Roasted Spanish Mackerel

20130815-200613.jpgI am a huge fan of roasting as a cooking method, but for some reason, I’ve had a mental block about roasting a whole fish. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it’s the head? Yes, most likely, it’s the head. And the bones. I mean, I know how to carve a chicken, but a fish? Uncharted waters, my friends.

Recently, though, I read a post from Locals Seafood about roasting fish that compared it to roasting a chicken in terms of ease and deliciousness. And during our trip to France, where fish is commonly served roasted and whole, we learned firsthand how delicious and moist it can be. So why not give it a try?

This recipe is for roasted whole Spanish mackerel, a sustainable fish commonly caught in North Carolina waters. You can substitute any medium sized fish for this recipe though. It is very simple and incredibly delicious. Stuffing the fish with fresh fennel, onion and citrus gave the fish a nice flavor and made the house smell AMAZING.

How was the experience? Actually, very good! Roasting the fish could not have been easier and the resulting dinner was moist and flavorful. Carving the fish was a little stressful for me, but thankfully Tom fishes frequently and his tips were all I needed to get two large and (mostly) boneless fillets. In the end, a whole fish is also a LOT less expensive than buying fillets–a big plus on our budget!

As for the fish head? Well, that is where our cat, Cosmo, comes in. He was in cat heaven. Yes, kinda gross, but at least it didn’t go waste. You can always ask your seafood person to remove the head for you, if it bothers you–you can also use the head and bones to make a fish stock.

I give this experiment a thumbs up, and we will definitely try it again with other varieties of fish and other types of seasoning. It’s great to expand your horizons and try something new!

Roasted Spanish Mackerel (servings will depend on the size of your fish–we had two servings from one fish)

  • 1 whole Spanish mackerel (about 2 lbs. total)
  • 1/2 bulb of fresh fennel
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 small lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (optional, but it does make cleanup easier).
  3. Place the fish on the baking sheet. Salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. Stuff the cavity with onion, lemon and fennel (as much as will fit).
  4. Rub the outside of the fish with the olive oil (both sides). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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  1. Roast the fish for 30 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flaky. The timing here will depend on the size of your fish. A larger fish may take up to 45 minutes.
  2. To carve the fish, remove the head and tail and reserve the head for stock (or a lucky kitty). Using a very sharp knife, start at the head end of the fish, insert the knife just above the spine of the fish and run the knife all the way to the tail. Remove the top fillet.

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  1. You should see the fish skeleton (see photo). You should be able to pick up the backbone at one end of the fish and remove the skeleton in one piece (this will be of endless coolness if you have small children).
  2. Trim the remaining bottom fillet and plate.
  3. Serve immediately.
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Fish with Fennel and Tomato

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This is an oldie, but a goodie! Just made this again this weekend and was reminded of how wonderful I few simple ingredients can be!

Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

This recipe may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and parsley and thyme from our garden, this is a quick, summertime winner. If you want to grill your fish, you could do that and make the sauce in a separate dish–easy!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (we used local Spanish Mackerel)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I pan seared ours, but grilling would be great also).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…

Fresh Drum Fish with Cherry Tomatoes

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We have the most amazing Sun Gold cherry tomatoes this week from Wild Onion Organic Farm. They are by far the best we have had all summer–soooo full of flavor! In fact, they are my snack at work because I cannot stop eating them.

I found some lovely, fresh Red Drum fillets from Locals Seafood on Wednesday and made this Italian dish last night. Red Drum is a local fish that has a very mild flavor–perfect with our tart sun gold tomatoes! This dish is perfect for summer–quick, easy and light. We thought it was pretty spectacular, but make this only if you have fresh cherry tomatoes. If you don’t have good tomatoes, make something else because the flavor of the dish really depends on them. We served this with local potatoes and green beans that we boiled together and tossed with the final cubes of last summer’s basil pesto. Locavore summer magic! Enjoy!

Fish with Cherry Tomatoes (serves 2)

  • 2 fish fillets (any mild fish would be good here), preferably skin on
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1pint good quality cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  1. Add olive oil to a saute pan that is big enough to handle the fish. Heat to medium low.
  2. Add the whole garlic cloves and saute for about 3 minutes, just to infuse the olive oil. Remove cloves.
  3. Turn heat up to medium high. Sprinkle salt and pepper on fish fillets.
  4. Add fillets to the oil and cover pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Do not turn the fish.
  5. Remove lid and add the white wine and tomatoes. Cover and cook until the fish is flaky and cooked through (unless you are using a very thick fish like tuna, this will probably be another 2-3 minutes).
  6. Remove from heat, add chopped parsley and serve.

Chili Dusted Salmon with Fig Glaze

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Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

Here’s the deal. I’m on a mission to find creative ways to use some of the preserves, jams, salsas and pickles we put up last summer. Sure, sure, homemade jam on fresh bread or on a toasted bagel is hard to top. And tomato salsa is great on almost anything. But now that I’m past my “Oh my gosh, we’re going to run out of food!” craziness, I can relax and have fun with what we created. Like this dish. Have you ever eaten salmon with figs? I hadn’t, but I will again!

I was in Whole Foods buying turmeric capsules (more on that later) and tried a sample of a salmon dish. It was so good! Sweet and spicy, but with lots of nice salmon flavor. Wouldn’t I like to buy their special Whole Foods spicy rub? Or some gourmet fig preserves? Or salmon? I started to consider it (I am such a sucker), when I had a revelation. I had ALL of those things in my house already! Yay for me! Out of Whole Foods without spending more than I needed to AND a great idea for supper 🙂

This dish is super, super easy. If you can turn on your broiler, you can make this. We used a large, wild caught, American salmon filet. It was ginormous. You could do this with salmon steaks as well–you’ll need to adjust the cooking time, but otherwise it’s all the same. We even used the rest of our homemade Cajun seasoning from our Family Gras jambalaya, but you could use store-bought as well.

Chili Dusted Salmon with Fig Glaze (4 servings)

  • 1 large, wild caught salmon fillet about 1-1 1/2″ thick (or you could do 2 smaller fillets)
  • 1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning (see recipe HERE)
  • 3/4 cup of Sticky Fig Jam (see recipe HERE) or store bought fig preserves
  1. Bring salmon fillet or steaks to room temperature.
  2. Line a broiler pan with foil and turn your broiler to high. Adjust your oven rack to allow 3-4 inches between your broiler and the fish.
  3. Dust the salmon liberally with the spice mixture and put fish on the broiler pan.
  4. Broil the salmon for 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
  5. Cover the salmon with the fig preserves and broil for 2 minutes more. Watch and make sure the figs don’t scorch.
  6. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

We served our fish with vegetarian collard greens. For the first time, I made collards without any bacon or meat and they were pretty fabulous.

Collard recipe to come tomorrow!

 

Fish with Tomato and Fennel

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Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

I found this recipe today in the New York Times and it may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and some organic olives and capers, I think this will be a winner. When we canned and froze tomatoes over the summer, I envisioned being able to coax a bit of summer in the dead of winter and this may do just the trick. For Tom, I will leave off the olives (actually, I will add them to my plate :-)) so we can both be happy. Will post photos of the final product!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (I’m using NC striped bass)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I will pan sear these babies).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…
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