Holy Mackerel! How grilling used to be in my younger days
TO GRILL A FISH: To grill or not to grill, many of us prefer to preserve the flavour in the fish when it is grilled. Almost all the juice stays in the fish than getting mixed with water in sauces and soups). With this recipe about grilling, it reminds me how to grill and how the works used to be during my childhood. My parents did not have a fancy electric stove when I was younger and up to now, they are still using a kerosene portable stove and a dirty kitchen to save on their electric bill.
The name abuhan is derived from the English word “ashtray”. In the Philippines, most homes have an outdoor kitchen as well called abuhan “dirty kitchen” where old wood is utilized as firewood for a much flavourful cooking. The abu or abo (ash) refined from burning wood covers much of the surface and that is how this dirty kitchen got its name.
During my childhood, I enjoyed spending afternoons with ma selecting the right scrap wood. The kahoy (wood) sizes should go well without having to do any extra chopping to fit for the abuhan. This should be dry and ready to use. The scrap of wood are cut outs from logs used for furniture making and piled high up like little mountains. I remember ma saying, “This is great for sugnod.” Sugnod means wood for cooking. We do not only use the scrap of wood for sugnod, but we gather them into sacks to sell to the neighbours to serve the same purpose- sugnod. They come to my ma’s sari-sari store (convenience store) located in front of the house to buy some wood. “Papalita ko ug kahoy, day Lina.” “May I buy wood from you, ma’m Lina.”
Where I am now, there is no way to have a dirty kitchen para mag sinugba “to grill”. I avoid using the outdoor barbeque grill for fish; some neighbours might not be amused by the scent. So here is the Sinugbang Isda Mackerel (Grilled Fish Mackerel), solely grilled in my kitchen using a toaster oven. I prefer the toaster oven since it cooks quicker than the stove oven.
This mackerel is stuffed with the same vegetables and pineapple. I did not have the availability of fresh parsley.
For a Perfect Fish
A quick and delicious way of grilling mackerel right in your kitchen
Fish should be fresh and cleaned off from its guts and gills. I prefer the gills removed for it gives a bitter taste. Rinse in cold water and gently pat dry (you want to maintain its perfect skin). Make two to three diagonal slices into both sides of the whole mackerel but not too deep (you want to keep the whole fish intact).
Speaking of whole fish, actually it is your fish so you may remove the head and the tail (if that will give you nightmares. I have a friend who loves having a full size fish on her dinner plate, but the head and tail will get her running towards the door. I told her that my parents love to crunch on the head and I enjoy nibbling the fish eyes especially from a fried fish and she just gave me a weird stare.)
Sprinkle and spread a good amount of table salt on both sides and inside the fish; do not overdo since mackerel is an ocean or saltwater fish. Make sure to include some salt in between the cuts to enhance flavour. Let salt soak in while preparing your vegetable and fruit stuffing mixture.
What you need:
· 1 or 2 fresh mackerel
· table salt or rock salt
· tin or aluminum foil
Stuffing Ingredients: To be honest, I am not completely keen into measuring my ingredients when I cook. It is merely this and that, here and there the way I like it.
· ginger cut julienne style
· tomato (lots of chopped tomatoes to bring out the sweetness and juiciness)
· pineapple or apple or mango or peach
· spring onions and parsley leaves
· 2 cloves garlic chopped
· 3 to 4 tbsp. olive oil
· 2 tbsp. white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
· 3 tbsp. soy sauce or balsamic (option)
· 1 tsp. sugar
· ground black pepper
1. Ready the toaster oven. Usually it is programmed to preheat at 450 ˚F. For a stove oven, preheat to medium high.
2. Combine all chopped vegetables (ginger, tomato, spring onions, parsley leaves, garlic) and your choice of fruit into olive oil, vinegar and soya sauce mix; add sugar and ground black pepper. If you prefer to use balsamic vinegar, then you may omit adding vinegar by itself. Set aside 2 pinches of fresh chopped parsley for garnish later.
3. Layer flat a double tin foil on the oven tray and gently set the mackerel in place.
4. From the tray, stuff mixture into mackerel evenly. (I do the stuffing on the foil than the plate, so nothing is wasted.) The olive oil in the mixture will keep the fish from sticking onto the foil.
5. Set aside any left-over that you can have later as extra garnish or mini salad with your grilled mackerel.
6. Grill the stuffed mackerel 6 to 10 minutes each side depending on the size of fish and how quick your oven cooks up, flipping carefully without ripping the foil and skin off by taking the tray out to be able to flip the fish properly without breaking it. I let roll the fish by lifting up the foil from the side edges and pushing with a spatula towards the middle. This is why in the first place, a double tin foil was set.
7. Your grilled mackerel’s skin must be flakey. Fish juicy. To control the skin from burn, you may add a tent foil while it is half grilled.
8. Holy Mackerel! You are done! Garnish a few of your colourful mixture on top of your mackerel and shower with fresh parsley. Serve immediately with steamed rice. Savour over a cold, cold Coke or a selection of wine for fish. Enjoy!
Tip: I encourage eating with bare hands (kinamot or kamayan) with your whole grilled mackerel and rice. It is a way to savour a good meal and nothing is wasted. It is more appetizing and enjoyable, after all you can always wash your hands.
The Filipino Way
- Dirty Kitchen | Filipino Kusina | Journey to Samal
The first time I heard this term was in the inlaws' balay. I couldn't understand why there was so much pride in the statement, "we have a dirty kitchen." I looked around at the the kitchen, and while it was a little messy, I couldn't use the term".
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Marites Mabugat-Simbajon (author) from Toronto, Ontario on June 15, 2012:
Hi A.A. Zavala! Thank you for sharing your thoughts or may I say doubting about how mackerel tastes, lol! Mackerel is great in any way of cooking it, besides, it is an affordable fish. :) Try it one day.
I would love tuna with peppercorn grilled, kingfish fried and salmon baked or poached too, but costly. Have a nice day!
Augustine A Zavala from Texas on June 14, 2012:
I remember mackeral being smoked in open pits in the carnivals in Germany. They smelled so good, but I don't know if it tasted good. This looks good!
Marites Mabugat-Simbajon (author) from Toronto, Ontario on March 15, 2012:
Thank you rjsadowski! I hope to be able to share more soon. Cheers!
rjsadowski on March 15, 2012:
Your recipe looks interesting and I enjoyed your background information.