Sushi. Tuna sushi.

I’m just going to come out and say it. We caught a bluefin tuna.

I use the term “caught” loosely. We reeled the fish in, but that never would have happened without the kindness — not to mention expertise and equipment — of strangers. There’s a story about catching that tuna, and it involves new friends, exciting adventure, and whales. I’m going to tell you all about it in the next day or two. Meantime, I’m going to throw chronology to the winds and tell you first about the tuna sushi we’ve been eating.

We caught the tuna yesterday. All the way home, we talked about what to do with such an embarrassment of fish riches. Yes, we’d need some seared steaks, but what else?

You can’t be driving home with some fifteen pounds of hours-old bluefin tuna on ice without thinking sushi. There would have to be sushi.

Anyone who knows the first thing about microbiology knows you’re not supposed to eat fish raw without first freezing it. All fish, even the ones fresh out of the ocean, carry parasites, and some of those parasites can make humans very sick. Most of those parasites don’t survive below 32 degrees, and so all the responsible authorities recommend, in the strongest terms, freezing all fish before you make it into sushi.

We don’t have a flash freezer, and we couldn’t bring ourselves to compromise the texture and flavor of this pristine fish. (Did I mention that we caught it ourselves?) So we said to hell with the responsible authorities. We’d risk it and sushify some of our tuna.

The elderly, along with infants and those with compromised immune systems, are most strongly advised to avoid risky food, but we knew my parents feel just about the same as we do when it comes to responsible authorities, so we invited them over. Besides, they’re not that elderly.

Neither Kevin nor I has ever made sushi before, and we didn’t expect to get complex techniques, techniques that sushi chefs make careers out of perfecting, right in a night. We were aiming for a reasonable approximation.

Sushi rice is easy enough, and I made a batch of it. Kevin sliced tuna from both the belly and the body of the tuna. We made sashimi, we made sushi, and I made a spicy tuna roll with the scraps. (I didn’t have one of those bamboo mats you roll sushi with, so I used a silicone baking liner instead.) Kevin broke out the blowtorch, and seared the top of some of the sushi.

Stylistically, it would undoubtedly have gotten us kicked out of sushi school. The slices were uneven, the rice was clumpy, the rolls were loose. But damned if it wasn’t the best sushi we’d ever had.

The thing about catching your own food is that you’re never sure just why it tastes better than other food. Was this meal better because we were eating tuna that was impeccably fresh, handled correctly, and never frozen, or was it simply because – did I mention this? – we caught it ourselves.

We had it again, tonight.

Kevin and I have eaten in some of the best restaurants in the world. We have friends who are wonderful cooks, and have invited us to share many extraordinary meals . We’re not so bad ourselves, and we eat well at home. But I can’t remember ever feeling so fortunate as I did, standing at my kitchen table crowded with dishes and condiments and rice and this beautiful fish, eating lopsided sushi we made from a tuna we caught ourselves.

Well, a tuna we reeled in ourselves. The actual catching is another story, and it is forthcoming.

13 people are having a conversation about “Sushi. Tuna sushi.

  1. Tuna is one of those fish at the sushi restaurant that Steve and I have been eschewing since we read they’re either getting overfished or the way they’re fished commercially is pretty ecologically irresponsible, I forget which, but I think that one tuna hauled in on a regular line is acceptable, more than acceptable, and I’m glad you guys got it and even gladder you had it as sushi and sashimi, because you know what?

    I really miss eating toro.

  2. I make sushi rolls fairly often, usually vegetarian. I’d probably die and go to heaven if I could make self-sourced toro maki. Your rolls look perfectly respectable to me, especially considering you were working without a bamboo rolling mat. Pick one of those up; they’re cheap, survive the dishwasher and they cause you to make sushi more often. My tip is to have a wide-mouthed glass or jar of water nearby to dunk your fingers before handling the rice. It’s so much easier with wet hands. Mmmm spicy tuna roll! Needless to say: jealous!

  3. Jocelyn — I hope you enjoyed your sushi as much as I did.

    Paula — Bluefin are in most fish organizations’ “Avoid” list, for both reasons you cited. They’re overfished, and there is reportedly significant bycatch when they’re fished commercially. The position I’ve taken on this is that recreational fishing is not the source of the problem, and not fishing recreationally will not be its solution. If fish are going to be taken responsibly, the pressure has to be on the commercial fisheries. All recreational fisheries are evaluated and regulated to try and ensure the viability of the population. We adhere scrupulously to those rules. How’s that for rationalizing?

    Kate — I am going to get a mat. Doing the rolls wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I think I might be able to do a respectable job, given the right tools. And I did figure out that wet hands were the key to handling the rice — only after I got covered in rice several times, of course. And, loose as it was, the spicy tuna roll was pretty outstanding.

    Aaron — Certainly, that’s part of it. Fish, though, are different from eggs. Fish flesh deteriorates notoriously quickly (both because of bacteria that convert a kind of fish antifreeze, TMAO, to the chemical compound TMA, responsible for the rotten fish smell and taste, and because of standard-issue oxidation). A fish that’s been out of the water for only a day probably does taste different from a fish that’s been out of the water for several. But I know full well how much the whole catch-it-yourself thing factors in. You won’t catch me discounting it.

  4. I’ve eaten my own caught fish raw, bass and halibut. Amazing. Glad you mentenioned the danger, then ate it anyways.

    Can’t wait for this fish story.

  5. I’d hate for you to think I only miss CC for culinary reasons…

    so talking about bluefin tuna is REALLY not advised:)

  6. Tuna (and a few select other seafoods) are exempt from the freezing rules. Woohoo! The reason being, tuna is very unlikely to harbor the parasites that can be found in other fish. In addition to flash freezing for 48 hours, freezing in a conventional freezer for 7 days is also acceptable. Not that it was needed with your tuna.

    Glad WaPo led me to your site; I want to be you when I grow up!

    • Saran — Thanks for the clarification. I’d read that tuna was relatively safe, and it’s good to have confirmation.

      As for being me when you grow up, I’d definitely aim higher if I were you! But if you’re interested in getting your own food, start small, wherever you are. Today, it’s a window box with herbs. Fast forward a couple of years, and you’ve got chickens, pigs, and goats. And overalls. You gotta have the overalls, or it doesn’t count.

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