Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
Terrific tinned fish to make your meal into something special
If you like tinned fish even a tenth as much as I do, you’ll definitely want to check out this newly-arrived smoked mackerel from Patagonia. Not Patagonia in Argentina. Patagonia the clothing company—they’ve started a terrific new line of sustainable tinned seafood, under their food division Patagonia Provisions, and it’s very tasty!! I wrote about their smoked mussels last year and now we have some superb smoked tinned mackerel in from them too. We even hosted a whole online dinner with them in March.
Mackerel, I will say, has long been one of my favorite fish. It’s also a big favorite with Zingerman’s Food Tours managing partner Kristie Brablec. It’s meaty. Marvelous. Happily, sustainable, and not overfished. It’s high in vitamin B12 and Omega 3. The mackerel for the Patagonia product are line caught in the Bay of Biscay by longtime fishing families from the port of Santoña, Spain in the Basque country, about halfway between Bilbao and Santander. As the Patagonia folks explain:
To catch Atlantic mackerel, Santoña’s fishermen use anzuelos, individual lines with up to 30 hooks wrapped with red wool, which resemble the tiny crustaceans mackerels love—meaning live bait isn’t necessary and is left to feed other fish. Because the schools of mackerel are so large, and because each fish must bite the line to be caught, the anzuelo ensures that there isn’t a lot of bycatch, unlike with trawlers or purse seine nets. Nothing is caught by mistake, whereas nets scoop up everything. Catching by hook and line translates to better quality, too, since the fish are released gently into bins rather than being crushed at the bottom of a net.
The fish are taken off the boats as soon as they arrive back at the harbor, immediately packed on ice, and then driven across Spain’s north coast to the Galician firm of Perez Lafuente, a fourth-generation company in the village of Vilanova de Arousa that specializes in responsibly harvested seafood. Patagonia Provisions has partnered with them because they are super ecologically minded, a B-Corp, very focused on sustainability, and the ingredients they add to the fish are all organic and taste terrific! I had high expectations after Grace Singleton, longtime Managing Partner at the Deli, told me how good the smoked mackerel was. But those expectations were blown out of the water when I tasted it. This stuff is superb. Maybe even mind-blowing. Deliciously delicate, marvelously moist, only subtly smoky, and super flavorful. It’s packed in extra virgin olive oil, so the oil is tasty too. (You could use the oil to toss with pasta, top with toasted bread crumbs, and make a magical evening meal.) I ate the mackerel as is, on a plate. But you can also put it on a green salad (add the breadcrumbs too—it’s a terrific touch). Great in scrambled eggs. The mackerel was surprisingly good hot, so much so that I might have even liked it better that way. To prepare them, simply heat a skillet with a bit of olive oil. Gently lay in the mackerel filets. Cook for a couple minutes ’til the outside gets lightly brown and slightly crisp. Flip and repeat. Eat for a main course or an appetizer. Pretty amazing.