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.