Home/Recipes/In Defense of Spanish Mackerel (with recipe)

In Defense of Spanish Mackerel (with recipe)

Words: Jeremy Conner
Photos: Sara Virginia Yongue

The shunned, overlooked, and forgotten Spanish Mackerel might be one of the most delicious fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve never had much luck selling them on restaurant menus, maybe because diners lean toward reef fish like the Groupers and the lauded Red Snapper. I’d love for that to change, but as it stands they’re a fisherman’s best-kept secret.

The medium-sized fish, about 14 to 18 inches, are the tastiest, and they’re best when impeccably fresh. You can find them in highly trafficked fish markets, and they can be easily plucked from large schools in near-offshore waters.

Spanish Mackerel Cleaning Fish

Like all mackerels, they’ve got sharp, gnashing teeth, so to catch them, you’ll need wire leaders or, for the light tackle enthusiast, a section of plastic drinking straw threaded above the hook is enough to protect monofilament line for at least a few strikes. They’re voracious eaters, slashing past prey at high speed, and they’re attracted to shiny things. I’ve even caught them on bare gold hooks. Metal bodied Gotcha lures work great too, and when you’ve got one hooked, you’ll know it.

Spanish Mackerel Succotash

This recipe calls for searing them in cast iron (a grill pan works best), taking advantage of their tender meat and flavorful skins. Purple hulls stewed with tomatoes and corn complements the fish well, and this dish is equally tasty at the camp or at home.

Spanish Mackerel with Purple Hull Pea Succotash
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  1. 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  2. 1 yellow onion, diced
  3. 3 cups well-flavored chicken stock
  4. 2 cups fresh or frozen purple hull peas, hulled
  5. 1 sprig fresh thyme
  6. 1 bay leaf
  7. 1 cup sweet corn kernels (from 2 medium ears corn)
  8. 1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
  9. 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  10. 1 ounce flat-leaf parsley, stemmed and chiffonade
  11. Salt, to taste
  12. Ground black pepper, to taste
Spanish Mackerel
  1. 4 skin-on Spanish Mackerel fillets, deboned
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. Salt, to taste
  4. Ground black pepper, to taste
  1. For succotash: In a saucepot, melt 11Ž2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring constantly, until translucent and tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add stock and peas; bring to a simmer. Add thyme and bay leaf. Simmer until peas are tender, about 1 hour.
  2. Add corn; cook for 10 minutes. Add tomato, green onion, parsley, and remaining 11Ž2 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper; remove from heat.
  3. For Spanish Mackerel: Coat fillets with oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a cast-iron skillet or grill pan over high heat. Sear fillets, skin side down first, until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. To serve, spoon succotash with stock onto 4 serving plates. Top each with a fillet, skin side up.
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Spanish Mackerel

Spanish Mackerel


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