Friday, September 9, 2011

Meat Talk - Fresh Tuna

If you like fish, then there is no reason that you wouldn't just LUV tuna... FRESH tuna that is! Ok yes, I too use the ready-to-use/cooked canned version but they are so over dry, tasteless, colourless, bland and just over all nothing compared to the fresh stuff. If your going to make a pasta salad slathered with mayo or looking to make a quick and cheap tuna melt, then reach for the canned version but if you are looking to have a wonderful fried piece of fish or are taking the time to experiment with over all good quality foods then fresh tuna is the way to go.

I've personally have tried both the very deep red coloured tuna and then the very pink tuna. I find that there is a very big difference between the two. The deeper the colour the more tender and moist it seems to be. Although the pink coloured tuna is not bad and more so it's still 100x's better then the canned stuff, if you can get a very deep red coloured piece at not too bad of a price... GET IT!

I don't think I ever ate fresh tuna until I moved here to Belgium. It seems in the USA that canned tuna is what every kid grows up on from it being made into mayo based sandwich spreads to pasta salads to even tuna casserole... this is what I even grew up on. Even what I consider 'poor man's tuna casserole' which was simply a cheap store brand box of powdered cheese mac & cheese with a can (or 2) of tuna and some peas added to it. Man oh man, if I knew then what I knew NOW.... there would never be another tuna casserole in the house again. That is except of course for a very plush variation that I create with hmmm fresh home-made macaroni pasta (with my new pasta maker of course!) made into home-made mac and cheese with fresh cheddar or gruyere cheese in the sauce, some fresh broccoli, perhaps a bit of sour cream or cream cheese in the mixture to make it even more creamy and then baked right into the dish, still raw, fresh chunks of deep red tuna... just so that they will still be moist and full of flavour then the dish is done baking. Yes I'm already processing and preparing for a new tuna dish as I write this!

Back to the real thing. If you say to yourself 'I just don't like tuna' then also think to yourself 'have I ever eaten a piece of properly pre-pared fresh tuna or has it always been canned or poorly cooked?'. I'll make a bet that at least half or more of you have answered 'no' to the last question haven't you? I know I did when my husband asked me as we stood one day in front of a fresh fish shop looking at these dark red gems in the display case. He asked me 'what about some tuna'? I remember quickly responded that I had that so much when growing up that I just wanted something different. Mind you this is when I first moved here almost 10 years ago! I'm so glad he opened my mind to some foods because I think only he would know what I was truly missing if he had let me pass up the chance.

Tuna when pre-pared properly which should be medium to rare like you would a steak (still pink to red through the centre) just melts in your mouth. It's so flavourful and moist. It's so full of the most important fat to our bodies as well... the all vital Omega 3 fatty acids!

Here is just a very simple yet wonderful photo my husband took as I started to prepare our steaks one night. I try to make the seasoning process go smoother by spicing either the frying pan or a plate for one side of the meat and then while it rests on top of the first layer of seasoning, I then use fresh cleaned hands (so as to not always touch meat and then my spices... always nice, neat and clean since I use grinders a lot) I season the other side. This time I did it on a plate and hubby thought even just that was worth exploring more settings on the camera with.... so I let him... and he produced a wonderful piece of photography art. Just a suggestion though, season your meat outside the frying pan on this one because you really do want a very hot pan when you first place your fish in it and if you heat you pan with the seasoning and oil already in the pan, it'll simply burn before it even gets to the fish.

Now on to how to prepare a properly cooked piece of fresh tuna. First when you select tuna, it's all about how you like stuff. As said before, I prefer the deepest darkest piece I can find and I usually ask for a steak any where from 1/2 inch to a full inch thick. The thicker it is, the easier it is to get it cooked properly. Just like a beef steak, except fish cooks 10x's faster.

Pre-heat a frying pay to a medium high heat. Figure our your method for seasoning the piece of tuna (to each their own I say, for me I hate to get raw meat stuff on my shakers or grinders so I try to practice the 'wash you hands after touching raw meat and before touching any thing else' rule) but trust me on this, from a lady who hardly ever cooks with adding excess salt to any thing she cooks, baking items included, that tuna comes out best when lightly seasoned with a light dusting of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Pour a very small amount of olive oil into your pre-heated pan. You only need enough to ensure that the fish doesn't stick. For the best results, make sure you use a non-stick pan, if not using one simply apply a bit more olive oil. Also with almost anything you fry, ensure you fit your pan to the meat you are cooking. You shouldn't over crowd your pan but you also shouldn't have tons of space left over either as this just causes uneven cooking to happen.

Then place your steak (or steaks) in the pan. You should hear them sizzle the moment they start to touch the hot pan. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PAN UNATTENDED! This is a VITAL rule of cooking proper fresh tuna. The moment one turns their back, the fish will get over cooked. I've done this many many time as I'm use to having a couple of minutes to finish up say the side dish or the veggies. No, don't walk away, just stay there by the pan. Be ready with something to flip the tuna with because as soon as you see it change light grey about 1/3rd of the way up, your ready to turn it already. If you have a high enough heat, you will have already produced a nice light brown colouring on the side you just cooked. This is great!

Once flipped, rinse and repeat the action but instead of flipping again when the grey colours are just about touching each other, transfer to your serving plate. That's it, you just cooked the perfect piece of fresh tuna. Yes tuna should be eaten as good as still red in the middle! Tuna if bought fresh from a proper monger who sells sashimi quality fish is even eaten 100% raw. Just make sure you buy from a good quality monger... most will advertise if they sell sashimi quality or not, just keep your eyes peeled and if you don't find it written some where, simply ask!


Almost any thing goes well beside a tuna steak btw. It's a hearty piece of meat that will even stand up to the 'meat and potatoes' style dinner but just in the same is tender and divine enough to come down to earth with a few stalks of asparagus and some rice. The combos are numberless and that is not even to mention all the wonderful recipes you could make! I'll get to posting some over the course of this blog's life I'm sure but for now, go get a wonderful piece of fresh tuna and see if you can perfect your cooking technique of this wonderfully good for you fresh fish.

 (slightly over cooked but still yummy)

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