Saturday, October 2, 2010

One of the joys of living surrounded by salt water is fresh fish.

During my first weekend in Istanbul, my husband and I wandered under the Galata Bridge and took an afternoon break at one of the restaurants. We both ordered an Efes beer and a “balik ekmek” – a grilled fish sandwich. The bread is crusty on the outside, soft in the middle, garnished with a grilled fish filet, sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce and a little drizzle of lemon juice. That mid-afternoon snack cost only 10 lira or about $6.90 USD each. We drank our beers, ate our fresh fish sandwiches and enjoyed watching the boats go by on the Bosphorus. Priceless!

Since then, we’ve eaten local grilled sea bream and sea bass at other restaurants. I wanted to cook a whole fish, but was a little intimidated by the “balikpazzari” – outdoor fish markets. I only speak a little Turkish so far, or as I tell the salesperson when I buy something “pardon, kucuk Turkish.”
The Galatasaray Balikpazzari located along the Bosphorus.
Earlier this week, I finally had my chance to buy a whole fish. I was with a Turkish friend in her car near Istinye Park and she asked me if I wanted to buy a fish. “There’s a good fish market here,” she said.

“Sure. I need to cook something for dinner anyway,” I said.

The next thing I know we’re conducting a fish sale through the open car windows. My friend is speaking Turkish, pointing to the fish and talking to the fish monger. I can’t understand a word.
I told my friend to order whatever is in season and that will feed two people.

The next thing I know, the fish monger has taken my fish, gutted and descaled it. The guy handed me the cleaned fish wrapped in a styrofoam tray and a white plastic bag. I paid him $12.50 lira. This whole transaction took place without me ever leaving the car. How cool is that?

My fish was called “uskumru,” which I later looked up and found was a mackerel. October is a great month for fish, I was told. This month many of the migratory fish that fed during the summer months in the Black Sea return to the Marmara Sea.

I’ve previously tried thinly sliced, raw mackerel at sushi restaurants. My husband insists that you can tell if a place has good sushi by how well the mackerel is. I still don’t believe him.

However, I was willing to try cooking mackerel. Unfortunately, my headless fish was already cut into filets. I’d have to try cooking a whole fish another time.

I think the easiest method for nearly any kind of fish is to drizzle it with some good olive oil, season with salt and pepper and throw it under the broiler. That’s exactly what I did, except I added some fresh parsley too.

To me, the mackerel is a very fishy tasting fish, even when cooked. It’s not my favorite fish, but I’m willing to try it.

We served our fish with spicy, roasted potatoes and a small version of Çoban Salatası.

Afiyet Olsen!

Broiled Mackerel with Roasted “Kirmiz Biber” Potatoes
Broiled Mackerel
4          ea.        Mackerel fillets
As needed       Olive oil (one produced in Turkey, of course)
As needed       Fresh parsley
As needed       Salt and pepper

1. Line a metal baking tray with foil to help with ease of clean up later. Preheat the broiler on your oven.
2. Drizzle the fish filets with the olive oil. Season the fish with salt, pepper and parsley.
3. Place filets under the broiler to cook for about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. Test doneness with a fork.

Roasted “Kirmiz Biber” Potatoes
1          lb.        potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, cut into medium-sized cubes
As needed       Olive oil
As needed       Granulated garlic powder
As needed       “Kirmiz Biber” – Turkish red pepper flakes that taste like a combination of smoked paprika and crushed red pepper flakes (You could substitute crushed red pepper flakes here.)
As needed       Salt and pepper

1. Wash and peel potatoes.
2. Cut potatoes into medium-sized cubes.
3. Place potatoes into a large bowl. Drizzle potatoes with the olive oil. Sprinkle on the spices, salt and pepper.
4. Place potatoes on a foil-lined baking tray. Bake at 400 F for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. About halfway during the cooking process, stir the potatoes with a spatula to promote even cooking. Test the potatoes with a fork to see if they are done.

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Jason said...

I can confirm the mackerel was well seasoned and cooked just as you'd like but the fish monger apparently didn't care too much about leaving bones throughout the filets.

Anonymous said...

Hey, cool article, keep up the good work!!! - Cara