Thursday, June 6, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Tonno alla Griglia - Grilled Tuna Steaks or Chicken Breast

Tomorrow is Friday.
It's a good time to prepare Carmela's final fish recipe.

The recipe for Tonno alla Griglia - Tuna Steaks with Lemon and Oreganois in 
Tony's chapter Grilling - Italian Style in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.
Yes, I know it's not Lent, but fish is good for you.
And this is another recipe for the barbecue.

I must have eaten a hundred times my weight in canned tuna.
Lunches at Catholic schools - elementary and high - and packed lunches for work must have accounted for quite a few dead tuna.
But tuna steak?
Hmmm… to be honest I've never seen a tuna steak.
Time to pay another visit to the butcher/fish monger at my local market.
He gets a laugh when I ask for some of Carmela's more exotic ingredients.
Trust me, tuna steak is exotic for a shop in the north end of Winnipeg.

Yes, he got a laugh out of this one, too.
I should take pleasure in knowing I make him laugh.
I should, but I don't.

After he stopped laughing he told me all about tuna.
Tuna isn't in danger of becoming extinct, as the swordfish is.
But somehow fishing for tuna got tied in with the whaling industry.
And dolphins.
Tuna swim with dolphins for protection against sharks.
Yes, Flipper can hold his own against a shark.
Who knew?
Tuna are caught by using nets, which also catches the dolphins.
There have been some improvements, but it's not perfect.
The improvements are putting sharks, other oceanic fish and turtles at risk.
Did the nuns know how much trouble was caused by telling us to eat tuna?

Tuna is an oily large fish, just like mackerel and swordfish.
So, yes tuna steaks will grill well… if you can find them.

Tuna can be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and of protein.
But, just like swordfish, it has high levels of mercury, especially in the larger tuna.
Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children should limit their intake of tuna.
Guidelines recommend one 6 oz. can of light tuna a week for those weighing less than 110 pounds and two cans a week for those who weigh more.
Did the nuns know we were slowly poisoning ourselves?

According to a report in 2008, the levels of mercury in some sushi tuna are "so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market."
The Japanese are gonna drop like flies along with us dumb Catholics.

About the more familiar canned tuna...
Canned tuna was first produced in 1903, and quickly became popular.
In North America, on average, 52% of canned tuna is used for sandwiches.
No kidding.
Also, 22% is used for salads; and 15% go into casseroles.
Some common canning methods destroy much of the omega-3 oils, so the level of omega-3 oils found in canned is highly variable.
Great, the damn tuna fish sandwiches wouldn't protect me from a heart attack.

Shrimp has low levels of mercury.
It is considered heart healthy because it doesn't have much saturated fat.
Shrimp's cholesterol improves the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol.
And shrimp also lowers triglycerides.
Why didn't the nuns tell us to eat more shrimp?

If someone died of mercury poisoning caused by eating tuna fish sandwiches every Friday, like a good Catholic should, would the Pope make that person a saint?

Back to this recipe…
The butcher didn't have any tuna steaks.
Big surprise there.
He suggested using skinless, boneless chicken breast.
Which is always available.
Okay, then… I'm back to grilling chicken breast.
Chicken breast doesn't have mercury and is also heart healthy.
Why didn't the nuns tell us to eat chicken breast on Friday?


The pan should be 4 inches from the heat.

                        Tonno alla Griglia

Serves 4

Prepare a medium hot fire in a grill, either charcoal or gas.
Or preheat the gas grill or broiler.

In a small bowl whisk together
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Generously brush with olive oil
4 tuna steaks, about 1 inch thick, trimmed
Season with
salt and pepper to taste

Grill the tuna, turning once, until browned, but still pink inside, about 5 minutes.
Give the lemon juice mixture a quick whisk and pour it over the tuna.
Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Would I make Tonno alla Griglia again?
Sure, using chicken breast.
It tasted fine with the lemon and oregano.
Chicken breast worked for the Rollatine di Pesce Spada.
I've eaten quite enough mercury as it is.

I really should look into what the sainthood requirements are.

One recipe down.  Three more to go.

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