Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pan-fried mackerel with rosemary and capers, and roasted rhubarb

My rhubarb adventures continue. This time, with a savory dish; pan-fried, crispy-skinned mackerel with fresh rosemary and capers, and roasted rhubarb.

Rhubarb pairs harmoniously with oily fish like mackerel that can stand well against the tartness of the plant. In this case, rhubarb is of course sweetened by sugar and becomes beautifully glazed when roasted in the oven.

Mackerel is not a subtle fish. Its flavor is strong and its fattiness offsets the sweet and sharp rhubarb while the salty capers balance said fattiness and counterbalance the sweetness of the crimson-colored vegetable. Rosemary, a strong herb, lends its fresh and woody flavor, while the red-wine vinegar brings another level of acidity and pungency to the dish, making this marriage quite delicious.

The overall flavors of the dish are bold and in your face, but let me assure you that they’re balanced nonetheless.
Hope you enjoy it.

Pan-fried mackerel with rosemary and capers, and roasted rhubarb
Slightly adapted from Tender II by Nigel Slater

I bought whole mackerel and filleted them myself. It’s cheaper than buying fillets plus you get to work on your filleting (and pin-boning) skills.

Don’t use regular granulated sugar for the rhubarb because it will not have enough time to melt in the oven. If you can’t get a hold of caster sugar (which is normal white sugar but with smaller granules), just blitz it in a food processor for a few seconds.

Yield: 2 servings


for the rhubarb
200 g rhubarb (without leaves)
1½ Tbsp caster sugar

for the mackerel
2 large mackerel (800-850 g in total), you’ll need 4 fillets (pin-boned)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary, needles picked and chopped
1 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
1½ Tbsp capers, rinsed

Special equipment: small baking tray, baking paper, large and wide frying/sauté pan (preferably non-stick)


for the rhubarb
Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Rinse the rhubarb under cold, running water. Trim each stalk on both ends and then chop it into approximately 15 cm pieces.

Add it in one layer into a small baking tray lined with baking paper and sprinkle with the sugar on top. Place on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the rhubarb is cooked and soft. Check it after 20 minutes by inserting the tip of a knife in a rhubarb piece and if it goes in easily then it’s ready. Remove from the oven and set it aside while you cook the mackerel.

for the mackerel
Season with salt and pepper the mackerel fillets on both sides.

Heat the olive oil in a large, wide frying/sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the fillets, skin-side down, and you’ll notice that they will start to curl up. Gently push them down with a fish spatula or palette knife to ensure that the whole surface of the skin comes in contact with the pan. Add the chopped rosemary on top and cook the fish for 3 minutes, depending of course on the thickness of the fillet, and when the skin has crisped up and has turned golden, carefully turn the fillets over and cook on the flesh side for 2 minutes.
Remove the fillets from the pan and place on two warm serving plates.

Note: To keep the skin crispy, place the fillets on the plates skin-side up.

In the same frying pan, while it’s still over medium-high heat, add the vinegar, the capers and then the cooked rhubarb together with the rhubarb juices. Allow the rhubarb to warm through, carefully turning it over once so it doesn’t break apart, and then divide the rhubarb, the capers and the pan juices between the two serving plates, over or next to the mackerel.

Serve immediately and enjoy!