Creating Flavor Complements
Mackerel has a strong flavor you can’t miss. Fungee, for instance, goes great with mackerel because it doesn’t compete with the flavor but instead provides a subtle earthiness. The tomato sauce is a great complement because its tartness cuts through the richness of the mackerel.
Fungee is a cornmeal-based food that is very similar to polenta but unlike polenta, fungee doesn’t contain much butter and has no cheese. The addition of okra in fungee also helps set it apart, as the okra imparts a unique flavor and changes the texture.
Sorrel is not a commonly used herb in the Caribbean. If you can get your hands on it though, it’s a nice addition to the tomato sauce. If you’re from the Caribbean, you might be confused with which sorrel I’m referring to in this recipe. Sorrel (herb) is flat, broad-leaved green herb with a gently bitter taste. Sorrel fruit (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is of the hibiscus family and the bright red, fleshy leaves are used to make a delicious drink. Caribbean sorrel has mild diuretic properties and is currently being studied for its use in decreasing blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels and preventing kidney infections.
Dry white wine all the way with this dish. You’ll need the tartness to clear your palate every few bites. A great non-alcoholic alternative is a strong ginger beer served with lots of ice. Or better yet, a Caribbean sorrel drink that's not too sweet!
PLATE: The SCC Twist
I really appreciated preparing the mackerel sous vide because it kept the mackerel so silky. Having the cured (gravlax) mackerel also was great because it provided the unique saltiness that I remember from my childhood.
2 fillets from 1 large, fresh mackerel (cut off 1-inch from the thicker part of 1 fillet to reserve for the gravlax)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
2 tsp fresh lime zest
1 tsp ground coriander
Mix all the curing ingredients together in a bowl
Place the fillets (including the 1-inch piece) skin-side down on separate pieces of plastic wrap. Generously sprinkle the flesh with a portion of the curing mixture.
For the larger fillets: wrap well and refrigerate for 30 minutes – this will season them nicely. For the 1-inch piece, keep wrapped for at least 2 hours.
Rinse the fillets under cold running water and pat dry well.
After seasoning, you can choose to poach the fillets or try sous-vide (see below). Both techniques produce a soft texture but the sous-vide gives a silkier finish and keeps the flesh more intact.
6 fresh okra, tops trimmed
1 cup water
½ of a small onion, do not chop
1 sprig thyme
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 cup cold water + 2/3rd cup reserved okra liquid
1 tbsp butter
¾ tsp salt
Deep soup bowl
Oil for coating the bowl
½ cup oil, optional
For the okra: bring the water, onion, and thyme to a boil. Add the okra, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook 5 – 7 minutes until tender. Remove the okra, discard the onion and thyme, and reserve the liquid.
Add ½ cup of the cold water to the cornmeal and mix until smooth
Place the remaining cold water and reserved okra liquid in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low then add the cornmeal mix, stirring briskly with a heavy wooden spoon
Continue cooking, stirring continuously until the cornmeal mixture gets thick and starts to pull away from the sides of the saucepan. Note: cook for at least 10 minutes to allow the cornmeal grains to soften properly and lose their raw taste.
Increase the heat to medium-low. Add the okra, butter, and salt. Stir briskly for another 2 minutes until the mixture is very thick and smooth.
Immediately put half the cornmeal mixture in an oiled bowl and twirl the bowl quickly to form the cornmeal into a ball. Turn the bowl over onto a plate
Repeat step 6 for the remaining half of the cornmeal mixture
You can either eat the fungee as is, which is delicious and is the traditional way, or you can continue with steps 9 & 10. Steps 9 & 10 (Optional)
Shape each fungee into a thick rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled – at least 3 hours overnight.
Heat the ½ cup oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Unwrap the fungee and fry on both sides until lightly golden brown. Pat with paper towel. Tip: do not over fry. You want the outside to be crispy but the inside to stay soft.
Pour enough oil into a saucepan to make 1½-inches deep. Heat over medium-low heat to a temperature of 125°F (~50°C)
Gently place the fillets in the oil and poach for about 12 minutes
Carefully remove with a spatula and pat with paper towel
½ cup oil – you can use any oil but I like grapeseed oil or an olive-canola oil
2 sprigs thyme
2 garlic clove, smashed
2 sorrel leaves, optional
Preheat a water bath to 125°F (~50°C)
Place the mackerel fillets in individual bags. Tip: if you don’t have bags that vacuum-pack, try the ziplock method as show on Serious Eats.
Divide the oil, thyme, garlic and sorrel between the bag then seal air-tight.
Allow the fish to cook in the water-bath for 10 minutes. You could use an immersion calculator if you have it. However, you could get away with manually stirring the water often to circulate the heat. Mackerel fillets are not thick, so it won’t take long to cook.
Remove the bags from the water-bath and allow to cool before opening. This is because the skin and flesh of the mackerel are very delicate so you’ll want it to cool down to prevent it from falling apart. Use a spatula to remove.
For the STEWED TOMATOES recipe, click here.