Sea to Table: Fresh Atlantic Mackerel Ceviche with Habanero

On the New England coast, we see large schools of mackerel as they move inshore by late May before migrating north to spawn in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There is a long history of mackerel’s importance as a food source around the world. Due to how quickly its flesh spoils, mackerel is often cured in salt or smoked if it isn’t going to be consumed on the day it was caught. Though often seen as a baitfish for big game sportfish, they are a delicious and abundant resource — and a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.

There are many possible variations, so feel free to experiment — include the fish options you can use. This is a simple ceviche recipe I learned while living in Costa Rica. Exploring the southernmost beaches, just before the Panamanian border, I became friends with the guy who ran the one tiny bar on the beach in Punta Banco. My broken Spanish helped me to get the gist. It has become one of those “life” recipes that stands just as much for the experience of when you learned it as it does each time you make it. You can apply this to any lean, white-fleshed, saltwater fish — this time I applied it to my catch of mackerel that you see above.

He served little cups of the stuff with a beer and it was brilliant because, after a surf, there was nothing better.

It’s a simple equation, but the more flavorful your ingredients the better your dish will be. Using locally grown, or organic, really increases the flavor.
Disclaimer: there is always a risk when eating raw fish, so be sure to know the source and make sure it is extremely fresh and has been handled properly. Swiftly removing intestines is important for flavor but also for safety. Using fresh-frozen fish is another way to ensure safety.

 

On to the ceviche…

I don’t have an exact measurement because when you are making ceviche, the recipe changes depending on how much luck you had that day and how many fish you caught. I go by taste, but here is an estimate to work from based on the amount of mackerel I had this day.

Ingredients:
  • 1.5 lbs filleted fresh mackerel or other saltwater fish
  • 5 ripe limes
  • 1 medium sweet white onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 large bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 fresh serrano peppers
  • 1 fresh habanero pepper
  • fresh ground pepper
  • plenty of sea salt
  • 1 glug of olive oil

Once you have filleted the mackerel, I like to remove the dark area of each fillet before cutting it up into chunks. A sharp knife makes this all really easy. Mix the fish in a bowl with a liberal pinch of salt and the juice of a few fresh squeezed limes — stir and keep chilled.

Next, finely chop the sweet onion, the red and green bell peppers, and the cilantro. I like to only use the cilantro leaves.

Throw all of the veggies into the bowl with the fish, a glug of olive oil, and another liberal pinch of salt. Continue to keep chilled. Cut up the avocados into chunks a little bigger than the fish. It’s best to use an avocado that is firm so that the pieces don’t dissolve in the lime juice.

Squeeze the remaining limes and mix everything in the bowl. Cover it and let it sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. While you wait, thinly slice the serrano and habanero peppers for people to add to their preferred level of heat. After the mixture has cured, take it out and give it a good mix and salt and pepper to taste. It should be bright and fresh.

Serve in a bowl with soda crackers (or tortilla chips) and a helping of the fresh hot peppers (and hot sauce) to taste. Enjoy by the beach with a cold beverage while sitting in your Stargaze™ chair and listening to the waves of the ocean where you just harvested these fish.


As NEMO’s Creative Content Director, Randy Gaetano is a passionate outdoorsman and advocate for conservation. He can usually be found either sitting quietly in a treestand — waiting for a deer … or sitting quietly on a longboard — waiting for a wave.