Monday, March 24, 2014

TORO, or TUNA BELLY in my Belly!

The raw toro we brought home from Locals Seafood
TORO.....Just what is it?

We were curious, too.  It's cut from the tuna's belly, and in many instances, it's what's left over after the loins have been quickly sliced from the sides of the fish.  A tad expensive, at $24 a pound, what was this chunk of tuna meat cupped in leathery skin?

If it's a bluefin tuna, or even a bigeye, toro is considered a real delicacy, the "king" of sushi ingredients.  Very oily, it's high in fat.

And toro almost tastes like butter.. . . . delicate and soft, yet exploding with flavor.  "It's like foie gras of the sea," said my husband, tasting what he had "singed" on the grill.


Tuna Udon with Veggies and a Garlic, Ginger Soy Sauce
We were at LOCALS SEAFOOD in the upper building at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh to pick up my order of seafood for a cooking demo I was doing at Whisk Carolina.

The dry-packed scallops were just gorgeous, just the right size at 10 to 12 per pound.  The yellowfin tuna was firm, brilliant red, and smelled so fresh.  Winners, both, and great to show off recipes from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK.
Fresh yellowfin tuna steaks from the Outer Banks

As he packed up my order, Steve, their front man, talked about this dynamite toro he had blackened on the grill.   I knew of toro, but had never had the pleasure of tasting it.  "Look at this," he said, picking up a package of the firm, red fish with its stiff skin from the bed of ice.  He explained how he and a buddy had a beer while waiting for his piece of toro to cook on a very hot grill, and how although the skin had blackened, the flesh was tender and so succulent.  We were swayed, and brought a piece home.

Tuna are like torpedoes in the ocean.  They're also like the body builders you see showing off on the beach or lifeguard stands.  Exceptionally fast swimmers, they're efficient, and develop quite the muscles, which are the loins that are harvested from the whole fish.  It's fascinating to watch them first skinned, then cut into by the quick work of the pros at fish cleaning stations.  
Tuna being cleaned at Oden's Dock on Hatteras Island

I love yellowfin tuna, caught out in the Gulf Stream just off Cape Hatteras, barely seared on both sides, dressed with a ginger soy sauce and sesame seeds.  For my cooking demo, I was preparing seared tuna with udon noodles and brightly colored veggies, with a garlic and ginger soy sauce.


My Steve also got the grill going at a fairly high heat, then placed the tuna skin side down, as the other Steve had suggested, and seasoned the flesh with salt and pepper and just a touch of freshly squeezed lemon.  He took it up to about 140 degrees on an instant read thermometer, when the flesh became flaky and the skin a golden color, not blackened. We decided to take it off and dive in.

Our toro after cooking
Steve took his filet knife and sorta scraped it off the skin, avoiding the strong tendon-like bloodline running down the middle, where the two sides must have joined.

We took tentative bites, then more, then sorta drew lines on the plate separating our shares, because oh my, it is truly is like butter, with such a delicate flavor and texture.  We ate it by the forkfuls, although  I could see placing a flake on a delicate wafer cracker, or perhaps naan bread, with champagne or bubbly prosecco.

And sushi?  Yes, indeed, especially when you can get toro so fresh, as Locals Seafood does.