For a couple years now, my editor has been suggesting I do a column about mackerel. Last week’s Radio WaterLine show was almost all about mackerel, so I decided this would be an appropriate time to do a mackerel recipe. But I had a problem: I don’t have any recipes for mackerel. It’s just not a fish that I offer in the order guide.
So what was I to do? I have a friend and mentor chef, Executive Chef Fred Scherger. Chef Fred is a senior corporate executive chef for a large food service contact company. Prior to that, Chef Fred worked in Miami alongside Michelle Bernstein and Norman Van Aken, two heavy hitters in the culinary world. So trust me, this Chef can cook. I thought he would be the perfect person to ask for a mackerel recipe.
Chef Fred and I worked together years ago. I would help him open new accounts and to operations reviews on others. He’d also have me go to other accounts that had just hired a new chef and I would help get the new chefs on track and understand the systems already in place.
In addition to working together, Chef Fred and I also fish together too. He took me offshore one time and I remember saying “Chef, what’s that?” when I saw a big tan blob coming towards the boat. Fred replied “Hammerhead, big one.” The fish circled the boat a couple of time and the grouper bite turned off. Chef said, “We have to move.” When I asked why, he said, “That shark is still here. He’s under the boat waiting for us to dig up a grouper so he can have lunch.” We went farther out to around 10 fathoms and left the shark to stalk another boat.
When he was retrieving the anchor, he told me to hold on when we get going because “it’s gonna be a bit sporty.” He wasn’t kidding — by the time we arrived at the spot, the waves were bouncing that 24-foot boat around so much dropping the anchor wasn’t going to work. Instead, he stayed at the helm and on the throttle, holding us over the fish he could see on the Simrad.
I caught my limit on red grouper and we headed back to Gasparilla Marina, where he filleted all my fish and showed me how to get that little extra nugget of grouper meat under its jaws. It reminded me of the cheeks, and ever since I always try to get that piece of meat if the fish are big enough.
Another time we fished inshore in the Boca Bayou. He kept telling me, “Tighten that drag, Chef.” I told him I love to hear it sing, so I don’t mind it being set so light. The drag kept singing and we kept catching fish and limited out on mangrove snappers. I have been back to the Bayou a few times since and have always caught fish.
Personally, I’ve never caught a mackerel. I don’t have the gear to go where they are, and I haven’t ever anyone ever say they’ve caught them around the sandbar where I usually fish, so I don’t think they come around my neighborhood.
Listening to Radio WaterLine last week, I heard Capt. Van talk about them. They sound like they could be a lot of fun on the light gear that I use to fish. Maybe one day.
Chef Fred gave me a recipe that I hope you will give a try. While it works great with Spanish mackerel, I bet it would be awesome with other fish like mahi or kingfish.
What I found interesting was the garnish he offered: Fried avocado. He also lets us in on how to make a mango-Scotch bonnet BBQ sauce that I know would be good on anything.
Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more information, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.
Grilled BBQ mackerel
3 ripe mangoes
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 cups chopped tomato
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup cane syrup
1 large Scotch bonnet pepper, chopped (handle with gloves)
One pinch each of cinnamon, allspice, cumin and nutmeg
4 mackerel fillets
Simmer all sauce ingredients in a thick-bottom pot for an hour. Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Return to the stove and simmer until desired thickness. If you are short on time, you can use a slurry of cornstarch and water to thicken it up. Grill fillets for 2 minutes on each side, then remove from heat and brush BBQ sauce on the fish. Refrigerate leftover sauce for up to a week. Serves 4.
2 cups Basmati rice
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp salt
Mix the oil, milk and water together and use it to cook the rice. When the rice is cooked, fold in the salt and shredded coconut.
2 ripe avocados
2 tbsp flour
1 egg white
2 tbsp dry bread crumbs
Cut the avocado as desired (bite-size pieces work best), then coat with the flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. Fry in hot oil for 30 seconds. I sliced them a bit and they kind of looked like gator feet to me.
— Recipes by Chef Fred Scherger