Friday, April 10, 2015

Blue Mackerel Casino

     Traditional East Coast Style Casino Topping On Blue Mackerel Filets!
     Clams Casino is a popular appetizer at east coast seafood restaurants and Italian restaurants.  Not every chef has heard of this recipe.  There are plenty of classic east coast seafood recipes that are practically unheard of out here in the west.  
     For many years, west coast chefs preferred to create their own signature style seafood recipes with no regard for east coast tradition.  Now that nearly every possible Pacific Rim and Spanish flavor combination has been exhausted in western style cuisines, I can practically guarantee that an interest in east coast style seafood specialties will develop in the Pacific Coast region.  
     Casino Topping is a prime example of a classic old time traditional east coast flavor that is hard to beat.  Casino topping not only works well with clams, it is also nice on nearly any kind of fish.  Bluefish Casino is often sold in Philadelphia seafood restaurants.  Bluefish is an aggressive schooling predator in the Jack family of fish that is famous for making runs up the entire east coast.  Bluefish and Mackerel have similar flavor meat.              
     As most people know, Skipjack (Bluefish) is an oily fish.  Blue Mackerel and nearly every small member the mackerel family are oily fish.  Oily fish like mackerel taste very clean and the meat cooks to a white color, if it is cooked the same day it is caught or frozen the same day it is caught.  
     The flesh of oily fish, like mackerel, discolors and turns an opaque bluish gray color after about 12 to 24 hours and the meat begins to take on a little bit of a fishy flavor.  This is the reason why fresh caught mackerel is always the best.  Mackerel that is sold fresh in places far away from the coastline can be pretty good, but if it is not cooked on the day it was purchased, it should be frozen for later use.  Freezing helps to prevent flavor degradation and meat discoloration.

     While at the market the other day, fresh whole mackerel were on ice and they looked like they were fresh off of the boat.  I purchased one and tossed it in the freezer, because I already had a few items that were planned to be cooked.  I let the whole mackerel thaw out for today's meal and viola!  The mackerel was as good as new with no fishy flavor. 

     Casino topping is good for nearly any kind of fish, but it is best with oily fish like east coast Bluefish.  If it were not for casino topping, Bluefish sales in east coast restaurants would be much lower than they are.  
     Bluefish (skipjack) are not always available out west, but Blue Mackerel is nearly always available.  Both of these fish species are sustainable, but it is always best the check the source of the fishery on the Ocean Watch Sustainability List.  Certain fisheries do manage the seafood stock better than others.  

     *This entire recipe yields 1 hearty entrée!

     Blue Mackerel Preparation:
     Step 1:  Select 1 whole blue mackerel that weighs about 1 pound.
     Filet the fish and leave the skin on.
     Use a filet knife to slice under the rib bones and remove them.
     Trim off the belly flaps and the front fin.
     Step 2:  Cut one vertical slice the length of the fish, on both sides of the pin bone line, without cutting through the skin.
     Bend the filet in half lengthwise.
     Use a boning knife to slice between the pin bone line and the skin to remove the pin bones.
     Chill the 2 blue mackerel filets till they are needed. 

     Casino Topping Preparation:
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 thick strips of sugar cured bacon that are finely chopped.
     Gently sauté the bacon and render the bacon grease, till the bacon is cooked to a light golden brown color.
     Remove the pan from the heat.
     Step 2:  Place the bacon bits and bacon grease in a fine mesh strainer that is set on a bowl to catch the bacon grease.
     Set the bacon bits aside and save the bacon grease.
     Step 3:  Place the sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of bacon grease.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.  
     Sauté till the garlic starts to turn a golden color.
     Step 4:  Add 1/4 cup of fine chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of fine chopped green bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of fine chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender. 
     Step 5:  Return the reserved bacon bits to the pan.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of oregano.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 2 teaspoons of virgin olive oil.
     Step 6:  Bring the ingredients to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till most of the liquid evaporates.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the Casino Topping to cool to room temperature.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Add 3 tablespoons of fine plain French bread crumbs.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Set the Casino preparation aside.

     Blue Mackerel Casino:
     Step 1:  Place the 2 blue mackerel filets side by side on a roasting pan that is brushed with melted unsalted butter.
     Step 2:  Spread the Casino topping on the filets and pour any juices from the pan over the fish.
     Drizzle a little more virgin olive oil over the toppings.  (About 1/2 teaspoon per filet.)
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 375ºF oven.
     Roast the Blue Mackerel Casino, till the fish is fully cooked and the Casino Topping is a golden brown color.  
     Remove the pan from the oven and keep it warm on a stove top.

     Use a long spatula to place the Blue Mackerel Casino filets side by side on a plate.
     Squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice over each filet.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of minced Italian Parsley over the filets and on the plate.
     Garnish with a crown cut lemon half that is seasoned with cayenne pepper and Spanish Paprika. 

     Blue Mackerel with old fashioned east coast Casino Topping tastes very nice! 

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