Sunday, March 02, 2008
Poking The Poke
It's a beautiful (if cold), sunny morning in Maryland and as I spent the day lounging around, arranging the library, doing the laundry and finishing my deep prep for the week to come, I've also been reading The River Cottage Meat Book and it's gotten me a bit hungry.
Not that the stories about commercial meat have turned me away from meats, not at all. It's just that I've been immersed in meat this past week and now it's time for something different.
For those of you unfamiliar with The River Cottage Meat Book, it's a wonderful read about all things meat (vegans should run away - fast). Author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has written a gospel on the art and practice of meat, as well as an honest look at commercial meat processing and the reasons why properly raised animals simply taste better. It's not a book for one reading but rather a tome for reference. I think it's going to be my in-car companion for the next couple of weeks.
Like I said. I've been immersed in meats and yesterday was the culmination of several weeks effort. After seasoning and vacuum-packing a beef brisket from Springfield Farm and letting it sit for a couple of weeks, it was time to smoke it up. That and a pork shoulder picnic (also from Springfield) spent 15 hours in the smoker getting just right.
After the brisket cools in the fridge, it's sliced paper thin on the slicer and bathed in an espresso-jacked beef stock. The kalua'd pork is shredded and adjusted for seasoning. Once it all cools, they'll be portioned out for my eating pleasure. I don't know about the rest of you, but there's something very comforting about a freezer full of portioned meats and stocks ready for consumption.
But this isn't about that. It's about the fish.
I enjoy fish and seafood. Tremendously. In fact, I once used to like a girl from Hawaii who didn't like seafood of any sort. Wouldn't even try it. Sheesh, here's a girl from Hawaii (where seafood is a fact of life) and she didn't eat it? In spite of my enthusiasm, I knew deep down in my heart, right then and there, that any relationship was doomed for how could I share a life with someone with whom I couldn't share the pleasures of raw ahi?
Needless to say, that never worked out.
I'm going to share with you my "top secret" recipe for Ahi Poke, the ubiquitous raw fish dish from Hawaii. It's so popular that you can find some version of poke in just about any market in the islands. In different styles, with different fish. Truth be told, poke recipes are hotly contested and, if the Hawaii people weren't so relaxed and friendly, wars would have been fought over it.
So by no means is this a definitive recipe. It's merely one in a sea of millions. Feel free to add and omit as your tastes desire.
First off, here's a list of ingredients:
'Ahi - Yellowfin Tuna
ogo - Seaweed
Alaea Sea Salt
Aloha Shoyu Soy Sauce (shoyu)
Sliced while onions
Sliced Scallions (green onion)
As you can see, it's a pretty simple ingredient list. Some of it may be hard to find (unless you live in California).
As always, it's a good idea to go with fresh. One of the problems is that tuna, in general, is turning unsustainable because of over-fishing. Sushi is so popular today around the world that we're literally killing our tuna supply. The battle of whether or not to stop buying tuna is one you'll have to wrestle with on your own.
While fresh is a good option, there is also very good quality frozen tuna, you just have to seek it out. I've been to Tsukiji in Tokyo and a lot of the best grade fish there was frozen. As with anything, it's important to have a good relationship with a fishmonger. I've got a friend who wholesales fish in Jessup, and he knows my penchant for quality tuna which means that every once in a while, I'll get a cryptic phone call from him about a new arrival and should he swing by my shop for an envelope? I haven't turned him down yet.
Usually the tuna is cut into cubes but lately I've been digging it cut into small dice. It's more manageable and I like the flavor pronunciation better. Plus, you can get a little more serving yield when you're sharing it with friends.
I have no idea what kind of seaweed ogo is or what its' name would be in English. i just know it as "ogo" and it's twig like, salty and tasty. It's also impossible to find on the East Coast (or so it seems), so I have it imported by friends from Hawaii and I keep it in the freezer. The ogo in Hawaii is harvested locally and usually comes with a little sea water. I keep it all and chop off what I need. The little bit of sea water lends an authentic taste of Hawaii.