One of the greatest seafood to serve on a special occasion is fish like salmon or something with a strong taste like trout. However, there is one fish that is starting to become increasingly popular among consumers, especially if you like a bold statement and a reasonable price.
We are not saying that one fish is better when compared to others because taste is a subjective thing. But while exotic species like salmon, with its creamy textured flesh and intense flavor, is becoming a common sight, which has almost lost its appeal, the pale-hued, yet gentle-tasting and affordable mackerel is often cast aside, for no good reason.
The Underdog Is Changing Its Status
This may be because mackerel has somewhat of a fishy reputation. The fish, even though it is abundant in omega-3 oils, good for your heart and liver, can turn unpleasantly smelly, mainly if not consumed soon after you just got it from the market.
Over the decades, this was problematic for most mackerel cooks, not only for those situated far away from the sea. These days, however, you don’t have to eat sketchy meat or to add a ton of vinegar to hide the expired smell of the fish. Why? Because the refrigerator was invented meanwhile.
And now, much of the meat we consume, not only fish but sometimes lamb and cow meat as well, is frozen to preserve it without the aid of salt or chemicals.
Sustainability Is the Key
Mackerel is a type of saltwater fish, which belongs to the same family as tuna. The mackerel’s flesh is a darker pinkish hue, while its scales are tiger-striped and shimmering, with blue undertones. And what’s important to the buyer, is that it runs pretty cheap. Other names for this particular fish include caballa or saba.
When it comes to sustainability, experts say that it is a fast-replenishing fish. This means it takes around three years for it to reach breeding maturity in the wild. Moreover, it is almost always in season, that’s why it can be found throughout the year in most markets.
They’re usually caught using a purse seine system, which sounds complicated, but it is actually a set of nets dropped by the fishermen once a large population is located via echolocation. Furthermore, this method is eco-friendly, and it doesn’t impact the ocean and its deeper layers.
What Does It Taste Like?
Mackerel is a wonderful fish because the way you prepare it profoundly influences its taste. But in its native state, it has a bold flavor, and people say it tastes like – not like chicken, but like salmon or tuna, which we already established it belongs to the same family. As a texture, it is firm, chewy and a bit oily.
Some cooks say that it has the real ocean taste, especially if it is fresh. It is not too salty, and it has a decent amount of bones. Furthermore, you can cook it in more than one way, without damaging its tenderness or its unique flavor.
Make Sure the Fish Is Fresh
First, before learning the ways one can prepare it, you need to ensure that you buy fresh mackerel as a guarantee that your dishes will turn out impeccably. If you aren’t sure the product you found on your local market of is fresh, then, as an alternative, you can buy canned fish, or you can go on an adventure and fish it yourself with the help of a premium fishing rod and reel.
One good sign is the smell. Although it sounds weird, smell the fish before you buy it. See if it has a rotten vibe to it, and if it does, you’d better consider buying from another source. It should smell like the ocean – salty and of seaweed. No smell is a bad thing too, as that means the fish has been frozen for too long.
The fresher it is, experts believe, the more you get from that fantastic ocean taste. If you do have the stomach for it, you can act like a chef and ask the seller for a sample to get a taste of what you’re spending your money on. You could as well check out the skin, to make sure it is not brown and dry – if it is intact, then you know it was caught with a high-quality saltwater spinning rod.
How to Prepare It
Any type of recipe calling for salmon fillets can be easily adapted to mackerel. Like other fish in its family, mackerel is quickly prepared with a simple treatment to allow the flavor of the ocean to come through for your delight. Add a drizzle of oil on the thin fillets, a sprinkle of sea salt, a squeeze of lime and you have your dinner.
But it can also be part of more elaborate recipes, not just for sushi or salads. It is a versatile fish that can surprise even an experienced cook, so let’s learn in detail about the ways you can prepare it.
As we previously mentioned, filleting is the most popular way of preparing the fish. Cut an angle behind the head of the fish as you would do with any kind of fish. Then cut down the lateral line, for easy access. However, you should be careful not to cut its stomach or intestines as you slice down since you could spill their contents.
Cut across the fish with confidence, along its spine to avoid wasting any meat. Remember, after you finished slicing it, to remove the ribs and spine from the meat. Double check for any leftover bones, as those can be a potential health hazard.
Salt the pieces with quality salt, then leave them to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so. Some people dip the fillets in milk, then sprinkle them with seasoning. Another traditional way of cooking it is to use a mixture of eggs and flour. Don’t remove the skin, as it is edible and it also adds a silky texture to the fresh. You can then fry the fillets or put them on the grill. The choice is yours.
Sashimi and Sushi
With its firm, Omega 3 rich flesh and creamy flavor, mackerel is a perfect species of fish for sashimi. And to prepare it, all you have to do is cut it into small strips after you followed the same steps for the fillets.
The intense flavors act as a wonderful compliment to the famous Japanese sauces while providing a myriad of health benefits at the same time. And sashimi is the best way to incorporate the fish into your diet, to take advantage of those benefits.
If you are a Japanese cuisine enthusiast, you can also use the same strips of tender meat to make sushi. There are hundreds of ways of creating the artful sushi pieces, and mackerel is just as tasty as tuna or salmon in combination with freshly steamed rice.
Marinated King Mackerel Steaks
For this tasty recipe, you are going to need six king mackerel steaks, 1/4 cup of orange juice and one of soy sauce, fresh parsley, two tablespoons of vegetable oil and lemon juice, one tablespoon of catsup and one of oregano. Additionally, you can add a clove of garlic.
The first step to cooking this recipe is to rinse the fish thoroughly in cold or mildly warm water. Then pat the pieces dry, and place them in a large but shallow container. Combine the orange juice with the soy and the rest of the ingredients. Pour the mix over the fish and let it marinate for 30 minutes.
Lastly, remove the steaks from the marinade and place them on a greased rack in a broiler. Heat it up and turn the steaks once they’re done. Test them with a fork to see if they are done and serve immediately with a side of salad.
Mackerel Thai Style
Here is another delicious recipe that brings the taste of Asia to your table. All you need is twelve mackerel fillets and twelve limes, one red pepper, lemongrass and three teaspoons of palm sugar. You can as well add some fresh ginger if you want it to be spicier.
Then cut and carefully extract the juice of the twelve limes. Finely chop the pepper and the lemongrass then add them to the lime juice, grate the ginger and stir. Now you can add the sugar. Place your fresh mackerel fillets in the marinade and leave for twelve hours. You can eat it raw, or cut it down and mix it with a salad, or you could put it on the grill.
A beverage that goes well with this dish is white wine, but make sure you go for a quality one, as the cheap taste of a poor choice could ruin the entire meal. Some suggest that sake would be a better choice, but it can be quite hard to find outside of Japan and the big cities.