I am a cradle Catholic and never heard of mackerel snappers while I was growing up. It wasn’t til I started working construction and came back late from lunch because I’d gone to an Ash Wednesday service that I heard that term for the first time. It isn’t new. I thought it was because I hadn’t heard it before and in my 20-year-old arrogance assumed that it couldn’t exist without my knowledge. The term dates back at least to the 1940’s when Robert Mitchum referred to some of his fellow Marines as mackerel snappers while talking to a Catholic nun in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.
King mackerel spawn in the Gulf of Mexico during the summer months and anglers like catching them because they are fighting fish. I don’t know much about the fishing part, but they are pretty when they come out of the water.
Since Bob’s son, Bobby, has been doing some fishing in the Gulf, we’ve gotten to share in the bounty and that means we’ve got quite a few packs of king mackerel steaks in the freezer and I’m on the hunt for a way to cook them.
There are two types of kingfish. Ours, that come from the Gulf of Mexico, and another type that lives in the Atlantic Ocean near North Carolina. When I googled “kingfish recipes,” I got more websites from the east coast than from the Gulf. What was offered wasn’t spectacular and didn’t give us any new ideas on how to cook the darn fish.
The problem with the king mackerel meat, just so you don’t think I’m an ungrateful twit, is that it is dense and red and has a strong, bloody flavor. This is in my humble opinion. I’ve learned from this past year that strong flavored game generally isn’t cleaned, prepared or cooked well so I know that if there’s a way to cook it right, it will taste great. Or at least not that bad.
We ended up getting a hint that seems to work great at hauling the gamey taste out of the kingfish. Bob steaked the fish into 1-1/2″ slabs, leaving the skin on. I rubbed the fish with a lime juice, olive oil, and garlic pepper mix and let it sit in its marinade bath while the coals got hot.
The helpful hint was to cut sweet yellow onions into thick slices and put them under and on top of the kingfish steaks. Bob carefully placed them on the grill to cook for 20-25 minutes. Our steaks were thick enough that Bob turned them after about 15 minutes and took them off when the meat was flaky.
We also made a pesto sauce to accompany the grilled steaks. (2 packed cups of basil leaves, 3 cloves of garlic, 5-6 tbs of pine nuts, 1/2 c. olive oil, 1/2 c. of grated romano cheese; swirl the leaves, garlic and nuts for a minute or so in a food processor before adding oil and cheese. Pepper to taste.)
The steaks were good that night and not so strong flavored that you needed the pesto sauce. I made it just in case. The fish was also as good as kingfish salad on a sandwich the next day.