Put that squishy tuna flavored mush between puffy Wonder Bread out of your mind (even though most of us loved it as kids). This grown up luncheon delight is made with fresh, local Albacore tuna, homemade mayonnaise, lettuce from the garden and thick slices of crusty artisan bread.
Pacific Albacore, one of the most plentiful varieties, also has a mild flavor and very dense flesh that holds up under processing. For millions of Americans, tuna sandwiches have and will continue to be an all time favorite lunch.
Pacific Albacore tuna is available fresh in local fish markets and most large supermarkets from July through October. Its taste and texture are far superior to canned fish, it doesn’t sit in salted cooking water until you eat it, and it is not much more expensive than solid white chunk Albacore in a can.
According to NOAH, almost all harvested Albacore harvested in U.S. fisheries comes from waters off Washington and Oregon. It also is harvested in Japan and Thailand, and some of that is imported frozen to the U.S.
Because the variety is so plentiful, most Albacore tuna is canned. In order to be labeled fresh, Pacific Albacore must be caught within 75 miles of the port of entry. Immediately after they are caught, the fish are bled, iced and delivered within two or three days.
Tuna are fast swimming, strong fish with delicate flesh that stiffens when it is cooked. Yellowfin (Ahi), Atlantic Bluefin and some Albacore, considered delicacies, are staples of sushi, sashimi and recipes in which it is seared on the outside and raw in the middle.
Fresh Albacore has a light pink flesh that darkens along the backbone. While the dark stripe may appear odd, its more intense flavor is delicious.
If you haven’t yet tasted a fresh Albacore tuna sandwich, now is the time; there are only a couple of weeks left in this year’s season.
- Remove the skin before poaching; it’s not the tasty part.
- Poach only until the fish is cooked through. For a piece 1” thick, cook for 5 minutes and then check for doneness.
- Remember when you learned to make tuna sandwiches? You drained the water or oil out of the can, dumped the tuna into a bowl and smashed it with a spoon before adding the mayonnaise? Well, forget that technique. With fresh tuna you want to protect its delicate texture by gently breaking the sections apart with a fork.
- Fresh Albacore also makes fabulous tuna salads, either mixed with mayonnaise, as an unbroken piece in a nicoise, or cooked medium rare and served with Vietnamese style shredded vegetables and a lime ginger vinaigrette.
For Sandwich or Mixed Salad
1/2 fresh lemon
7 oz. Fresh Pacific Albacore Tuna
¼ cup +1 tbs. homemade mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbs. capers, drained and rinsed
Small pinch dehydrated red pepper flakes
- Squeeze lemon juice into a small mixing bowl. Put the remaining lemon half into a shallow saucepan.
- Cut tip roots off scallions, and clean. Cut 4” off the green ends and put into the saucepan. Chop the rest of the scallion and put it in the mixing bowl.
- Put tuna into the pan, add water almost to the top of the tuna and poach, covered, at medium low heat until the fish is done (about 5 minutes to the inch of thickness). Remove the fish and put it on a plate to cool.
- Gently separate the sections of cooked tuna with a fork and lifting it away from any water that is on the plate, add it to lemon juice and scallion in the mixing bowl. Add all but 2 tbs. of the mayonnaise, the mustard, capers and pepper flakes. Mix gently with a fork until the tuna is evenly coated but not smashed.
- Spread remaining mayonnaise on each piece of bread, add mixed tuna and lettuce and serve.
- For salad mix use 3 tbs. mayonnaise, and eliminate the bread and lettuce.