Thursday, August 02, 2007

Grilled Albacore

Well, tomorrow morning means it's time for us to leave this beautiful beach. That's pretty much of a good thing. As much as I enjoy it here there is no way I could manage to live here and stay sane. I am already starting to chafe at the traffic, the crowds of people everywhere, the constant noise all of that.

It's high time for this old country boy to get some different sand between his toes.

Our fishing trip Sunday was beautiful. There were five of us on a 28 foot cabin cruiser. It had some kind of ferocious seagoing name which I promptly forgot, but it is a sleek and stable cruising and fishing platform. I spent most of my time up on the flying bridge, taking my turn at the helm and being an extra pair of eyes for the skipper. Spray in my face and an open sea horizon will still get this old salt's blood running a little hotter and thinner. Put a hunt for tuna into that and it begins to take on the aspects of perfection for me.

We went out of Bonita cove and up the coast to the kelp beds of La Jolla and then cut hard westerly for the open sea. The owner/skipper of the boat knew some likely spots where the albacore might school and hunt. We found them after about 3 hours.

We had our limits of 2 each pretty quickly after finding them. All good looking 35 to 48 pound fish. Since we still had a lot of time left and plenty of live bait still swimming we decided to haul into the kelp and see about getting some calico bass and other kelp goodies. On the way in we rigged a couple of trolling lines and hit 4 dorado in pretty rapid succession.

Being the planner and forwarding thinking type of guy that I am as soon as the first dorado hit the deck I was bringing out the filet knife and the sushi tools. That first dorado was down to chum in a matter of minutes and we arrived on station at the kelp beds reinvigorated.

There is a totally different technique for fishing the coastal kelp. I usually take a live anchovy or squid, try and hook it without doing much damage, either through the jaw and lips or right behind the gills so that it will swim in a fairly natural way. That's all rigged without any wieghts or other stuff. Then I flip that light rig out into the clear little holes in the kelp and just let the baitfish swim around for a little while.

To keep my presentation active and tempting I swap my bait out often.

The stand on the kelp brought us in 4 yellowtail, 12 calico bass, 2 stripers, a sheepshead and 3 sculpin (which were steamed whole on the way in).

When we reached our mooring bouy (a short swim from the porch and the BBQ) we brought the catch ashore and had ourselves a cleaning party right at the water's edge. We finished up just as the gulls were starting to become overbold and began acting like they were at a Hitchcock casting call.

Since an albacore is a glorious tasting fish to begin with, I don't do much stuff in the kitchen that would detract from that. I simply scale the skin well and then use a sharp heavy cleaver to cut it into steaks. The bones are pretty big and fileting would cost us a lot in the consumable meat end, although were I staying here longer and had a bigger kitchen the fish frames resulting from that would have certainly been made into rich stocks.

Then I take the steaks and lay them into a series of large baking pans in a single layer. These are given a quick dusting of fresh ground sea salt and pepper on both sides. Now for the touch that will set these apart (beyond being the freshest albacore steaks possible) I take some high end (like Bernstein's or Newman's Own) bottled Italian salad dressing and pour it liberally over the fish. A splash or two of any decent dry white wine won't hurt anything but if you don't have a half bottle or so sitting in the fridge waiting to turn into crappy vinegar don't sweat it. Cover the fish closely and refrigerate overnight. Remember to turn the fish two or three times to ensure an even bath in the dressing.

To serve, take the steaks out of the dressing, pat off the excess, give them a quick sprinkle with Minstrel's Magic Stuff or any other favorite seasoning and grill at a high temp. Not long! About five to six minutes per side is the most you want these to be on the heat. We're looking for the moral equivilence of a medium rare steak here. The middle should be hot, but not cooked.

As a side dish I had sourdough baguettes, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, and the legendary Indin Corn. My friend, beach neighbor and boat skipper Pat brought a beautiful bottle of a Rhone valley white for the wine drinkers. I was drinking ice tea made with half Earl Grey and half Irish Breakfast bags (both Twining's brand).

I should be back on the ranch sometime Monday.


Blogger Sherry said...

the bread and the corn would make me very happy. the fish, well, it sounds great, probably looks and smells great but i'm not a fish person. when i was growing up and a catholic, my poppop would make me fried bread for lunch on fridays.
couln't hack fish even then.

i'm happy you had such a beautiful vacation and shared it. thank you.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Boxer rebel said...

That fish and dinner sounds like heaven to me. I am not much of a fisherman although I have never tried deep sea fishing, but for a haul that could become that, I think I could fish easily.

7:30 PM  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Twinings is a given--we're stateside.

4:08 PM  

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