This recipe came out of necessity: to preserve tuna a friend brought me that no one ever thought he would catch. Plus, I liked the idea of putting something other than smoked salmon on my bagel in the morning. There are two things you need to know before cooking this bacon. First, you are cold smoking this fish—applying smoke flavor but not looking to cook the fish at all—so be mindful of your smoker temperature. Second, the tuna you buy should be part of the loin that is closest to the head. Tuna is a fast, strong fish with a lot of muscle and very little fat. Any fat it has is closer to the head. Now, tuna does have a belly, but I don’t use it for this bacon. I take my fillets, apply a little smoke, et voilà: tuna bacon!
Whisk together the cold stock, mirin, and soy sauce in a large bowl. Put the tuna steaks in a gallon-size zip-top bag, pour in the brine, press out all of the air, and seal tightly. Place the bag in a container to hold it in case it leaks and refrigerate for 48 hours.
Remove the tuna from the brine, rinse well in a colander with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours, turning it over once.
Combine the bacon bits and pepper in a food processor and process until fine crumbs. Dump the mixture onto a large rimmed plate and spread to cover the surface.
Brush each steak lightly on the top, bottom, and sides with some of the oil. Coat the steaks on all sides with the bacon mixture, pressing down to ensure that the coating sticks. Transfer the steaks to a clean wire rack.
Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions for cold smoking. Add the wood chips to the coals. Fill a shallow pan with ice and lay the wire rack with the tuna over the iced-filled pan. Place the pan directly on the grill grate opposite the coals (indirect heat). Smoke the tuna for 1 hour, replenishing the ice in the pan as needed so the smoker temperature never rises above 110°F (43°C).
Remove the tuna bacon and serve immediately or refrigerate covered in plastic wrap for up to 3 days.
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