“Mackerel is an amazing little fish,” my friend Alice began. “The Japanese eat it raw in sushi because even when uncooked, it packs an amazing amount of flavour. When cooked, that flavour intensifies further. It’s also a great source of essential nutrients and Omega 3s.”
Alice Murphy is a cook by trade like me and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, and specializes in seafood.
“My favourite way to cook mackerel is with my own sort of shake-and-bake blend.” she admitted. “I know it’s a bit low brow but honestly, it’s the perfect way to eat fish.”
Curious, I had to ask why. She explained that mackerel has such a high fat content – good fat and not unhealthy fat, she wanted to make very clear – that much of the flavour leeches away when cooked using other methods, or the fish ends up being a bit on the greasy side. When you bake it in a coating, however, the rendered fat gets put to use and the flavour remains potent. All the umami and salt mingle together in a satisfying and crispy way that make eating the mackerel an addictive experience, similar to the addictive vibe of potato chips.
The eternal skeptic in me questioned all this. I found it hard to believe that fish could essentially be turned into a healthy version of junk food. However, Alice insisted on her point and, being a lover of skepticism as well, urged me to try it for myself.
Alice flew back to Boston a few days later but that conversation stuck with me. Months down the road, I found myself driving past my home town of Dover, NL when a sudden craving for highway junk food struck and, as lamenting at my autumn weight gain keeping me from indulging, I remembered my late-night conversation with Alice and put off a visit with a friend to instead scope out the local fish plant for some mackerel and use my grandmother’s kitchen to whip up some travel snacks. That evening, I created the recipe for Alice’s Mackerel.
- 2 mackerel, cleaned, deboned and fileted (skin on)
- 4 cups breadcrumbs, dried
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp oregano
- 1 tsp minced onion
Preheat oven to 375 F. Add all ingredients aside from fish to a large sealable plastic bag, shake well and set aside. Cut and wet the mackerel into 4 pieces each widthwise and place into the bag. Shake well until mackerel is well coated. On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, place each piece of coated mackerel down evenly spaced apart and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown in colour. Goes very well as a snack or as a meal with a side of scalloped potatoes and veggies. Serves four.
I had no way to get back in touch with Alice to let her know how it went, but Alice, if you’re reading this… your mackerel recipe is amazing and I hope you aren’t too mad about the changes I made to it. Cooks will be cooks after all.
Terry Bursey, otherwise known as the Food Dude, is a Newfoundland chef transplanted to Ontario who enjoys putting his mark on traditional recipes and inventing new tasty treats with unexpected ingredients. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.