Joe Carroll’s Ferocious Grilled Mackerel

May 2, 2016 – May 8, 2016

Mackerel Head

Monday:                   Braised Carrots with Barley and Dill – App of Manchego, cucumber
Tuesday:                   Grilled Mackerel with Green Peppercorn Sauce, Grilled broccoli,
Grilled Fingerlings / App of Smoked Salmon, cheese, endive and crackers
Wednesday:            Hanoi Chicken Soup

Cinco de Mayo

Thursday:                 Cinco de Mayo  Cheese, pickle and Banderillos starters
Fish and Chicken Tacos with roasted tomatillo salsa and
Pureed tomato salsa
Pineapple with lime zest and molasses

Provencal Fish Stew

Friday:                       Provencal Fish Stew, Salad


Azaleas from Posada Stewartii

Saturday:                  Home-made chips and guacamole – 2nd day (better)
Provencal Fish Stew

Baked Scampi

Sunday:                     Home-made Tortilla Chips, Baked Shrimp Scampi, Salad


The mackerel is a ferocious fish (as you can see from the picture  at the top of this post) and ferociously delicious when cooked simply (seasoned with salt and pepper) and directly over hardwood charcoal.

(Below- Van Gogh’s Still Life with Mackerels and Oranges)

Van Gogh

 I had been eyeing these beauties in the fish department at Whole Foods for some time.  They are too large to cook in most roasting pans, but fit, with a little tail overlap on a standard Weber grill.  It turns out that this undervalued fish (don’t tell anyone – we don’t want to drive up the price) is a great, milder alternative to salmon and cooked whole, in its own skin, is supremely moist and tasty, albeit a bit scary.

Joe Carroll’s* recipe involves almost no actual ‘cooking’ – just pat the fish dry, season, and put it on a hot grill.  We did some cooking of simple sides to go with it and had ourselves another cave-man (well, shore-dwelling Neanderthal) feast.  As long as the weather holds out, cave-man food, cooked over a fire may be the theme of the blog until the snow comes back.

*I mentioned Joe Carroll in last week’s blog and have mentioned him before as a source of great grilling recipes and as the proprietor of Fette Sau in Philadelphia – a restaurant you should get to, if you are lucky enough to be in the area.
If you have retired or gotten old enough to have your work hours under control, get Joe’s book Feeding the Fire to learn how to smoke various meats and for the great non-smoking grilling recipes he includes.  If you are still on all fours and scrambling in the rat race, buy the book but don’t do any smoking just yet.  Smoking food takes patience, a fair amount of time and a lot of wood and fire, and if you are not capable of handling that you will produce awful food and you might well burn down your house or your neighborhood.

My gift to those of you still running with the rats is the recipe below– for grilled (not smoked) mackerel).  It will take you about 25 minutes from starting the fire to removing the fish from the grill.  You can get back to your e-mail and your presentation prep in almost no time.  You have my prayers and condolences.

(The “Extra” below the Mackerel recipe is a sort of modified guacamole with home-made tortilla chips.  You will find yourself putting this avocado spread on toast, pancakes, your fingers . . . )

Mackerel Platter

 Joe Carroll’s Ferocious Grilled Mackerel

Serves:            An average mackerel (about 2 lbs.) will serve three people.

Timing:            45 minutes  Allowing for prep (minimal) and the sides we cooked – grilled fingerlings and charred broccoli with soy, lemon and sugar – 45 minutes (par-boiling the fingerlings takes the most time

Supplies:          1 or more whole mackerels gutted and cleaned (each mackerel feeds 3)

Steps:              Pre-cook or start appetizers and side-dishes to be ready when mackerel comes off the grill

Start charcoal or heat gas grill

Pat mackerel dry – Season inside and out with salt and pepper (you can be aggressive on the outside since most of the seasoning will fall off)

Oil grill grate and put on grill to heat up (5 minutes), re-oil grate

Put mackerel on grill  (Be sure you have two spatulas or tools to turn over
Fish so that it doesn’t break apart)

Cooking:         Cook for about 4 minutes on each side.  We had a really big mackerel and needed about 6 minutes a side – when the fish flakes, it is done
Serving:           Cut down behind gills to back bone and then carefully move your knife along the back bone to separate top fillet.  Then remove backbone from bottom fillet.  Portion and serve.


EXTRA                      Green-Peppercorn Guacamole (adaptation from Quealy Watson’s recipe for a family barbecue)

We ate a lot of great food this week (Provencal Fish Stew was a stand-out and the pineapple with lime zest and molasses a bright surprise), but this guacamole is a stand-by, it goes great as a spread on BLTs, and if you serve it with home-made (well, semi-home-made – you don’t want anything to do with masa, trust me) tortilla chips you will need only a beer to make yourself happy.

Serves:             We’ve never not had guacamole left over with this amount

Timing:            As fast as you are able to chop and process

Supplies:          1 Tablespoon (or more) of Pickled Green Peppercorns (this come in brine in a jar that looks like it’s full of capers.  Most grocery chains carry them.  If you can’t find them, toss in the brine from some pickled jalapenos
3 cloves of garlic, chopped (if they are large – up to seven if your garlic has not
been grown, as ours seems to have been, near a nuclear test site.
2-3 Serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped (we’ve subbed Jalapeños)
3 tomatillos, husked, rinsed, stemmed and cored (quarter the tomatillos
and then cut of the little notch of core at the stem-end of each quarter)
3 Tablespoons of lime juice (or more to taste)
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1-2 Teaspoons salt
6 ripe Avocados  (buy your avocados about 4 days before you’re going to
use them and they’ll be perfect)

Steps:              Pulse the green peppercorns, garlic and serranos in the bowl of a food processor
Add tomatillos and process for 30 seconds or so.
Add lime juice and pulse until the mixture is smooth
Add cilantro and pulse to combine
Add salt to taste and pulse

Serve right away with home-made tortilla chips* (or store-bought, or crackers, or sliced cucumber . . . ), or cover with plastic wrap pushing plastic down to surface of guacamole to eliminate air which will turn guacamole dark.  Refrigerate.  (If the guacamole darkens, you can either scrape off the dark layer or mix it into the bright green good stuff)

*Buy yourself a package of the smaller, thin, corn tortillas.  Preheat your oven to 400. Cut the tortillas into quarters and place them on a foil-covered sheet pan after brushing the foil lightly with vegetable oil and sprinkling salt over the foil.  Now dip a basting brush into the vegetable oil and shake off as much as you can.  With that one dip, brush the tortilla pieces lightly and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for about 10 minutes more or less, until lightly brown.  BUT, you are thinking, this does not qualify as home-made.  Fine, I will not argue with you.  If you wish to boil corn in water and lye, soak overnight, etc. .. , be my guest.  And to make authentic tortillas from scratch in the traditional manner you will need to don a Homburg with a feather in it, and wear a serape and huaraches.  If that’s a good look for you (and for some of you it will be), please have a go.

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