fresh albacore on special last week and their newsletter included this recipe. I didn't make it, but it looks fabulous....I cheated and went out to a local restaurant and had an albacore soba noodle with braised Asian greens dish that someone else cooked instead of me.

Here is a link that might be useful: Albacore skewers

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:25PM
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I don't eat much bacon, but doesn't it make everything better?

Here is a link that might be useful: Bacon wrapped albacore

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 11:32PM
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bbstx, that's the thread I couldn't find! Thanks! That helps a lot as I see there were many suggestions that I didn't try then but can now use.

The bacon wrapped albacore looks great. I don't know about grilling tuna for 10 minutes, but maybe I can parcook the bacon, then wrap and grill for a shorter period.

I found a recipe for grilled tuna collar, which will only work if I can figure out how to portion it. Also a mention of grilled tuna heart.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 6:10AM
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Although I've never made it with any fish other than salmon, I wonder how gravlax would be if made with tuna. You could make it ahead of time and if you serve it with rye bread or crackers, it would present a different flavor profile than the ones you're planning.

I've linked to a basic recipe for it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gravlax recipe

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 8:32AM
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I'm finding enough references to tuna lox (gravlax) that I'm comfortable putting it in the list. The make ahead aspect is veeeery appealing. I may actually get to sit down and eat this time.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:12AM
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Your story about the cat had me laughing but feeling bad too. I hope you can keep kitty away until there are only plates with tiny scraps.

You might consider Poki for a raw tuna dish. Spicy, easy, yummy and make ahead. I haven't made it but have watched friends put it together very quickly. The online recipes all look very similar and suggest a several hour chilling, flavor melding time.

Your neighborhood party sounds like a lot of fun.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 10:55AM
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Excuse me Johnliu, but I would love to be your neighbor.
All I have to do is drop a dead fish on your doorstep
and that afternoon come over to a vertible feast.
I'm sorry, but it sounds as if you are being taken
advantage of.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 3:06PM
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Any excuse for a party counts. Dead fish included!

Seriously, how often does one get to play with $300 worth of sashimi grade tuna, for free?

The neighborhood - our block, anyway - has a few parties each year. One neighbor throws a dinner party every Christmas, complete with a hay wagon to take everyone on a ride. Lately a few of us have taken to pooling tools, stuff like lawn mowers, drill presses, chop saws, we share them. Dead fish neighbor waters my plants and takes care of my cats when I'm gone. It all works out great.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 3:26PM
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Smoked tuna is a treat.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 3:34PM
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I make a classic Mediterranean style tuna salad with white beans, olives, tuna, celery and red onions, and a lemon olive oil dressing. There are many additional variations fo things to put in it like capers or parsley, fresh ground pepper, cherry tomatoes, whatever, but the basic idea is soemthing I love. I make this all the time. Better than tuna pate IMHO but I have never had that with fresh tuna. I love sashimi tuna though! So yum with sushi too! I'm jealous. We got a little bit of fresh Atlantic tuna from a friend once. We just savored it just lightly seasoned and from the grill. How I envy you the amount to play around with!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 5:42PM
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Sounds heavenly to me....but with such supreme ingredients...I think simpler might be the best way to go.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:43PM
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Well this is turning into a chaotic mess. Way more people have been invited than originally expected. If everyone shows, we'll have 40+ people. How this happened, I have no idea. Too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.

Obviously I can't portion each block of tuna into 40 servings, and I can't prepare and plate 40 servings every 15 minutes.

So I am asking some guests who enjoy cooking to bring more stuff, and I don't care what it is or if it all goes together, as long as it is suitable for buffet service and eating from paper plates outside. One neighbor owns a tapas restaurant - helpful, eh? - and he will bring some cool stuff. I'll throw together a big batch of wings and potato salad.

The tuna, therefore, is being demoted from the central raison d'etre of the event, to a series of hors d'oeuvres that will be intermittently brought to the buffet table for the benefit of whoever happens to be standing there at the time. This is going to be your standard end-of-summer BBQ with grilled skewers, roasted weenies, summer salad, and plenty of beer, that happens to include some fish. Kind of an underwhelming fate for a 20 lb albacore, but oh well.

After all, the reason raison d'etre is to get together with neighbors . . . and friends . . . and friends of friends . . . and neighbors of friends of friends . . . and friends of neighbors of . . . and I will simply grit my teeth and remember that I welcome them all, even if I've never seen them before.

Put another way, I will simply crank out my fish bits and otherwise try to be Zen.

The fishy bits are planned to be

1 - blast-seared with sesame seed crust and tangy sauce
2 - simmered in miso, served as a soup with a little ramen
3 - chirashi bowl, tuna and unagi
4 - bacon wrapped tuna balls
5 - tuna gravlax, a quickie version involving miso and sea salt and tobiko, no time to do the whole 3 days in sugar and salt thing (I'm traveling this week, which makes things complicated)
6 - spicy tuna rolls
7 - pan-seared with ginger-shiitake sauce, a recipe FOAS suggested last time
8 - as a poki or maybe a ceviche, I've not decided

Any thoughts as to correct order, like what should be 1st, 2nd, etc? As if it matters?

I'm going to save the collar, heart, head etc to cook later. For myself. [Chortles.]

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 8:00PM
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This is a biggish fish.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 10:28AM
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How fun, John! My DH is out on his annual tuna fishing expedition now - they left Sept. 9 and are due back Monday. Hope they have tuna! I am not as creative as you. We just cut steaks for the freezer, poach some in olive oil and herbs, have some locally canned, and share some with neighbors. It's no one's turn on our boat this year to provide the tuna for the annual end-of-season pig and tuna roast so we get to keep the catch. Your party's tuna ffeast sounds like more fun than ours. Plus, DH will come home tired and cranky 'cause they stand 4-hour watches 24/7 and he likes his beauty sleep.

Have a great party even with the additional guests!


    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 11:18AM
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I'm sorry John, obviously you have better neighbors than
I do. I once had a neighbor that went out fishing
on a Saturday morning, and two days later, dropped
off two day old Lake Trout, that stunk already,
(no, they were not even gutted.)
And, he expected me to make a gormet meal out of them,
and invite him and his 'extended' family to a huge
feast, complete with all the fixins and drinks were
to be included. Thank God his boat sunk.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Whew. Party's over. We've cleaned up, kind of. Got to bed at 1:30 am.

The tuna turned out pretty well. It was different from the previous fish. Flesh was softer, fattier, not as firm. I skipped the chirasi course because I didn't think this fish was all that suited to sashimi. And I skipped the last course because it was getting late and people were full.

The third most favorite dish was tuna marinated in miso and lots of sea salt for 24 hours. Served with a topping of wasabi tobiko (wasabi-infused flying fish roe, buy it at a Japanese market) and a smear of honey-wasabi sauce (exactly what it sounds like, honey mixed with a-not-quite toe-curling amount of wasabi powder).

The runner up was the blast-seared tuna. Mix soy sauce, honey, and wasabi. Marinate tuna loin block overnight. Roll loin in sesame seeds to coat. Light charcoal in chimney starter. When coals are ready, put blow dryer at base of starter, so that white flame is roaring from top. Place grill on top, sear loin, each side 20 sec. Slice loin into medallions. Top with reserved marinade.

The favorite, by far, was a variant of the pan-seared tuna with ginger shiitake sauce. FOAS posted a link to this dish in the previous tuna thread. I made some modifications - pan-browned the shiitake slices first, omitted the soy sauce, omitted the lime juice, added lime zest. Several people asked for this recipe, so here it is, and thanks again to FOAS -

- slice shiitake mushroom caps to 1/4 to 1/8 inch, dice stems
- brown diced stems in butter, set aside
- brown cap slices in butter, working in single layer and turning each slice individually, to crusty, set aside
- chop 1/3 c green onions, 1/4 c cilantro, 2 tbsp fresh ginger, 4 garlic cloves
- cook in pan medium heat a few minutes, add mushrooms, then 1 1/2 c whipping cream, heat to low, cook until sauce thickens, set aside
- heat to high, get pan very hot, add olive oil, sear tuna just long enough to get 1/8 inch cooked layer on each side
- reheat sauce, add zest of 2 limes, add a teeny splash more of cream if sauce looks tired, salt to taste (for me, about 1 tsp kosher salt)
- plate and be sure to credit FOAS

The last dish, which we skipped, was tuna and scallop ceviche with a salsa of my own tomatoes, peaches, and kiwi. It was something I should have served earlier in the evening. Well, I'll have it for lunch and deliver some to the neighbors.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 2:42PM
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I'm glad that the recipe - or your version of it - worked out for you. I haven't made it in a few years and I think I'll try your variation next time I do. It won't offend me to omit the soy sauce which I already reduce significantly from the original version, nor to make use of the $9/lb shiitake stems which I usually throw out.

Too bad you didn't get to the ceviche, but I agree it sounds like it'd have been best served earlier.

Got pics?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 8:18PM
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I only managed to take pictures of the tuna disassembly process, which are interesting but gory, and of the ginger-shiitake sauce. Things were too busy and at one point I misplaced my iPhone, which passes for my camera.

Photobucket is acting up for me Not uploading. So no pictures of tuna butchery.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 9:26PM
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