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.)