Mackerel with Wasabi Daikon Radish Relish
In this dish, I paired shallow pan-fried mackerel steaks with a fresh vegetable relish. The relish is made of baby cucumber, lemon, daikon radish, dill and wasabi-infused oil. The sweet and spicy notes give the dish the ideal balance of flavor as the acidic taste cuts through the richness of the fried fish. I served the pan-fried fish on a bed of lavash bread so it could soak up the delicious goodness from the relish.
The dish takes no time to cook and the relish can be prepared in advance.
Yields: 6 servings3 mackerel steaks
1 clove fresh garlic, finely minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
½ teaspoon red chili powder
4 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
2 Persian baby cucumbers
2 cloves pickled garlic (or fresh garlic)
3 lemons, zested and freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and freshly ground
½ teaspoon Dijon horseradish mustard (optional)
¼ cup dill, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons Bluegrass soy sauce (see tips), drained
1-½ teaspoons sea salt (or regular salt)
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked
¼ cup wasabi-infused canola oil
Prepping the cucumbers: Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds if any. Slice the cucumber into ½-inch slices. Layer a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, and place the cucumber slices on top. Sprinkle Kosher salt on both sides and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the slices into matchsticks, then into small dice.
Prepping the daikon: Repeat the same procedure: Peel the daikon, cut into thin slices. Cut the slices into matchsticks, then into small dice.
For the relish:
In a small saucepan, combine the juice of 2 lemons and the granulated sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool completely.
In a mortar and pestle, sprinkle 1 teaspoon sea salt with 2 tablespoons dill and the pickled garlic. The addition of the sea salt helps to get the right texture. Transfer to a bowl. Add mustard (if used), ground coriander, lemon zest, soy sauce and wasabi oil. Stir well. Add the cucumbers, daikon and 1 tablespoon dill. Mix well. Chill in the refrigerator.
Ask your fishmonger to prep the fish steaks. Make sure the fish skin is scaled. Wash and pat dry using paper towels. Place the fish steaks in a small, shallow dish. Drizzle with the juice of 1 lemon. Season with kosher salt, red chili powder and 1 clove of crushed garlic. Make sure the spices coat the fish. Spread a tablespoon of oil evenly in the dish. Marinate the fish for no more than 30 minutes.
Pat the fish dry one more time. In a skillet, heat the canola oil and fry yellow onions and cook for about 6-8 minutes until nicely golden, leaving as much oil as possible in the pan. Place the steaks in the oil, making sure they don't touch each other. Jiggle the pan to make sure the fish is totally coated with oil and does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until lightly golden (depending on the thickness of the steak). Flip each piece (I use chopsticks, which I find easier to maneuver; you could use a slotted fish turner) and pan-fry the other side for another 2-3 minutes until crispy and lightly browned. Jiggle the pan again. Season with sea salt. Place the fish steaks on paper towels. Set aside.
Line a serving platter with folded lavash bread. Place the pan-fried fish steaks onto the bread and spoon the relish over the fish.
Garnish with more lemon zest and fresh dill.
When prepping cucumbers, I usually scoop out the seeds as they make the relish too watery. Some people like to peel cucumbers; I usually peel 2-3 strips around the vegetable, using a vegetable peeler. If you use the small variety (such as Persian or Mediterranean cucumbers), it's recommended to peel them entirely as the cucumber skin is waxed to seal in moisture for longer shelf life at the market.
If you want another presentation, you could cut the daikon and cucumbers into long, flat, wide ribbon-shaped pieces using a mandoline or a vegetable peeler.
You can find ready-made wasabi oil in specialty stores or you could make your own wasabi-infused canola oil. Stir 1 tablespoon wasabi powder in ½ cup canola oil. Pour the oil into a small saucepan. Warm over very low heat for 10 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
You can use fresh garlic instead of the pickled garlic but the garlic flavor is going to be a lot stronger. You can find pickled garlic in any Asian store.
Lavash bread, also known as lahvash or cracker bread, can be found in Middle Eastern markets.April 2, 2012.