Maki looked up at me with her dark brown eyes. I know this look well. It's the one telling me she desperately wants a nibble, a lick... anything. She came over to me as soon as I'd taken the mackerel out of their paper. "No. It's not for you." I told her sternly.
Blank stare. Licks lips.
"No. Now, go away."
Cocked head. Blink, blink. Licks lips.
As I stuffed the mackerel with fresh herbs and lemon, my pal sat patiently beside me. Shortly after I placed them in the oven, the whole house began to fill with a soothing aroma that only roasted dishes can provide. It's the comfort one feels when they smell wood burning from a fireplace on a crisp winter night. It was all I could do from sticking my head in there.
The wait was worth it. By the end, the fish was sizzling. I let it cool for a minute and then carefully pulled back the skin to reveal the meat. I went in with my fingers, not caring if I burned them. The first bite reminded me that fish prepared simply is often the best; that uncomplicated meals can be the most flavorful. A small, but important, revelation.
Roasted Whole Spanish Mackerel with Smashed Potatoes + Bok Choy
Yield 4 servings
2 - medium Spanish mackerel, scaled and gutted Extra virgin olive oil Kosher salt 1 lemon, cut into 5-6 slices Fresh chive 1 bunch parsley 2 lbs baby red potatoes 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped 4 heads of baby bok choy, washed well, and halved lengthwise 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain in a colander.
2. Place rack in middle of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees.
3. Place the mackerel on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil over both sides of the fish and rub to coat. Season both sides, as well as the cavity, with Kosher salt and black pepper. Stuff the cavities of the fish with lemon slices, chive and parsley.
4. Transfer baking sheet to the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. While it is cooking, prepare the potatoes and bok choy.
5. Prepare the potatoes by heating 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and, using a metal spatula, press down gently to smash them. Once they have browned on one side (this should take a couple of minutes), flip the potatoes over and cook to brown the other side. Season with Kosher salt and black pepper and fresh rosemary.
6. In a separate skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bok choy, cut side facing down. Season with salt and pepper. After a few minutes, check the bok choy to see if has started to brown. If so, pour the balsamic vinegar over the bok choy, flip over and cook on the other side for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat.
7. Once the fish is done (the eyes will turn white and when you touch the body, it should be firm), remove it from the oven and transfer to a serving platter using two metal spatulas. Decorate the rest of the platter with the potatoes and bok choy.