Serve Head On, Grilled Spanish Mackerel Recipe from Fire it Up

Amongst my first memories of fish is that of the fishy smell a neighbor who worked at the fish market in Lorient brought back home with him.

Not sure why it came to mind when I got ready to share a mackerel recipe from Fire it Up (Chronicle Books, April 2011) by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim.

Spanish Mackerel Grilled with Apple and Beets

Mackerel are not just about bling, although their ostentatious turquoise-blue-black-silver skin might lead you to believe otherwise. (The French word for mackerel, macquereau, also means “pimp”). The proof is on the plate. Mackerel flesh is sweet, and so rich in omega-3 fatty acids that it is difficult to ruin by overcooking. The skin is sleek and completely edible once scaled. So why is mackerel so cheap? For one thing, it is highly perishable, and it is important to buy mackerel as fresh as possible. More then two days out of the sea, and it becomes decidedly stinky, so only purchase mackerel that smells clean and fresh. And then cook it right away. Spanish mackerels run in size from about 7 ounces (mackerel pike) to 2 pounds or so. This recipe is designed for bigger fish, which are easier to stuff. The heartiness of the beet and apple stuffing stands up well to the richness of mackerel, and the contrast of magenta beets and blue-black fish skin is stunning.

Makes 4 servings

2 Spanish mackerel (about 2 pounds each), scaled and cleaned, with gills removed

2 1/4 cups Fennel Brine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 medium beets, roasted, boiled, grilled, or canned; finely chopped

1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill or fennel fronds

3 tablespoons fresh goat cheese

1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Spanish Mackerel (2)

Rinse the fish and put in a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag with the brine, press out the air, and seal the bag. Refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours.

To make the stuffing, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the beets and apple and sauté until the apple is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and dill and heat through, about 1 minute. Cool the mixture to room temperature and stir in the goat cheese.

Meanwhile light a grill for direct medium heat, about 375°F.

Remove the fish from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine. Stuff the cavities of the fish with the cooled beet and apple mixture and secure with string, if needed.

Brush the grill grate and coat with oil.

Grill the fish until the skin is crisp and the fish looks opaque on the surface, but is still filmy and moist in the middle (130ºF on an instant-read thermometer), 5 to 7 minutes per side. Remove the fish to a serving platter and serve with the lime wedges.

Fennel Brine

Best with chicken, turkey, veal, pork, shellfish, fish, vegetables

Makes about 2 1/4 cups

2 tablespoons coarse salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1/4 cup vodka

1 3/4 cups cold water

I previously shared Skewered and Grilled, Banana Satay Recipe from same book.

(* Recipe from Fire it Up (Chronicle Books, April 2011) by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim, reproduced by permission of the publisher, photo by Alison Miksch)

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