Grilled Whole Mackerel with Ginger-Scallion Sauce

I like to tag along with my friend Bill when he goes about his Sunday routine, which always includes a trip to the Hollywood Farmers' Market, a wine tasting at Domaine, and a visit to Cape Seafood and Provisions. My favorite part of the day is when we go to Cape Seafood because of the element of surprise that's involved–we never know what we'll come out with or what we'll do with it. As a creature of habit, it's especially fun to go with Bill because he has a knack for coming up with the most spontaneous and creative ideas. In the past, we've made paella, halibut marinara, grilled squid salad, and gambas a la plancha, for example

Last Sunday, we did our brainstorming aloud as we perused the shimmering wild-caught gems behind the glass case, but couldn't agree on the Dover sole or Atlantic cod. What to do, what to do...

"How about mackerel?" Bill suggested.

Mackerel? Mackerel is such a strong-tasting, oily fish. Unlike milder, white-fleshed fish–or tuna and salmon–mackerel was an unlikely choice, to be sure, but I was intrigued. What could we possibly do with it, I wondered. 

"We could grill it..." he said, trailing off with raised eyebrows.

Hmm... Asian cuisine... Japanese! Chinese! It was starting to come to me. We could incorporate stronger flavors that can stand up to the mackerel's pronounced flavor... Like ginger... And garlic!

"Yes!" I said excitedly. "We could make a ginger-scallion sauce! And rice! It's gonna be perfect!"

This dinner took us no time to pull together. In fact, the thing that took the longest to cook was the rice. If rice is the most difficult part of your meal, you know that you're good to go. 


1 whole mackerel, preferably wild-caught, scaled and gutted
1 cup of uncooked jasmine or basmati rice
1 small knob of fresh ginger, approximately 1.5 inches long, peeled
2 stalks of scallions
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Soy sauce, to taste
Sherry or rice vinegar, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grapeseed oil or another neutral oil (if you only have olive oil, that's fine)

--

1. Cook rice according to instructions. (Bill adds a pat of butter to his.)

2. Preheat your BBQ grill.

3. Finely mince ginger, scallions, and garlic by hand or in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl. 

4. Start by adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt at a time to the chopped aromatics and incorporate evenly. Stir and taste. It should taste salty. 

5. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl–except for the oil–starting with 1/2 teaspoon each. Then, slowly pour the oil into the bowl until it just covers the ingredients. Stir to incorporate evenly. Season to taste and set aside.

6. Cut a few deep slits into both sides of the fish. Mackerel is already very oily, but feel free to lightly coat it evenly with oil to prevent it from sticking to the grill. Season lightly with salt and pepper. 

7. Grill the fish for 7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. The skin should start to char and crisp up. Be careful not to overcook as mackerel has a tendency to dry out.

8. Serve with cooked rice and ginger-scallion sauce on the side. (The ginger-scallion sauce is tasty on both the fish and the rice.)

 

A Very #singlegirldinner Christmas

It was the evening of Christmas Day. I stood in front of a graffiti'ed door in Alphabet City with a bottle of Prosecco, a bottle of red wine, and a plastic bag containing crispy roast pork and BBQ ribs that I had just picked up in Chinatown. Chinese food and Christmas—it was ironic, I'll admit, but also festive and strangely apropos. Tyann's apartment was this year's urban orphanage, a place for us city stragglers to congregate. There was no buzzer so I had to call. "Hiii! I'm here!" I said into my iPhone, dancing around a little bit to keep warm. "OK, I'm coming down!" the voice responded. Ah. Kim.

Upstairs, there was a nest of activity. Tyann was flitting around the kitchen, preparing two beautiful red snappers and a sea bass to be roasted. (Tyann, and only Tyann, can pull off making dinner in a green velvet Peter Pilotti dress with no apron.) Charlotte and Preston were overseeing Spotify and YouTube with red plastic cups in hand. "Can we change this song?" said our hostess, while in full concentration on dressing the fish. Kim poured me my own red plastic cup of chilled white wine. "I had an open bottle in my fridge and decided to bring it over," she said. 

Happy holidays. Welcome to a very non-traditional #singlegirldinner Christmas, where Tito's Handmade Vodka is welcomed as though it were a bottle of Dom Perignon and vegan pumpkin pie replaces bûche de Noël as dessert. (And also where a bundt cake pan is just as good as fancy china, as seen in the pic above.) It's a gathering for those whose significant others are away with their family, those who are stuck in the city because of work, those who have a family but not really, those who are in "it's complicated" relationships, those who really are single, and those whose idea of Christmas is just being merry with good people.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

 

NOM WAH TEA PARLOR
13 Doyers Street nr. Bowery Street
212.962.604


Tucked in the crook of curvy-swervy Doyers Street, untouched by time, is Chinatown's longest surviving dim sum joint: Nom Wah Tea Parlor. Dim sum for dinner? Now there's an idea! The kitchen is manned with experienced chefs who dole out plump shrimp and pork-stuffed sui mai, glistening rice noodle rolls, and juicy shrimp-wrapped fried crab claws. The real treat is chatting with the owner, Wilson Tang, who is always smiling and makes you feel at home. He chooses all of the restaurant's wine selections and recently told me about an Asian pear wine that I'm dying to try. If you're having a tête-à-tête, there's a table for two placed in a semi-secluded window nook by itself that's suited for swapping secrets. 

Kelley & Ping

KELLY & PING

127 Greene Street bet. Houston & Prince Streets
212.228.1212


Kelley & Ping serves Pan-Asian fare on a cobblestoned street in SoHo--not in the gritty alleyways of Chinatown, so don't expect 100% authenticity. But there are still plenty of reasons to dine here: the atmosphere is stylish and lofty, the menu features a nice variety of curries, noodle soups, and small bites, and the prices are decent. Just order at the counter and pick a seat.

As a plus, it was featured in one of my favorite scenes in Great Expectations: Finn finds Estella's table and asks her to dance. The two start slow-dancing in the middle of the restaurant, then rush out the door into the rain, and start kissing. By the way, in this scene, Estella (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is wearing a Donna Karan evening dress while Chinese lacquered roast ducks are hanging on hooks in the open kitchen. I mean, how amazing is that?