Jack mackerel, a common name given to several species of small fish, makes an inexpensive alternative to oily fish like salmon and tuna. The Pacific jack mackerel commonly sold pre-cooked in cans works well for making fried mackerel patties, similar to salmon cakes or crab cakes. Fresh mackerel can also be marinated and fried whether you prefer whole fried fish or fish steaks. Look for fresh fish that doesn't have a strong, fishy odor and that is fairly stiff when you hold it by the head and tail.
Things You'll Need
- Mixing bowl
- Assorted seasonings and spices
- Butter or oil
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Canned Mackerel Cakes
Drain the water or oil from the can. Rinse each mackerel filet under cool water. Split the filets in half and pull out the bones from along the inside. The bones come up easily in a single strip at times, but you might need to break the fish into chunks to remove all the small bones.
Pull the fish apart into chunks with your hands and add the chunks to a mixing bowl. Leave the chunks fairly large -- think lump crabmeat -- because they break down further while mixing.
Mix the jack mackerel chunks with your choice of seasonings and spices, such as a fish seasoning blend, parsley, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika. Add egg, flour and breadcrumbs to bind the fish. Use about 1 egg for every can of jack mackerel, or every three or four small fillets. It takes roughly 1/2 cup each of breadcrumbs and flour, but use more or less until most of the liquid is absorbed and the mixture holds together well.
Shape the jack mackerel mixture into patties about 1 inch thick, limiting them to about 4 inches in diameter so you can turn them easily.
Preheat butter, oil or shortening in a skillet over medium-heat. The oil should be hot enough to sizzle when you add the patties but not so hot that it smokes and sizzles wildly.
Add the shaped mackerel patties to the hot oil. Place them in a single layer with at least 1 inch between patties so they cook evenly and have enough room to crisp rather than steaming as can happen when a pan is overcrowded.
Fry for about 3 to 4 minutes on the first side or until the bottom is golden brown and crispy. Flip the mackerel cakes over and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes or until evenly brown on the second side.
Whole Mackerel or Fillets
Rinse the mackerel fish or fillets under cool water. Whole mackerel is typically sold with the insides removed but should still be rinsed before frying.
Cut three to four slits on each side of whole mackerel fish. This step is optional, but helps the flavors in marinades penetrate to the actual fish meat.
Lay the fish in a shallow dish with space between each piece. Pour your choice of marinade over the fish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you opted to make slits in the side, spread open each slit and rub the marinade in for even coating. Mix lemon, olive oil, salt and fresh ground black pepper for a light citrus flavor. For the traditional Indian fried mackerel side dish ayala varuthathu, mackerel is marinaded in a spicy chili paste made with fresh ground ginger and garlic, red chili powder, pepper and turmeric, sometimes with a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar.
Preheat butter or oil over medium heat, using just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Olive oil can be used to fry mackerel, but virgin and extra virgin olive oil can't be used because they have a low burning point.
Shake the mackerel pieces to remove excess marinade. Place the mackerel in an even layer in the skillet with space between each piece.
Fry the mackerel for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until an even brown color develops. Flip the first carefully to the other side to avoid breaking the fish. Fry for another 3 to 4 minutes on the second side until evenly brown. The fish should flake apart easily when done. Whole mackerel fish might need another few minutes of cook time than thinner mackerel filets. Rely on the flake test to determine when the fish are done: The fish should flake apart easily with a fork.