The past week has been one filled with excitement, sleep deprivation and sadness. Excitement, because I got to go down to Austin for SxSW and Techmunch, where I spoke to a room filled with eager food bloggers about how to keep your blog from crashing as it grows. For anyone who's been to Austin during SxSW, you know what an amazing environment it is for meeting new people and developing new ideas.
But the evening I arrived in Austin (just 2 days after I'd left Tokyo) the enthusiasm I'd had was quickly replaced with other feelings, when I got word from a friend in Tokyo that they'd had a VERY big earthquake. Traditional news outlets revealed nothing about the quake for almost an hour after it happend, so I turned to Twitter, and was horrified by the messages and photos being sent from cellphones all over Japan.
As images of my homeland being shaken and washed away began flooding the news, and the true scope of the devastation became apparent, I was overcome with an almost unbearable sense of sadness. Thankfully my family and friends are all safe and accounted for, but I don't think there's a single person on Earth that hasn't been traumatized by images of the death and destruction.
The show of support from around the world, and the solidarity and resilience shown amongst the people of Japan have been the one bright spot amongst all of this, and it makes me proud to be Japanese. If any good can come of this, I hope that it serves to kickstart the nation and get it out of the rut it's been in for 20 years now.
In that spirit of new beginnings, I created this fresh take on a classic Japanese dish: サバの味噌に (saba no miso ni), which literally means "mackerel simmered in miso". Mackerel is an oily fish, so it benefits from a long braise, and if you cook it long enough, the bones become so soft you can eat the whole thing. The ginger and garlic help stave off the funk that mackerel can have, and the miso and mirin turn into a sweet and savory glaze that's delicious over hot rice. To update it a bit, I've paired this with a crisp salad of tamed onions and celery that gives the tender braised mackerel a textural contrast as well as a tart and spicy kick that compliments the miso.
This recipe will be going into a charity cookbook called Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan that I'm working on with Stacie from One Hungry Mama and Rachael from La Fuji Mama. It's going to be full of awesome Japanese recipes contributed by rockstar bloggers and photos taken by yours truly. We are currently looking for sponsors to help cover the printing costs, so if you work for, or know of a company that would be interested in sponsoring the book please send us an email at info [at] pekopekocookbook [dot] com.
- ⅓ cup mirin
- ⅓ cup sake
- 1 ginger " length of julienned
- 1 shallot (thinly sliced)
- 1 clove garlic smashed
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup miso red or white
- 2 pounds mackerel (cut into large pieces)
- ½ sweet onion (sliced thin on a mandoline)
- 2 celery stalks (sliced thin)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon mustard Japanese hot (karashi)
- 1 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)
- In a pressure cooker, bring the mirin and sake to a boil along with the ginger, shallots and garlic. Boil for 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Add the water and miso and stir to dissolve the miso. Add the mackerel, then seal and lock the lid. If your pressure cooker has settings set it for the highest pressure. Bring the pressure cooker up to pressure over medium high heat, then turn down the heat as low as you can while maintaining pressure and cook for 45 minutes. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can simmer this in a pot with a lid for about 2 ½ hours.
- While the mackerel is cooking use a mandoline to slice the onion and celery very thin, then put them in a large bowl of ice water. Change the water 2 times every 20 minutes (for a total of a 1 hour soak). This will take the harsh edge off both the celery and the onion and it will also make the vegetables more crispy. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt in a small bowl to make the dressing.
- When the mackerel is done, follow the pressure cooker directions to release the steam. The bones should be soft enough to eat. If they're not, you can add some more water if needed, reattach the lid and continue to cook another 10-15 minutes.
- Drain the onions and celery and use a paper or a salad spinner to remove as much water as possible from them. Pour on the mustard dressing then toss to coat. To serve, just put down a bed of salad, and top with the braised mackerel and serve with a side of rice.
Brian @ A Thought For Food says
This is such a wonderful recipe and I'm so honored to be taking part in the cookbook as well. Will have mine posted soon.
Amy Berman says
Mmmm sounds great--healthy, tasty, and easy! Will try it out, thanks!!
FlaNBoyant Eats says
i love mackerel, though the 1st time i had it as sashimi, i got really, really sick. but that was almost 8 years ago. the earthquake and tsunami are indeed sad and i'm glad bloggers are uniting and doing something. can't wait to see the book you all come up with!
An awesome dish for such a good cause. The first I heard of the earthquake was the sound of Tsunami sirens going off, as I was about to turn in for the night. Instead I turned on my computer and saw what had happened. Heartbreaking.
I love mackerel, never thought of using it with miso though. Great recipe, definitely something I'm going to try making.
Thank you for this wonderful, and yet such a simple recipe. I have already made it twice and I think I'll forget (at least for some time) all the other ways of preparing mackerel... After my first attempt I decided to remove the bigger bones (I don't have a pressure cooker and even after four hours the bones were still too tough to eat...). It was very good with wild garlic leaves sprinkled on top (this is their high season in Switzerland). I have just bought some Japanese mustard, so the mustard salad is on my list too!
Marc, I'm trying to venture into the miso world. Which one would you recommend as a starting point, Red, white, yellow? I really don't what an arsenal of misos, I'd prefer something more versatile.
Marc Matsumoto says
Yellow is the most versatile. Red has a stronger taste and is typically more salty, white gas a milder taste and is typically sweeter. When you choose one, read the ingredient label, as many sold in the US have dashi, corn syrup or even MSG adde
Thanks Marc, yes I did notice the dashi and msg when I was shopping. The only one that didn't have additives was red miso. I'll look for a white miso and just mix them on the fly.
Marc Matsumoto says
For this recipe, red works better anyway as mackerel tends to have a strong flavor.
This is interesting... never were thinking to cook mackrel so long. Going to try it. One question, Marc: I can not find mirin what can i use instead?
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Oksana, if you can find sake, you can use a mix of 2 parts sake to 1 part sugar. It's best to use mackerel that has a high fat content, as lean mackerel can get a little dry after the long cooking time.
Hi Marc! Finally I did it (tonight). Is very tasty but this fish has a very special taste. And I prefer the crude mackerel (tartar):)) Thank you so much! Your web is my favorite!!! xxx
And today I transform the cooked Miso Mackerel to Riette with lots of stuff and japaneese mustard. Also fantastic::))
Marc Matsumoto says
Is crude mackerel a type of mackerel or a dish? Always curious to hear about different ways of preparing it. Also, great call on turning the leftovers into a rillettes I often do that with leftover salmon.
Crude mackerel tartar. Like tuna tartar is very tasty! Add what you like. Going to try next time salmon Rillette.