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Mackerel with lemon and thyme

(Jonathan levitt)
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July 9, 2008

Serves 4

Dark-fleshed, muscular, and streamlined for constant swimming, the tiger-striped Atlantic mackerel is a treat best eaten freshly caught. Right out of the water mackerel are rich, clean, and mild, but even two days later the high oil content can cause the fish to go off. Until late fall, pristine day-boat Atlantic mackerel are available at fish markets for $3 to $4 per pound. In the kitchen tart flavors like cranberry, rhubarb, and gooseberry pair well with the rich flavor. Mackerel is also good Japanese style - salted and then marinated in rice vinegar and mirin, or cured like gravlax with sugar and dill. Make a Spanish escabeche by frying the fish, then marinating it in vinegar, and if you've caught your own, have fish for breakfast, coated in oatmeal and pan-fried in bacon fat. Most of the time, simple is best: stuffed with sprigs of fresh thyme and roasted whole with lemons, a drizzle of olive oil and some white wine. Easy to catch and easy to eat.

Olive oil (for sprinkling)
4 whole mackerel (1 to 2 pounds each), cleaned with heads and tails intact
1 bunch fresh thyme or lemon thyme
2 lemons, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to hold the 4 mackerel without overlapping. Oil it lightly. Stuff each mackerel cavity with a few sprigs of thyme.

2. Lay the lemon slices in the dish or pan. Lay the remaining sprigs of thyme on top of the lemons. Set the fish on top. Pour the white wine over the fish and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

3. Roast the fish for 15 minutes without turning them over, or until the flesh is opaque all the way to the bone. Serve with steamed potatoes. Jonathan Levitt

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