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Tuna Tartare at Home


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eGullet is lucky enough to have some awesome food sanitation experts along with, of course, off-the-charts chefs.

Here's the thing. There are a few tuna tartare recipes I'd like to make at home. The fish markets are telling me that the tuna "in the case" is NOT suitable for use in tartare. Instead, there are a few places (Whole Foods and a local fish market) that have flash frozen tuna, which they say is appropriate for "sushi" use (i.e. eating raw). They advise slacking the fish in a room temp salt water solution.

Here are the questions:

> What is the best/smartest way to buy tuna suitable for eating raw?

> If purchased frozen, what is the best way to bring it out of its frozen state and retain the freshest flavor/quality?

> Am I dramatically reducing my risk of a food-borne illness by buying the flash-frozen vs. - for example - the tuna from the case at Whole Foods?

Please come to my rescue!

Thanks.

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"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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I would do the frozen and thaw by running cold water on it or in a pot of cold water. I saw this done in the place I worked briefly and I know that most sushi joints use frozen Japanese sources.

After that it is just clean everything well and move fast.

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Almost all food safety advice out there is anecdotal at best, especially anything you get from the fishmonger at the grocery store: CYA is the order of the day, and mostly based on either bad science, or no science at all. If that fish in the case isn't safe for tartare, it's not safe to eat, period. The temperatures we cook tuna to are far too low to achieve a meaningful reduction in bacteria. (Modernist Cuisine's chapter on food safety is both enlightening and depressing).

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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s stated most tuna sold for consumption should be ok to eat raw, however the outside getting contaminated could be an issue. A quick sear on all sides would kill any surface bugs, but if you want it totally raw then cut a thin strip of each side would remove the potentially contaminated outer layer.

The majority of fresh tuna will have been frozen at some point so in your case since you can get it I'd go for the flash frozen. To defrost, if it's vacuum packed just put it under running cold water, or in a bowl and change frequently. If not vacuum packed then put it in a ziplock bag. Once defrosted give it a quick rinse and use ASAP.

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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First, you need to find a fish monger familiar with the quality needed for sushi/sashimi whether fresh or frozen.

Preferably a Japanese market where the fish is labeled sushi grade. All else is for cooking with no raw interior.

Tuna are handled differently depending on the final destination and use. Tuna for normal cooking is not processed or kept to the higher standards of sushi grade.

It is possible to acquire fresh sushi grade tuna but only from a limited number of suppliers and from Browne Trading which only sells fresh bluefin during the late summer/early Autumn when the bluefin are moving through New England waters.

I have purchased sushi grade from Whole Foods that was not frozen but kept in a sterile sort of wrap. It was not bluefin but Ahi probably from Hawaii.

Not all tuna sold for consumption is suitable for raw consumption and in fact little of it is. You need to find a source familiar with raw consumption and willing to label as sushi grade. The price differential should be double,i.e. for consumption about $10/#, for raw, upwards from the low $20/#.-Dick

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Budrichard - you were right on with pricing. The vacuum sealed "sushi grade" tuna (flash frozen) was about $24/pound. I must say, though, I didn't love the product. Having said that, my "diners" thought the dish was awesome and I'll definitely repeat.

By the way, the entree I made was "Tuna 2 Ways" from Eric Ripert's book "On the Line". For anyone not in the restaurant business, but interested in it, the book is awesome. I was lucky enough to spend a week in Le Bernardin's kitchen and this book really makes you feel like you're in the kitchen. Lots of fun facts about how much food they go through, info on each station, and - yes - some awesome recipes too.

My next reach in my search for better tuna will be our closest fish supplier, which sells retail and supplies many restaurants as well.

I have purchased fish from Browne Trading before (mail order) and have never been disappointed, except with the price (the fish is reasonable, but when you get done with the special shipping and packaging - it gets up there).

---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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"but when you get done with the special shipping and packaging - it gets up there). "

The freight charges for overnight now are routinely as much as the product you order so I try to keep those expenditures at a minimum now and use the local suppliers has much as possible.

But I can get whole belly sections of Toro from Browne Trading ( outer skin and inner wall still attached) fresh along with great Akami sections so I stilll use them but not as often.

You are correct that 'sushi grade' carries no governmental status but it does carry status in the trade and you need a point to start from in dealing with a fish monger to ascertain if they know and can deliver suitable product.-Dick

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