This fish is good for you, plentiful, and delicious
[...] With qualities to win over the health-conscious, the food-loving gourmet types, and the environmentalists, albacore should be more widely eaten. Here’s my list of reasons to put albacore on the menu.
1. Troll-caught albacore are good for your conscience. The Monterey Bay Aquarium rates troll-caught albacore from the U.S. and Canada as a “best choice” for consumers. (Incidentally, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch pocket guide for consumers is now available for iPhones and other smart phones.)
2. Troll-caught albacore are good for your health. In May of this year, the Monterey Bay Aquarium ranked troll-caught albacore from the U.S. and British Columbia as among “the best of the best” on its Super Green List, which evaluates seafood choices according to their omega-3 content and lack of environmental contaminants, including mercury and PCBs. With mercury, the size of the fish matters. Troll-caught albacore is younger and therefore smaller — less than 30 pounds per fish — with resulting lower concentrations of mercury.
3. Troll-caught albacore are a good buy. Compared to other wild-caught North Pacific fish on the market, albacore is relatively affordable. Expect to pay up to $9 a pound for fresh, and $2 to $3 more for frozen. This is still less than black cod, halibut, and most wild salmon.
4. Troll-caught albacore is good year-round, either custom canned or frozen at sea. Both are high-quality choices. Because albacore boats can stay at sea for weeks at a time, some boats blast-freeze to preserve quality, taking the fish down to minus-20 degrees. This extra-low temperature is necessary to prevent the tuna’s oil from turning rancid.
I was resistant to frozen albacore, but then I grilled some and found it nearly as good as fresh. Fresh tuna spends time on the boat before coming to port and then to market, but with the frozen albacore, I could tell by the color and neutral smell that the fish had not been out of the water long before going into the deep freeze. If frozen is your option, buy it still frozen and thaw it yourself in the refrigerator.
5. Custom-canned albacore is packed in its own juices without water or oil, and cooked only once in the canning process. It costs more — more than a dollar per ounce — but once you try custom-canned albacore, it’s hard to go back to longline albacore or skipjack.
Beige-pink in color, the canned fish tastes light and clean, not smelly or fishy, and it holds together in chunks. It comes with a small amount of naturally occurring juices, which you may wish to set aside and add to a pasta sauce. Custom-canned albacore is available online and in some grocery stores.
6. Albacore is a versatile blank slate for cooks. Just don’t overcook it. Albacore is mild, but it does well with strong partners like cherry tomatoes, black olives, capers, and lemon. I hate to say it, but those ad men nailed it when they called tuna the chicken of the sea. You can season it just about any way you want…
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