Stuffed Mackerel with Maypop and Leeks

My goodness, what a month December has been! I won't bore you with my trials and tribulations of mommyhood, my pets' health emergencies, and the fact that my 100+-year-old silver maple snapped clean in half during the storm the other night... Instead, I'd rather just gloss over that all and get back to my favorite subject: food.

Today's special ingredient on this unseasonably balmy winter day is going to be the gorgeous Maypop! 

According to my Instagram followers, this fruit looks like human teeth. We even tagged Lady Gaga in the comments as we chanted "SHOW ME YOUR TEETH."

This wonderful little fruit is of the passionfruit family and grows naturally in temperate climates. It's sweet, quite sour, and wonderfully fragrant. It goes great in teas, cocktails, and more. One of my favorite creators, Alexis Nikole, does an adorable little snippet on it on Instagram on how to identify it in the wild.

This beautiful fruit does, in fact, grow on the farm and I was all too thrilled to take some. Since I'd never heard of this fruit before, I asked around on the farm what I could do with it. Everyone said I could make it into a drink syrup aside from eating it. The fruit itself is similar to a pomegranate in which it's actually fruit-covered seeds all in a casing. Processing this fruit would be a bit of a nightmare, so I'm sure it's easier to muddle them into cocktails than to cook with them. But can one cook with this fruit and make it easy? It turns out you can.

A couple of notes on selecting good mackerel, or any fresh(or frozen) fish:

If you don't live in a coastal town,  you're going to get flash-frozen fish. This is good! Flash-frozen fish is excellent in quality and safety because it ensures that there are no parasites in the fish's flesh. I live in Kansas City, which is smack in the middle of the country, so this means I've got no chance of eating ocean fish that was caught that day. I don't mind, though, because they taught me how to select good fish in culinary school.

Clear eyes are your first indicator of good quality. The eyes of a whole fish should be bright and shiny, not tinged with red or white, and not sunken-in.  Firm-looking flesh is your second indicator! A fish's skin should shine, like diamonds. Finally, good fish should not smell fishy at all; it should smell like a fresh bite of the ocean's brine. Follow those simple rules and you'll have good success!

Maypop Stuffed Mackerel
serves 4-6

  • 2 medium whole mackerels
  • 1 medium leek, thoroughly washed and sliced thinly
  • 2 maypops
  • 1/4 c muscat or a similar sweet white wine
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • A large bunch of fresh parsley
  • Good olive oil, as needed
  • A generous amount of salt and pepper
  • Steamed white rice, to serve

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Clean the mackerel thoroughly by rinsing with cold water but leave them whole. Rub the inside and out with a generous amount of good olive oil and season liberally. Mix the garlic, maypop seeds, leeks, and parsley, crushing the seeds with your hands to help bind the mixture. Stuff the mackerel with as much of the garlic mixture as will fit and let the remaining stuffing act as a bed for the mackerel to roast on. Add the wine to the bottom of the pan and roast for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the juices run clear from the fish when poked. The skin will also blister and crisp slightly; that's the beauty of mackerel which is deliciously fatty. You may, if you like, stick it under a broiler for 3 to 5 minutes to ensure some extra crispy skin, but it's completely optional.

I serve this incredibly simple dish with steamed rice, but you can use some rustic, crusty bread and some garlic confit if you so desire. I also think that mackerel goes well with potatoes, but it is entirely up to you. If you really want some extra oomph to this dish, try caramelizing the leeks beforehand. This is optional but quite tasty. Even better, you can do this entire method/recipe using chicken breasts you've butterflied and stuffed. Yes, this maypop stuff goes great with chicken!

Thanks so much for spending a little time with me today. I love experimenting with new ingredients and educating others about the native fruits of America. I think we should teach more about it in American schools, but that's another blog post. Or maybe I'll just write my local representatives on my school board about it? 

Have a gorgeous day or night. Happy cooking and happy eating!