Kingfish and Spanish Mackerel

First, happy new year.  Second, back to regular posting after 2+ weeks on the road during Kristi and my school vacations.

Once we got back to shore from the fishing trip in the previous post, we laid the catch out on the handy cutting board setup at the dock.

I have pictures that frame the fish better, but this captures the Hitchock-ian arrival of hordes of pelicans and seagulls once the fish hit the table. They knew there were delicious scraps coming their way

In case you forgot, Tim reeled in the kingfish, Kristi got the biggest spanish mackerel, mine second, and John’s is the one that looks like bait.  Big Al and his trusty sidekick volunteered to fillet the fish for us and we were all happy to take them up on it.

The fillets that came off the kingfish were HUGE. But, I just want to reiterate, that the size of the fillets had nothing to do with Tim's skills as a fisherman. He was just the first person to the fishing rod. Freaking jerk, I'll show him

I was amazed by the simplicity of the mackerel anatomy; cut down to the spine, slide the knife to the end, then go back to remove the off-tasting bloodline area.  Theoretically, I liked the idea of keeping the heads and bones to make stock with but the smell would ruin all the nice stuff in my mom’s condo and I had no ideas for meals that needed fish stock.

What was missed by the camera was an opportunistic seagull grabbing one of the mackerel fillets. And that John's fish was so small the capable hands of Big Al could only get one fillet off of it

We said goodbye to our captains and headed back to Mommy Ryan’s condo for naps and brainstorming about what to do with the fish.

Quick sidenote: a month or so ago, Tim was hanging out with A|DB superfan Matt Bendle: a friend of Tim’s from college and slow-cooked BBQ afficianado.  Matt commented on how he wanted me to use more cooking methods and that (this really stung) I seem to make a lot of tacos.  I was pretty proud of my venison tacos, but that did make 4 out of my 18 posts that ended up inside a tortilla.  Plus, I had already made this meal and hadn’t written about it.  Sooooooooo he was completely right, I will take his advice/do less tacos, and also call him a jerk at any opportunity I have.

Back to the fish cookin’.  Surprisingly, we decided to make some fish tacos out of the kingfish and prepare the other mackerel fillets a little more traditionally.

We had to cut the ends off the kingfish fillets to fit them on the broiling pan

The grayish pieces are the ends of the kingfish

Big Al debunked our assumption that the mackerel would be oily and darker meat and told us to treat the fillets like a whitefish, which we did.  The kingfish was coated with a little garlic powder, salt and pepper and broiled it for about 15-20 minutes.  The spanish mackerel fillets were meant to be served outside of tacos so we added butter, dill, minced garlic, thin lemon slices, salt and pepper then wrapped in tin foil to be baked.

Pretty traditional, but also never really disappoints

While the fish cooked, Tim and I made some garnishes for the tacos.  We decided on a fresh tomato salsa, cilantro leaves, and an aioli style guacamole.  Again, aioli is just a nice way of saying that garlic and olive oil are involved.  Break out the cuisinart mini-preps which every Ryan owns because our mother gave them as a Christmas gift one year and again a few years later.

Red onion and garlic, always the first things that go into the mini prep

Once that was well chopped, we added two ripe avocados, lots of cilantro and lots of lime juice.  Fine, I’ll admit it, Ryans love mayo so I added a little bit of that as well knowing that Kristi wouldn’t be eating it due to her avocado allergy.

The avocado was probably one day away from looking too dodgey to eat. It was right on the ripe vs. overripe line

Through the mini prep for about a minute.

Nice texture with a lot of flavor. Could have used a little more lime juice

The kingfish came out of the oven looking great and I was amazed that the meat looked almost identical to haddock in how flaky and white it was.

In hindsight we should have skinned it before cooking but it mostly stayed on the pan when we moved it to platter

With the lemon and dill fillets in the oven, we were ready to start the eating.  Here are some out of focus shots of the salsa and guac.

Dece work by Tim, nice and fresh tasting

Thicker than I'd hoped. Would probably drop the mayo and add some vegetable stock or water to thin it out next time

For the kingfish we just broke it up with a spatula and served with tongs.  The full spread:

Mom's serving table suffers from similar lighting issues to our Philly apartment, hence the flash

And the finished product…

Would have been better on a traditional corn tortilla but we had limited options in Naples

Tim remarked that it was the best fish taco he has ever had and I tend to agree.  The kingfish had a light flavor but the density worked really well in taco form.  The freshness was also, obviously, better than I had experienced before.  The spanish mackerel fillets also came out well.

The pink color of the fish is accurate, not just a lighting issue

The difference from the kingfish was surprising and much closer to how I expected mackerel to taste.  The flavor and texture were similar to a thin fillet of salmon and much richer than the kingfish.  Part of that might have been the butter and being cooked in an enclosed package instead of roasted, but it was still noticeably different.

And that was it.  Hoping next time we go out we can get some grouper to experiment with, possibly in a few weeks over MLK weekend.

Foraging for Food: Mackerel

You know it’s been awhile since you posted when it’s mid-December and the start of your post is “Over Thanksgiving…”.  Sorry ’bout that, Papers/presentations/exams/parties got in the way.  Hopefully I can get back on track and make some good meals over the next few weeks.

Over Thanksgiving, the Ryan bros and Kristi headed down to Naples to visit Ma Ryan.  Once we all arrived Thursday AM the process of eating way too much began, starting with a midday Thanksgiving buffet at the Ritz.  But, we didn’t want to miss out on Thanksgiving leftovers so we made a turkey and fixins anyway.

Tim and I put together our “stuffing of the gods” which we started making 5 years ago thanks to some creativity by Tim.  Dry white bread, onions, celery, garlic, lots of sage, and Jimmy Dean sausage.  It could also be called “stuffing of the borderline obese,” but our name helps us feel a little better about ourselves.

Mmmm, stuffing of the gods. The ones that eat pork at least

Well, if you thought that was over the top, you’re not going to feel much better once you see the way we sent our turkey into the oven.

Mom's kitchen lighting is a whole lot better than our Philly apartment's

We learned this one from Aunt Jeannie who cooks her turkey with thin cut slices of salt pork laying on top.  The salt pork, or bacon in our case, keeps the skin moist and gives the pan gravy a smoky flavor.  The key is removing it halfway through the cooking process so that the skin gets crispy without drying out.  Oh, and eating it after you remove it.  We also added a new twist this year:

A little sneaky sage with every slice of bacon

Ryan’s love sage and Kristi is learning to love it.  Also, note the full cavity of stuffing which I successfully accomplished this year without punching my hand out the other side.  It came out of the oven a few hours later while I was in the process of getting ready for our Ritz trip.  The resulting photo was posted by Tim on

My emotions associated with this are far closer to pride than embarrassment

Nothing says Thanksgiving like mustaches, undershirts and white boxer briefs!  A short three hours later I was more full than I have ever been before and it was only 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  That buffet completely knocked us out of commission and we barely touched the turkey until much later in the vacation.

John ate an absurd amount at the buffet. At 6:30, when Tim and I were still breathing in a labored manner from overeating, we finally wondered where John had disappeared to. That query led to us discovering him fast asleep on an ottoman where he had been for over an hour, still in his Ritzin' outfit

Which brings us to the title of this post.  The day after Thanksgiving, my mom arranged for a family fishing boat charter.  According to our captains, the plan was to troll for Spanish Mackerel and Kingfish and then bottom fish for Grouper.  I was very excited since I love catching or finding blah blah blah blah blah blah.  No need to repeat that statement for the 50th time on this blog.

Mommy and Tim cattily critiquing the multi-million dollar waterfront properties on the way out to sea. Stephen Spielberg's massive house, that he has probably only been to once or twice, was a highlight

Once we got out of the channel and into the gulf, Captain Al (my guess is his nickname is “Big Al”) secured two rods and put two trolling lines out.  Which is when the anxious staring began.  What you don’t realize until you actually see a fish on the line is that it is completely unmistakable, so I was jumping up every time a line twitched slightly.  After I reeled in a small mackerel that fell off the hook, Tim jumped for the next fish on the line which was significantly bigger.

Cameras don't lie the way your eyes can in the moment. That little silver shimmer looked like Tim was reeling in a trash can at the time

Tim’s a big guy, but it was definitely a battle for him.  The fish were too small to justify a chair, so it was just a lot of pulling, reeling, and then the fish taking some line out.  Eventually he got it close to the boat.

Things going through my mind: "Is that a tuna? I bet its a tuna", "How come Tim gets to reel in the big one? Stupid jerk, I'll show him" and "Should I ask if there is anything gross on the fish that I can eat raw?"

Big Al moved quicker, and with more precision, than I thought possible and hooked the kingfish to bring it on board.  To say that there was a lot of adrenaline and jubilation aboard the boat is an understatement.

Thats a fish to be proud of Tim. Jerk

With Tim’s 30″ kingfish kicking off the trip, and this post getting way too long, lets hit on everybody’s big catch of the day.

Oh, thats an adorable Spanish Mackerel, John! Maybe we can salt it and use it as a pizza topping if you catch a few more! (oh, and thats Big Al)

She throws a baseball better than me, runs faster than me (despite two knee reconstructions), knows more about hunting than me, and now catches bigger fish than me. Cuz shes my wahf... ... ... and thats mah life

To get revenge on Kristi for emasculating me by constantly outdoing me, I like to grow the most masculine mustaches known to man each November

Mommy Ryan CRUSHED us in the grouper fishing portion of the trip by catching the largest grouper by far. However, the fish came up about an inch short of the limit, which was a big bummer. How 'bout Kristi striking a pose like she's modeling high heels in the background?!?!?

The photo order isn’t entirely accurate.  I actually caught my mackerel late in the trip.  Previously, I had only caught a bunch of sand perch and a decent sized bonito tuna.  Although the tuna was a decent fight, they are apparently pretty gross to eat since all of the meat is similar to the bloodline on a regular tuna.  So, basically, I was being a brat and insisted on reeling in the fish we trawled for late in the trip since I wanted to catch something we would eventually eat.

I really enjoyed fishing in Naples.  The quality and freshness of the fish combined with cooking made for a great day.  Plus Big Al and co. have a well run and totally reasonably priced business that I would recommend to anyone.

I had originally planned on making thanksgiving, fishing trip, fish cleaning, and the fish meal all one post, but this is already way too long.  Plus, it means I will definitely have a post to put up early next week.  Till then…