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By the Book: Nigel Slater’s Mackerel with Rhubarb and Sherry Vinegar

June 5th 12:06pm, 2012

Readers familiar with Nigel Slater’s cookbooks, especially Tender, are aware that the English food writer adores fresh, seasonal produce. In his newest tome, Ripe, he focuses on fruit and, as with his other cookbooks, Slater demonstrates that when you work with fresh, seasonal ingredients, they require little fuss to taste fantastic.

Let me make it quite clear that I do not want there to be a cookbook giveaway this week. Pretty much every recipe in Ripe appealed to me: a summertime salad of summer leaves, cured pork and cherries; a fabulous, four-ingredient dish of baked rhubarb with blueberries, which I made twice just for fun. (It takes two minutes to chop and combine a measly four ingredients, and an hour to bake the dish.)

For this column, however, I hunted for a savory dish. So often we gravitate toward fresh fruit in preserves, sweet desserts and baked goods, but I wanted to show you that fruit can shine bright in an entree, too. One of my all-time favorite savory main dish recipes that puts fruit to work is Marlena de Blasi’s loin of veal braised with wine grapes – you don’t even have to get fussy about removing the grape seeds. (The recipe is published in her culinary memoir, A Thousand Days in Venice.) And so I chose to follow Slater’s instructions for making mackerel with rhubarb and sherry vinegar.

It’s high season for rhubarb and, with fresh mackerel from Bob’s Seafood, this recipe seemed foolproof before I even pulled out a pan. And it was. My only addition to the recipe would be to stir in a scant tablespoon of water to the rhubarb strips and sugar about 5 minutes into the baking process. It helps to release those juices that marry so well with the sherry vinegar when both are pan-warmed and then dished atop the fish.

Since the mackerel from Bob’s were very small, I used a total of four fish – eight fillets – without changing any other measurements in the recipe. Oh, and if you aren’t adept at filleting fish, the friendly folks at Bob’s are. Don’t be too shy to ask.

Mackerel with Rhubarb and Sherry Vinegar
2 Servings

7 oz. rhubarb
2 Tbsp. superfine sugar
A little all-purpose flour
[Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste]
2 filleted mackerel
Olive oil
1 small spring rosemary
Sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp. capers (optional)

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the rhubarb and discard the leaves. Cut it into short lengths and put in a roasting pan or baking dish with the sugar. Bake until just soft enough to take the point of a knife, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then drain, reserving the cooking juices.
• For the mackerel, season the flour with salt and a little black pepper. Lightly coat the skin side of each mackerel fillet with the seasoned flour. Heat a little oil in a large, nonstick frying pan. Gently place the mackerel fillets in the hot pan, skin side down. Chop the rosemary needles and scatter them over the fish. Press the fish down with a thin spatula to keep it from curling. As the underside of the fish starts to crisp lightly, carefully turn over and cook the other side. It shouldn’t take longer than 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Lift the mackerel fillets out onto warm plates.
• Pour a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar (or less, to taste) into the hot pan. Add the cooked rhubarb, together with the rhubarb juice. Add the capers if you are using them. Let the rhubarb briefly warm through, then spoon it over the mackerel and serve.

Tell us about your favorite fruit to cook with and why in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Ripe by Nigel Slater. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Sara, whose comments on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of My Family Table by John Besh. Sara, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

By Ligaya Figueras

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3 Responses to “By the Book: Nigel Slater’s Mackerel with Rhubarb and Sherry Vinegar”

  1. Kelly Says:
    June 5th, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I love cooking with peaches; they can be sweet or savory. One of my favorite summertime recipes is grilled peaches with duck fat: cut peaches in half, take out pits. Smear with duck fat. Grill. OH MY GOODNESS.

  2. Julie Opdyke Says:
    June 5th, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    This book looks fabulous. I love to cook with fruit, but peaches might be my favorite because they’re so versatile. One of my go to summer dishes to make is fish tacos with a peach salsa. I love the way the heat of the peppers play with the sweetness from the peaches.

  3. courtney Says:
    June 5th, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    plums! i bought a mountain of italian plums last summer & made a fantastic chutney, spicy & sweet & delicious with salmon. it was my first canning project and the start of a beautiful new cooking hobby! plums are also delightful broiled with vanilla and served over ice cream. but now i really want to try this baked rhubarb & blueberries of which you speak…

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