Frozen Mackerel is readily available in many supermarkets and certainly in almost all Asian markets. It is inexpensive, highly nutritious, delicious, but if there is a smellier fish to grill – I’ve not encountered it. My wife just loves grilled Mackerel, but cooking has been banished to the outdoor grill or side burner. If the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, forget about it. A Korean friend resorted to cooking her Mackerel over a butane picnic burner in her garage and almost burned her house down. But, that is another story.
On a recent trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy, we learned a clever trick when served fish grilled with lemon leaves at restaurant Da Vincenzo in Positano. The slightly charred citrus imparted a new dimension to the fish, and as you can see in my photo, created an inviting presentation.
The question was whether leaves from the Lemon tree in our back yard would counteract the sticky smell of Mackerel griddled on our stove. We also picked some Kaffir Lime leaves as an extra hedge against our Mackerel foe and headed indoors for the experiment.
After heating up the griddle, on went the citrus leaves then on went the exhaust fan (max velocity). The fish filets were then placed on the slightly smoking leaves. Note that no oil was used since Mackerel is as oily as it is stinky, but I mean that in only the very best way. Oily fish is probably one of the best things we can eat yet sadly missing on most menus.
The cooking was underway and we waited for the dreaded smell of bait fish, however, the Lemon did its magic and the food aromas were muted and beachy. The fish was quickly flipped onto the same leaves then doused with squeezes of juicy lemons. Chopped parsley and fresh-ground black pepper completed the dish (never add salt to Frozen Mackerel since most suppliers salt the fish before freezing).
I hope you’ll try this preparation and give Mackerel a chance in your family diet. Watch out for the bones, and do try eating the skin. If there is no Citrus growing in your back yard, try the produce section or ethnic stores for the fresh leaves. Many florists use the leaves in arrangement if they cannot be found in your market. Happy stinkless grilling!