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)

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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.)

 

Salmon & Shiitake Fried Rice

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You might not find salmon amongst popular forms of fried rice (chicken, pork, shrimp), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try. Usually, when I buy salmon, I'm on some sort of health kick and won't do much more than searing it in a pan with lemon juice and olive oil. This is certainly one way to give salmon a not-so-healthy but delicious "comfort food" makeover...


1 lb. of cooked salmon filet
1 container of shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 slices of fresh ginger, minced
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 bay leaf
3 or 4 cups of cooked rice
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

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1. Coat the surface of a large frying pan or wok and turn up to medium high heat. Add minced ginger and chopped garlic. Stir around with a wooden spatula until fragrant and golden. 

2. Add the cooked salmon filet and break into flakes with the wooden spatula. Mix well with garlic and ginger. 

3. Next, throw in the sliced shiitake mushrooms and drizzle with soy sauce. Stir around the pan with salmon until softened and cooked through. 

4. In a separate small frying pan, heat up vegetable oil and scramble up the two beaten eggs. Turn off heat and add the scrambled eggs to the mushrooms and salmon. 

5. At this point, start adding the cooked rice to the large frying pan in portions. Incorporate the rice with the mushrooms, salmon, and scrambled eggs. Crush the bay leaf and drop it into the mixture to add a nice aroma.

6. Drizzle the fried rice with soy sauce and continue to stir around the pan. I like it when there are crispy bits of rice. Add the scallions to the pan and fold into the fried rice. Season with salt and pepper.
 

Basic Rice Porridge

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When I'm sick, I usually want a soup of some sort. Rice porridge usually fits the bill because it's soothing to the stomach and is neither too heavy or too light. Essentially, what you'll need is 10 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup of uncooked rice. (This is the ratio that I've found works for me.) I like to add a few slices of fresh ginger and a few stalks of scallions as aromatics. If you'd like, you can also chop up carrots and celery and throw them in too. Let it all cook away for an hour. Everything should become soft and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into a bowl and savor. 

Shredded Roast Chicken with Herbed Rice

This is less of a recipe and more of a dinner idea. If you're a follower of my Twitter account, you'll see that I tweet an awful lot about Citarella's rotisserie chicken. It's the best I've ever had: flavorful and moist with a crisped, well-seasoned skin. Just about all that you could ever want in a roast chicken. But, to really take it to the next level, here's the SGD secret: Try dipping the chicken into Citarella's tartar sauce.

Yes. I'm totally serious. Tartar sauce is not just for fish sticks. Tell me, how could chicken not work with the combination of mayonnaise with dill pickle, onion, capers, fresh parsley, lemon, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce?

Most of the time, I'll ask the prepared foods counter guy to cut the chicken into quarters and, for dinner, I'll have a quarter of the chicken, on the bone, with a knife and fork. For this dish, however, I tore the chicken off the bone and shredded the meat with my fingers. This makes it feel like a whole new meal. 

I like to have a side of freshly steamed rice. I usually add a swirl of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt to the pot before cooking the rice. When it's done, I turn off the heat then chop up a bunch of herbs, like scallions, dill, and chives. Just throw them over the rice and cover the lid so that the flavors will infuse with the steam. When you fluff the rice, you'll want all of the herbs to mixed into the rice evenly. This adds so much dimension and requires such little effort!

Try this meal with an easy side salad (shown here is a sugar snap pea, pea shoots, and radish salad). And, of course, a dollop of that tartar sauce.