Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hooray for high oil prices!

"I have something for you," said Frankie. He must have picked up something interesting at the pier that morning. Something that wasn't salmon, trout, sword, halibut, cod, tuna, or sole. "Maybe it's mahi," I thought. "Or if I am really lucky, sable." "I have," Frankie paused gravely, "Bluefin tuna." It took me a few seconds to regain my speech. "No way!" I replied. "Bluefin! Real bluefin?"

How do I explain this miracle? It was like bumping into Mario Batali at your local supermarket. Frankie disappeared in the back and came back with a 20 Lb tuna loin. He wasn't kidding. I could tell by the color that it wasn't the yellowfin he usually carries. The yellowfin (also known as ahi) is burgundy red throughout and never has any fat. The loin Frankie brought out was paler and pinkist-brown in parts. The less intensely red the tuna looks, the more fat it has. That's right. That bright red tuna people get so excited about in the sushi restaurants is the cheap lean stuff. Of course, one shouldn't confuse white tunas like Albacore with a fatty bluefin or big-eye. You have to look very closely to see if they flakes themselves are light in color if if they are streaked with little lines of marbling.

"I'll take it! Wait, how much is it?" I asked. Since we never see our wonderful local bluefins in the North East, I was prepared to pay through the nose. After all, the reason they all get shipped to Japan is that people are willing to pay serious money for them there. I've never shopped for fish in Japan myself, but I hear that North Atlantic bluefin can retail for some astronomical prices. "$20/Lb," said Frankie. "That's all?" I asked. Hmm, I guess it's not a good idea to tell someone they are giving you too good of a price. But what is Frankie to do? Most of his clientele is traditional New England. Halibut is as exotic as it gets with these folks, and I am willing to bet you can count raw fish eaters who shop at Frankie's on one hand. Unless you are willing to try this fish raw, you'd never know what's so amazing about it and why $20/Lb is more than a reasonable price.

I spent the rest of the day thinking about what to do with my precious new possesion. Since I didn't have time to buy any extra ingredients, I decided to go the simple route. I sliced the fatty half of the tuna (the radish-brown part streaked with lines of marbling) and served it over a bowl of sushi rice, and I seared the leaner (bright red) part and served it with a mango salsa and balsamic-soy-ginger sauce.

The lean seared tuna was delicious, but the raw fatty one was to die for. You couldn't feel connective tissue at all. It felt like velvet that dissolved in the mouth, like getting a tuna French kiss.

How come this beauty was left to us Bostonians and not whisked off to Japan? Frankie and I are betting on high oil prices. I guess it took 30 years, an invention of styrofoam transportation boxes, millions of trips around the globe, and finally a recent spike in oil prices to bring what Japanese call a "Boston Bluefin" to a Boston table.

More information on tuna types and how to eat them raw.

For more information on globalization of the tuna trade, read Sasha Issenberg's The Sushi Economy.

Frankie's Catch of the Day
19 Leonard St
Belmont, MA 02478
Phone: (617) 484-6460

15 comments:

Jess said...

Oh, drool...

emiglia said...

Oh. My. God.


SO jealous right now.

Kalyn said...

Great post, and how lucky for you!

Who Has Time To Cook? said...

Absolutely amazing. I had no idea there was such a diverse world of tuna out there. Congrats on your find and happy hunting ...

Liquid St00pid said...

Bluefin is severely overfished, and the methods used to catch them kill other marine life, including endangered sea turtles:

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx?fid=60

I agree that it's absolutely declicious, but I stopped eating it years ago for the above reasons...

Roya Rose said...

I am pregnant, and totally not allowed raw fish. I have been known to cheat on my pregnancy diet, and that fish looks like exactly the reason one would do so.
I wish it was in my mouth right now!

Helen said...

Hi Roya Rose,

I ate sushi all through pregnancy. I didn't even view it as "cheating", but as simply being reasonable :)

Here is some stats on this that might shed some light on it.

Cheers,
-Helen

One Food Guy said...

I am speechless; that bluefin baby is absolutely gorgeous!

Heather said...

Interesting that you would comment on the Bluefin tuna. I am currently reading "bottomfeeder: HOw to eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood" by Tars Grescoe. He describes bluefin as 'critically endangered' so it won't be on my shopping list. but I do wish I could experience the feel of it on my tongue... Alas, I'll settle for a nice piece of chocolate.

alex said...

That looks delicious. I'm from Mass and laughed at the typical New Englander comment. Loved it and so, so true!

Tony G. said...

My god your killing me. Its 1:24 am in California, I was just about to go to bed, Now im STARVING after seeing this post but do not have the energy to cook at the moment. Why did you have to post this. HAHA J/k. Thanks. DIGGGGGG!!!!

iftikharsumn said...

nice post dear
you do very good job

Booker the Treeing Walker said...

All right, THAT'S IT! You should have expected me for dinner! Thank you for sharing ... I'll be back to dream of pulling up a chair ... Anne

ehollo said...

I came by your site through Blogs of Note and I find its very tempting and I bookmarked it. I hope to come back again. Excellent blog!:)

Finchbird said...

This sounds awesome. Lucky for you. However, $20 a pound doesn't sound like a bargin. However, this not a common piece of fish.