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Appetizers, Fish and Shellfish, Mains

Mackerel pickled in white wine

Mackerel pickled in white wine
Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Even out of the water they have a commanding presence. Their skin is shiny silver and midnight blue, and their eyes are hard as garnets. These are wild fish fresh from the ocean, and it shows; even trapped in their ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour plus cooling and refrigeration time | Serves 8


  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 1 onion, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced fennel bulb
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed lightly and peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste if necessary
  • 4 Atlantic mackerel fillets (saba), about 1 1/2 pounds total, bones removed if necessary
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Step 1In a medium saucepan, combine the water, wine, onion, carrot, fennel, garlic, peppercorns, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and one-half teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to a quick simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 25 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary; the liquid should be very flavorful. Cool to room temperature.

Step 2Trim the fins from the fillets and cut each diagonally in half crosswise. When the liquid has cooled, place the fish in a broad, deep skillet and pour the cool liquid over.

Step 3Slowly heat just until the liquid trembles a few times, about 15 minutes. The fish should be firm, and there may be some white collagen breaking on the surface. If not, cook a little longer over very low heat. Remove from heat and cool in the liquid.

Step 4When cool enough to handle, carefully remove the fillets from the liquid and gently peel away the skin.

Step 5Arrange the fillets in a single layer in a glass or porcelain dish, discarding the vegetables. Stir the lemon juice into the liquid, then strain it over the top of the fish and seal tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve. It will keep several days in the refrigerator as long as the fish is completely covered by the liquid.

Dressing and assembly

  • 1 cup pickling liquid
  • 1/2 cup capers, drained
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 ounces mixed salad greens

Step 1Combine the pickling liquid, capers, chives and lemon juice to make a dressing.

Step 2Place a handful of mixed greens on each plate and add a mackerel fillet. Drizzle each fillet with several tablespoons of dressing and serve.

Note: This version of the classic French appetizer maquereaux au vin blanc should be made at least a day ahead for fullest flavor.


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