Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spanish mackerel stewed in miso さばの味噌煮

Appropriate ingredients are the most important factor in making new and interesting dishes. At the newly opened gourmet grocery store, today's catch (whole fish selection) included some large Spanish mackerel and sardines. Although I was tempted to get the sardines or "iwashi" イワシ because I had some recipes I wanted to try, they looked like they had been in a bar fight the night before, and were much the worse for wear. So we got the Spanish mackerel. Again, it is difficult to compare the type of mackerel available in Japan vs. the ones available here.  The Spanish Mackerel we got was a bit over 4 lbs and was much larger than Japanese mackerel or まさば. The type of mackerel we call "Boston mackerel" here appears to be closer to Japanese mackerel. Size aside, these mackerels have characteristics similar to oily blue fish; nice firm reddish flesh and shiny silver blue-gray skin. They also have a rather strong taste and spoil very quickly. The classic Japanese preparation is to use miso when cooking mackerel.

Preparing mackerel: I had our Spanish mackerel filleted. I had to remove the small pin bones in the center line of the head portion of the fillet using a Japanese fish bone puller (I have one that I got from Global or you could use a needle nose pliers). Since the fish we got was rather large, I used one fillet for this miso stewed dish and the other for a miso grilled dish. I cut the fillet into half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 2 inch wide pieces. I made shallow scores in the skin surface as well.

Simmering liquid: I combined dashi (200ml), mirin (4 tbs), sake (4 tbs), red miso (3 tbs) and sugar (2 tbs) in a frying pan. I also added ginger root (4 thin slices). After coming to the boil, I turned the heat down tasted it. I thought it was too strong and added more water and sake but, in retrospect, I should have left it alone.

I placed the prepared mackerel in the pan skin side up and also added segments of scallion all around. After coming back to boil, I turned the heat down to simmer, I put an otoshi-buta and a regular lid (askew) and simmered it for 15-20 minutes (see image below).

Since the miso mixture was still a bit runny, after I removed the fish, I reduced it a bit to make a thicker consistency.

To serve, I garnished it with thin threads of ginger ("hari-shouga" 針ショウガ) and scallion cut thinly along the long axis called "shiraga-negi" しらが葱 or white hair scallion. Since I do not have naganegi 長ネギ or Tokyo scallion, this was the best I could manage.

This is a classic and very comforting dish--perfect as an accompaniment for sake. Miso and mackerel are indeed a winning combination.

No comments: