Some get worked up about the turkey on Thanksgiving. Brine or baste, roast or deep-fry, free range or heritage. But I get excited about mackerel.
A holiday spread in this Russian household is not complete without some sort of smoked or salted fish. Some go for herring, salty and traditional. I go for mackerel, smoky and creamy. Last week my mom bought a whole hot-smoked mackerel at the Russian store. It came with a tail, a head, and sad, pleading eyes. I was unmoved.
My mom and I cut the fish into sections, removed the skin and bones, and dug in. You can eat smocked mackerel spread on rye bread, with slices of cucumber and tomato. Or you can pick up the soft, fatty chunks with your fingers and pop them in your mouth, letting the fish melt on your tongue.
The week before Thanksgiving I thought about smocked mackerel, a lot. When Nov. 22 arrived, I tiptoed around the fish, ensconced in the fridge for the guests, like a cat. By late afternoon, I proclaimed it time for a pre-dinner snack. Don't worry; I refrained from eating with my fingers. The holidays call for a nicer presentation.
You will need a hot-smocked mackerel fillet (sold at Russian groceries), cleaned of skin and bones, and cut into chunks. (If you get squeamish around whole fish, you can sub smoked trout or salmon fillets).
Toast some thinly sliced dark rye or wholemeal bread. Spread with a thin layer of unslated butter.Top with a thin slice of cucumber, a thin slice of tomato, and a slice of mackerel. Or skip the tomato and top with thinly sliced red onion. Use the leftover mackarel to make Beyond Salmon’s delicious looking smoked fish chowder.