Yellowfin tuna

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Yellowfin tuna is America's most trusted and familiar fish ÄÄ it's the dominant tuna in the can. But yellowfin has a culinary potential that stretches well beyond sandwiches and casseroles. It's a versatile fish popular the world over for its hearty flavor and meaty appearance.

Even raw, it doesn't taste or look like fish. and on the grill it tastes and looks more like beef.

Unless frozen yellowfin is held at extremely low temperatures (below minus 55øF), it will turn a brown "chocolate" color. While such extreme care and expense is common in the Japanese market, it is rarely found in the handling of tuna bound for our shores. Here, frozen tuna is held at temperatures that range above minus 55øF, and browning occurs. This chocolate color will grow more pronounced the longer the tuna is held. While not suitable for recipes such as sashimi or poke that call for raw fish, "chocolate" tuna can be excellent in any recipe calling for cooked tuna. Unless the browning is well advanced, there is little difference in flavor or appearance between the brighter-colored tuna and "chocolate" colored tuna when cooked; except for the price.

Because it's warm-blooded, with a body temperature that can reach 20 degrees above the ocean temperature, a tuna fighting on the line or in the boat can literally cook in its own flesh. This is what's known as "burned" tuna. Burned tuna has a lower oil content, which affects taste and wholesomeness (omega-3 fatty acids are in the oil). The raw meat will have a mushy, almost chalky texture, and when cooked will have an acidic flavor.

Yellowfin tuna have been recorded weighing as much as 400 pounds, but the range in the commercial catch is from 20 to 120 pounds. They're harvested by various methods, but the most common are by seine (net) and longline. As a general rule, seined yellowfin is brine-frozen and canned, while longlined tuna is marketed fresh or frozen.

Yellowfin tuna are found in the warmer waters of all oceans and seas except the Mediterranean. The world's leading producers are Japan and the U.S. Hawaii is the source of consistently high-quality yellowfin sold as ahi (which also refers to bigeye tuna).

Because of the migratory nature of this open-water fish, yellowfin prices tend to at their lowest during the summer months, July through September, and at their highest during late winter and early spring, February through April.

Tuna can lose its bright red color quickly, so keep it refrigerated, well wrapped (plastic wrap works best), and out of contact with air or ice. Yellowfin is excellent for a wide variety of cooking methods.

The main thing to avoid is overcooking. This is generally true of all fish but tuna's low fat content means the flesh can easily become dry and tough when overcooked.

Tuna is often at its best grilled, broiled or pan-seared; the high heat seals the outside, conserving the moisture and flavor inside.

Tuna cooked to rare or medium-rare (pink on the inside) is particularly tender and succulent.

For most cooking tuna steaks « to 1 inch thick are best. Allow about 6 ounces per person. A 3«-ounce portion of tuna contains 108 calories, 1 gram of total fat, 45 grams of cholesterol, 23 grams of protein, 37 mg sodium and .22 grams omega-3 fatty acids.

Simply Seafood Summer 1994

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 01-13-95

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