For those who are curious to eat more responsibly in the seafood arena, mackerel is an ideal option.
For the rest of us who don't care about being responsible, mackerel is also an ideal option because of its salty-savoriness that's addictive and a great complement to a glass of shochu.
Succeeding last week's Japanify for simmered sardines, I follow-up with Simmered Mackerel in Miso (Saba no misoni). The sweet miso cancels out the "fishy" taste of saba, and the chunks of ginger are a welcome tone to the dish. Simmered Mackerel in Miso is a comfort dish in Japan, and can really be addictive. In fact, as I write about it, I am already thinking about having the left-overs for dinner.
With all the press that is making us feel bad for eating fish like salmon and bluefin tuna, it's good to know that there is way less guilt involved with cozying up to a bowl of rice with Simmered Mackerel in Miso. I heard this from Paul Greenburg, author of "Four Fish," during his August 11, 2010 interview on Fresh Air (the following taken from a transcript here):
...if you want to eat something that's healthy and not damaging to the environment, you know, smaller fish like herring, like mackerel, anchovies, sardines, those are all really good nutritious kinds of things that have a good omega-3 profile. They're not the kinds of things that we are accustomed to eating.
You know, like I think Americans in general don't like too fishy a fish, but we might need to kind of readjust to that and kind of start to embrace fish that are smaller and, you know, easier on the environment.
So readjust and embrace.
Simmered Mackerel in Miso is very simple as long as you have a kitchen with the staple Japanese condiments: sugar, sake, mirin and miso. These are all things that will last months, so even if you don't make Japanese food on a weekly basis, these are good basics to have.
1 Mackerel filleted (each side cut into 6 pieces)
2 stalks of green onions (cut in 1 inch pieces)
2 tbsp red or blended (white and red) miso
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp sake
3/4 cup water
1 inch of ginger (sliced into coins)
1. Add sauce contents into a pot or deep saucepan. Breakup the miso it dissolves into the liquid. Make sure the pot is big enough so that you can lay the fish pieces out so that they don't overlap. Bring to a simmer.
2. Cut mackerel pieces.
3. Meanwhile, bring a separate pot of water to a boil. Add mackerel pieces in there for a quick blanch.
Wait for the mackerel to change color (it's pretty immediate), and transfer to the pot/saucepan with sauce. This blanching process is done to "erase" the fishy flavor of the mackerel.
4. Make sure that the fish pieces do not overlap. Cover the pot. Simmer on med or low for 15 min.
5. Gently turn the fish pieces over onto the other side. Add green onions and cover the pot. Simmer on med or low for 15 min.
The liquid will reduce and look something like this:
6. Plate. Serve with steamed rice.
Because the fish is simmered slowly and in the miso sauce which thickens beautifully, the mackerel achieves a kind of melt-in-your-mouth consistency that reminds me a bit of slow cooked pork.
This dish truly proves that sometimes the simplest recipes are the most satisfying (and environmentally friendly!).