Saturday, March 3, 2012

Whole Roasted Mackerel and Braised Sweet Potatoes with Mission Figs

Fishmongers and butchers are a great community resource.  The most knowledgeable ones can help you choose the perfect protein for your meal and will ensure you are eating good quality meat.  By taking the time to buy from your local fishmonger or butcher, you will exponentially increase your chances of eating local, which directly translates into fresher, healthier and more nutritious foods for you since food loses nutritional value as it sits around.  You will help to support your local economy by supporting the work of butchers, farmers, and fishers.   You also may reduce energy expenditures required to ship and package food.   For me, it's practical and something that I thoroughly enjoy. Just remember to go lean with your proteins.

As you may have guessed, this recipe started with a trip to my local fishmonger: my very first stop after I returned from Virginia a few weeks ago.  Mackerel jumped out at me as a fresh contrast to the canned Jack Mackerel patties that I remember from my childhood.  I oven roasted the mackerel to develop flavor and crisp up the skin.  The sweet potatoes were simply an afterthought and my experiment with technique and ingredients. The final result was surprisingly delicious, through and through, with 5-star flavor.  It actually reminded me of the whole roasted fish that I had for my 25th birthday dinner at Avec in Chicago.  Bon Appetit!

Whole Roasted Mackerel and Braised Sweet Potatoes with Mission Figs


1 fresh whole mackerel, gutted and cleaned
Extra-virgin olive oil
4-5 sprigs fresh oregano
sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
2 mandarin oranges
2 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon Tamari Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
4 dried Mission Figs, thinly sliced
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Triple Sec
1 teaspoon brandy

Directions - Whole Roast Mackerel

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Put a baking sheet on the rack in the center of the oven and close the door.   Score the fish on both sides.  Sparingly drizzle both sides and cavity of the fish with olive oil and sparingly season with sea salt.  Set aside.

Create marinade by combining juice from half of the mandarin orange, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and 1 sprig of oregano.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.   

Thinly slice the remaining half of the mandarin orange.  Stuff the scored portion with garlic and oregano; stuff the cavity of the fish with orange slices, oregano, and garlic. Generously brush both sides and cavity of the fish with the marinade.  

Open the oven door and transfer the fish to the hot baking sheet in the center of the oven.  Quickly close the oven door and reduce heat to 450 degrees F.   Cook for 20-25 minutes.   Check that it is cooked through.  The flesh should be white and the eyes will also turn white when it is thoroughly cooked.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Directions - Braised Sweet Potatoes with Mission Figs

In a saucepan, bring 1 quart water to a rolling boil.  Add sweet potatoes and quickly blanch for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Drain and allow to cool.  In a heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil  and butter over medium heat.  After oil is hot, add sweet potatoes and Tamari.  Cook for about 5 minutes without stirring or flipping.  Juice the remaining mandarin orange.  Flip the sweet potatoes over and add orange juice, ginger, and figs.  Turn the heat to medium low and cook for an additional 5 minutes. 

Pour in heavy cream, brandy, and Triple Sec.  Bring to a simmer and cover pan.  Cook for 8-10 minutes until the sweet potatoes are tender.  Remove lid and allow the liquid to further reduce until it is thick and luscious, coating the sweet potatoes.