Considered by many to be bait rather than supper, the lowly—but lovely—mackerel has garnered some respect in recent years thanks to its newly embraced super-food status as a little fish that’s as rich in flavor as it is in healthful omega-3s. Peak season, according to Phil Karlin of the Greenmarket’s PE&DD Seafood, is spring and fall, when the fish have grown fat from feasting on whitebait and grass shrimp, but Karlin predicts he’ll be catching them through December as they migrate southward to overwintering areas. So why not do as Boqueria chef Seamus Mullen does and give them a Spanish accent courtesy of gentle poaching and a few drops of eucalyptus oil?
Seamus Mullen’s Oil-Poached Mackerel, Navy Beans, Grapes, Eucalyptus
1 pound dry navy beans, soaked in cold water and refrigerated overnight
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup sweet white wine
8 cups fish stock or chicken stock
1 ham hock
Bouquet garni of bay leaf, black peppercorn, thyme, marjoram
1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus two tablespoons
4 drops organic eucalyptus essential oil (available at most health-food stores)
4 sushi-grade mackerels, approximately 1 pound each, filleted, skinned, and cut into equal portions
FOR THE BEANS: Drain the beans. In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook for 3 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add tomato paste, and cook another 2 minutes. Add wine, and reduce for 2 to 3 minutes. Add beans, stock, and ham hock. Cook over low heat until tender with the slightest bite. Season to taste. Fold in the grapes and set aside.
FOR THE MACKEREL: (1) Season the fillets with salt and pepper. In a deep frying pan, heat the olive and eucalyptus oil to 120 degrees (with a gas stove, it’s best to turn the flame as low as possible). (2) Submerge the fillets into the poaching oil. Cook until the outside of the fish whitens slightly, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. (The fillets should be quite soft to the touch and creamy on the inside.) (3) With a slotted spoon, remove fillets to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain off excess oil.
TO SERVE: Spoon a generous amount of beans into a bowl, and place 2 fillets on top. Serves 4.