Bring G.W. Fins chef Tenney Flynn fish offal, and he could make it taste better than the spawn if king cake and bread pudding got married and had a baby. So if the man says he’s got a great way to prepare the fresh tuna scraps that most anglers ignore, it’s time to go to our pot cabinets.
After Flynn saw a NOLA.com story on Capt. Joey Davis and other captains whacking tuna near the mouth of the Mississippi River, he called to share his favorite method for preparing the fish to produce tuna salad that would make Charlie become a cannibal.
“When you open a can of tuna, you think, ‘What the hell did they do to this fish? Why does it smell like this? Why does it look like this?’” Flynn said. “This is miles ahead of anything from a can.”
The first step, and it should never be discounted, is to preserve the quality of the fish while on the boat.
“When you go out and catch a bunch of tuna, bring someone along who does nothing but take care of that tuna,” Flynn advised. “If you just throw it on the boat — you might be excited, you’ve got fish going everywhere — the meat is not going to be at its best. You’ve got to get it cooled off as fast as possible.
“That’s one of the things they do on commercial boats that’s so important. They get that fish iced immediately. They know if the fish is better taken care of, I’ll pay more money for it.”
After getting their tuna back to the dock, most anglers cut it into steaks for later grilling, searing or eating raw, but there are always pieces that are good quality meat, but not big enough to turn into steaks. Flynn, who serves a lot of fresh tuna at his restaurant this time of year, cuts those scraps into 1-inch cubes and poaches them in aromatic oil.
He starts with canola oil in a pot, adds hot chilis, peppercorns, parsley, bay leaves and thyme and heats it to 180 to 190 degrees to let the flavors blend. He’ll then lower the fire as he’s adding the tuna, reducing the heat to 150 to 160 degrees, and will poach the tuna until he pulls out a piece and finds it to be medium in the center.
“The tuna, of course, will continue to cook after you pull it out, but you want it to be the opposite of the stuff in the can, just barely done,” he said.
After the tuna and oil are cooled, Flynn will add the tuna to a jar and cover it with the aromatic oil. In that condition, it will last for seven to 10 days in the coldest part of a refrigerator, Flynn said.
The poached tuna makes excellent tuna salad when mixed with mayonnaise, boiled eggs, celery, onions and pickles. It’s also great when eaten atop a bed of lettuce with other salad fixings, Flynn said.
Todd Masson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.232.3054.