The single most predictable culinary objective of anyone visiting the Pacific Northwest is to "order the salmon."
With its celebrity reputation of global proportions, surely you don’t find that surprising.
But albacore fishing has been a dynamic part of the West Coast fishing industry since the late 19th century. However, its complexion has been considerably altered by recent food trends.
Every summer during peak albacore season in those early years, the tuna canneries up and down the West Coast hummed with the activity of workers cleaning, boning and packing precooked albacore into cans. These days, the fresh and frozen market has become a more viable business, while the number of canneries has diminished considerably.
Fresh or frozen albacore provides a high quality protein with a minimum of fat, calories, cholesterol and sodium. A 3 1/2 ounce cooked serving contains 158 calories, 25 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, 22 milligrams of cholesterol and 51 milligrams of sodium.
With its mild flavor and firm texture, albacore works well in a variety of recipes, especially those traditionally used with chicken.
The most important thing to remember is not to overcook it. Albacore has a tendency to dry out quickly, so it should always be cooked leaving a bit of pink in the center. By the time it reaches the table, it will be perfectly done, and not dried out.
And even though cooked albacore is firm, in its raw state it is very soft, so always support it or the flesh will separate
Below are a few albacore specialties from my recipe files, compliments of some West Coast restaurants.
Blend mayonnaise and cheese. Add lemon juice and parsley. Grill loin cuts on one side, turn. Spread cheese mixture about 1/2-inch thick on top of loin cuts and cover with a lid or pie pan immediately. Continue grilling until done (total cooking time will be 6 to 8 minutes per inch, so a half-inch cut of fish will only take about 3 or 4 minutes total cooking time, or 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side).
Makes four servings.
The Fish Market, Solana Beach, Calif.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis, Ore., food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.