Will you look at that. Doesn’t it look absolutely nom-tacular?
Mom gave me a huge stick of albacore fillet for New Years, and although I told myself that I would eat more fish and less meat this year, it had been sleeping in the freezer until tonight. Cooking fish is always a bit scary (at least for me) because it’s fragile compared to beef, and the flesh is stinkier than chicken. And as easy as it may seem to whip up a tataki, the last time I made one…. All I can say is, oh my.
I used a dull chef’s knife and the cooked portion of the albacore slid off as I clumsily tried to cut off slices, and by the time I was done, I was left with sloppy shreds of a tataki salad. I was so fed up – I think I was making it for our three-month anniversary, and Don was to arrive for dinner at any minute, and I didn’t even have any eyeliner on (the horror!). Frantic, I chucked it all into a stock pot and simmered it down with soy sauce and mirin to make the fillings for a mock char siu bao (which was quite delicious, but not as romantic as a beautiful salad).
Well, albacore tataki, say hello to my little friend!
This friend of mine, he’s really sharp, even though he’s been sleeping for years in the kitchen drawers at my parents’ house.
I have… (insert drum roll here)… THE Knife.
This is an artisan-made sashimi knife that Baachan (my late Grandmother) gave to Dad as a present. It comes in a fancy red box, and has the artisan’s name engraved to the side.
When he first got it, Dad was very, very excited. Sure, it was a little high maintenance and any amount of moisture meant sudden death for this beautiful object, but that didn’t phase him, and he used the knife a lot… Until it was time for him to sharpen it.
Japanese knives are a little bit of a pain to sharpen because they are sharpened only on one side, as opposed to regular chef’s knives. You can’t just stick it in your automated Cuisinart knife sharpener, but you must sharpen it by hand with a sharpening stone. And when you sharpen it, you have to lift it up at the perfect angle only at the perfect time, or the knife will bend a bit. It’s a pain really, and Dad couldn’t do it. He didn’t wet his sharpening stone long enough or something, because when he made his first swipe, all he heard was a big SCREEEEEEEEH! and voila. Big ugly streak on the knife.
After that, the knife was banished into the drawer of no-return, where a broken turkey themometer, three egg timers, and other useless gadgets were laid to rest. That was a little over ten years ago.
Lucky for me, there’s YouTube tutorials on how to sharpen knives properly.
I won’t go into the details of knife sharpening because it’s a little boring, but I managed. And to celebrate my successful knife sharpening, I made some albacore tataki.
P.S. This is, by no means, traditional tataki. Traditional tataki is made with bonito or seared beef. This is more like the lovechild of crudo and tataki… Maybe I’ll call it crutaki or something.
Nonetheless, it’s very delicious.
It’s a piece of cake, so long that you have a very sharp knife. Just follow me, it’s really easy. It’s so easy, it’s kinda silly to pay 10 bucks for a dinky pile at a sushi restaurant (but you still do because you’re lazy).
Albacore Tataki – serves 2
12 oz sashimi-grade Albacore
1/4 cup olive oil + extra
1/4 cup ponzu
1 small shallot
1/4 cup ponzu
1 small shallot
1 clove garlic
lots of fresh ground pepper
Pat the albacore dry with a paper towel (if you wipe it, you’ll rip off some of the surface). Then salt it with a generous pinch of sea salt and pat it in. Do the same with the pepper, but with generous amounts. Let that sit for 15 minutes.
Heat a glob of olive oil on a frying pan, over medium heat. Throw in some sliced garlic and heat until it starts to smell good, or the edges of the garlic goldens. Swirl the oil around to coat the pan evenly, and move the garlic over. Sear the albacore, a little under a minute per side. Take the albacore out, and continue to cook the garlic until they become golden and transform into garlic chips. Pull out and dry.
Chop up some scallions and mix with olive oil, ponzu, and a pinch of salt, Mix well, and refrigerate.
It’s time to slice the albacore. Hold the albacore down firmly in one hand, but don’t squish it. Just have a good grasp of it, you don’t want it to slide around. Then take your sharp knife and make a cut forward. Then contiue your cut, but pull the knife in one clean stroke towards you. Each slice should be at least a quarter of an inch.
Lay out your tataki slices in a pretty fashion, and drizzle the sauce over. Sprinkle some scallions and then the garlic chips, and serve. Sprinkle some shichimi peppers if you like it hot.