MAKE THIS RECIPE RESPONSIBLY, OR NOT AT ALL
I haven’t eaten tuna for almost 10 years. Except one time in Hawaii when/where it was responsible. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or conveniently turning a blind eye, you should know exactly what I’m talking about.
It is estimated that by 2050, a large number of species of wild fish, tuna especially, will be gone. That statement was made more than a decade ago. It still stands. Are we better than locusts? The question is, are we worse?
So why am I, a hypocrite on all accounts, posting a recipe that involves tuna? Because I see it now no longer as a question. But instead, an opportunity.
I first came across the inspiration of a “tuna-sando sauce” from an espisode of Mind of A Chef on Gabrielle Hamilton, where she made the Italian dish maiale tonnato, thinly sliced pork served with a mayonnaise-based sauce flavored with canned tuna. I was instantly intrigued. It was one of those instances where, without actually tasting something, I felt certain about its sublimity, the velvety texture of a sauce that is the sum of all that is awesome about a tuna sandwich but minus the bread and the gritty mouth-feel, the silky-smooth grown-up twin of a childhood favorite, the 2.0 of that inexplicably enticing flavor that have satisfied all palates across the world. Plus served with pork? I knew it’d work. It’s genius. Especially, in my imagination, with a thick-cut slab of marbled pork chop that is deeply and glisteningly caramelized in browned butter infused with fresh bay leaves and garlics. I die.
So I spent two years, diligently, not making it.
After all, I’ve been celebrating my tuna-sobriety for a decade. Not even a piece of hard-core, fat-laden toro could break me let alone this soft porn. So I guess, that rounds us back again to why do it now. The answer is simple. Because I realized me not eating or writing about tuna is as helpful as a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. The world simply doesn’t care that I quietly don’t eat tuna. Over the years, I still see tuna sashimi continuously flying off of the rack from my supermarkets. I still witnessed the rise of tuna poke-bowls walked through walls of social responsibility without a drop of effort or tear. I still have friends who, I’m not sure whether intentionally or helplessly, order tuna again and again at gatherings despite my rejection. I’d be lucky not to get a lecture from them let alone changing their minds.
I realized, thing is, no one can stop the world from eating tuna. The world does not deal in the absolute, but only in compromise. If anything, one can only possibly hope that it’s consumed responsibly.
So I’m taking this post as a chance to say this. If you cannot not eat tuna, at least, make sure that it’s from a sustainable source. And if you can’t be sure, then seriously, don’t do it. It’s just fucking tuna, not a limb or dick. It isn’t all that hard to cut loose.
I dragged for two weeks before posting this recipe, because even with all the precautions taken to buy the tuna from a sustainable source or to talk to you about it, this could still be considered, on some level, a promotion to eat tuna. And there’s no way for me to be sure that nobody who loves the idea of a sauce that tastes like tuna sandwich as much as me, wouldn’t just grab a dubiously sourced can from their local grocery stores. So if that happens, it’s on me. Yet, so what if I don’t post this? Just a bleep of silence, one less tuna recipe out of a million and that’s supposed to be heard, let alone make a change?
So I chose to post it. Not only it’s an opportunity to speak to those who come here to decide what’s for dinner, but also, as a member of the food-blog community which touches this subject all too rarely, it’s an opportunity to remind us all again that, not just our actions but more so, how our inactions matter. Maybe you’re a food-blogger like me who’s never posted a tuna-recipe before. Or, maybe you’ve posted recipes of tuna because it’s a popular ingredient, maybe you know about the issue of overfishing and maybe you choose not to mention it, either because it’s off-putting or that you’re scared it will give your readers an incentive not to share it, and maybe, that will hurt your traffic and followers, or maybe, you just don’t give a shit. We’ve all been there. We all still do it.
But our maybe’s are deadlier than a nuclear bomb. Because it will play a part in rendering the ocean fishless. You think North Korea is scary. We should see what’s on our plates.
Look, am I a hypocrite? Sure I am, I’m no vegan. But not being able to do 100% is no excuse to do zero. Even a hypocrite can do the right thing. Starting with, we should at least give a fuck.
This recipe is good. Really good. And if you have the faintest hope to enjoy it for years to come, make this recipe responsibly. Or not at all.
- one 200 grams canned tuna in oil, from a sustainable source or else forget it
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tbsp whole milk
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp store-bought mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp drained capers
- 1 small shallot, peeled and roughly cut
- 1 fillet of anchovy
- 1/2 tsp fish sauce, plus more to adjust
- 1/4 tsp light brown sugar
- two 2 1/2" (6 cm) thick-cut boneless pork chops
- sea salt and ground black pepper to season
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 fresh bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- marinated green olives to serve
- MAKE TUNA-SANDO SAUCE: Drain the oil from the canned tuna into a 1/2 cup measuring cup. You'll probably have about 2 tbsp of it, then add however much canola oil that's needed to make up to 1/4 cup, set aside. In a blender, add egg yolk, whole milk, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, white and black pepper. Close the lid and turn the blender on (use the low-speed setting if available). Through the feeding hole on the lid, slowly drizzle in the tuna oil into the blender to form an emulsion. The mixture will likely splatter through the feeding hole, so I like to hold a towel around it to keep it as contained as possible. Afterward, scrape down the sides of the blender. You'll have a mixture resembling a very loose mayonnaise.
- Now add the reserved tuna, store-bought mayonnaise, drained capers, shallot, anchovy, fish sauce and light brown sugar, and blend on high until the sauce is extremely smooth and silky. You can make the sauce ahead of time, kept in an air-tight container in the fridge. Before serving, I'd like to run it in the blender again to bring it back to room-temperature (friction creates heat).
- MAKE PORK CHOPS: With a sharp knife, split the pork chop horizontally right through the middle, leaving only a thin strip attached at the end so you can open it up like a book. Season sparingly with sea salt and black pepper, set aside.
- Heat a large, flat skillet (that will fit both pork chops comfortably) over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and 1/2 of the unsalted butter (the skillet should be hot enough that the butter sizzles immediately), then add the pork chops, and scatter the fresh bay leaves and garlics around. DO NOT MOVE THE PORK CHOPS, instead, swirl the skillet and move the bay leaves and garlics around to distribute the fat around the pork chops. When you see that the bay leaves and garlics have become crispy and browned, remove from the skillet and set aside. With a large spoon, periodically spoon the fat over the chops, and cook until the first side is deeply caramelized. Now turn the pork chops over, and add the rest of the unsalted butter. With the same motion, cook until the second side is deeply caramelzed as well. This should leave the center of the chops still slightly pink. Remove the pork chops from the skillet and let rest for 6 min.
- Serve the pork chops garnished with the crispy bay leaves and garlics, and a generous dousing of the tuna-sando sauce. I like to dust it with chili flakes as well. A few marinated green olives cuts through the richness nicely.
I used Marks & Spencer, certified sustainable canned tuna in oil.
I couldn't find a thick-cut pork chop that day so I used a pork-shoulder steak instead. Either one works, but the pork shoulder has more fat-marbles, which isn't a bad thing.