The best dishes are those that use only a few ingredients. In this case: beets, mackerel, and balsamic vinegar (plus salt, pepper, and olive oil). It is a versatile dish: you could serve it lukewarm or at room temperature as a salad for lunch, or in a smaller portion as an appetizer, or as a secondo piatto after a nice plate of pasta (primo piatto). It also uses all of the beets: not only the beets themselves, but also the leaves and stems. They each contribute a different flavor and texture to the dish. And all three work very well with the mackerel, cooked sous-vide to give it a wonderful creamy texture. The balsamic ties it all together.
The dish came about because Mimi made a valid point about roasted beets: if you wrap beets in aluminum foil and put them in the oven, that is not roasting but baking at best, because the beets are basically steamed in their own juices. I prefer that method of preparing beets to regular boiling because the beets will have more flavor, but it is not the same as actual roasting. That produces a different texture and a slightly crispy exterior. Although I had roasted beets before, for example to make beet risotto, Mimi’s post reminded me to do it again. And then I thought of the mackerel and balsamic and it turned out so well that I will be serving this as antipasto for dinner parties. Here’s what I did…
For 2 servings as a light main course or 4 servings as an appetizer
3 beets with stems and leaves
250 grams (.55 lb) fresh mackerel fillets (of a 500 grams/1.1 lb mackerel)
good quality balsamic vinegar
good quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F (fan forced). Cut the greens off the beets and reserve. Peel the beets.
Cut the beets into pieces of roughly the same size (so they will cook evenly), put them in an oven proof dish, and drizzle with olive oil.
Toss the beets so they are coated with olive oil.
Roast the beets at 200C/400F (fan forced) until they are tender, about 1 hour. Stir them about every 15 minutes so they will be roasted on all sides.
Wash the greens well in cold water. Wash them twice or more if necessary to remove all the sand. Separate the leaves from the stalks. Sort through the leaves and discard any tough or discolored leaves.
Chop the stalks into short pieces (about 1 cm or 1/2 inch). Toss them with olive oil in a small oven proof dish.
Roast the stems in the same oven as the beets until they are crispy, about 30 minutes, stirring halfway. Make sure they won’t burn!
Rinse the mackerel with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Rub with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a bit of olive oil.
Vacuum seal, and refrigerate. Prepare a sous-vide water bath at 46C/115F.
Roughly chop the beet greens and dress them with salt, balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil.
When the beets have been roasting for about 45 minutes, cook the mackerel sous-vide for 15 minutes at 46C/115F.
Take the beets out of the oven when they are tender.
Dress them with salt, freshly ground black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
To plate, arrange a layer of roasted beetroot in the middle of the plate with the greens around. Use a ring mold if you have to make it easier to plate this nicely.
Arrange the mackerel on top (which you can easily pull into pieces with your fingers) and top with the roasted stems.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a grinding of black pepper, and serve.
This is great with a “spatlese trocken” riesling from Germany (or Apostelhoeve from the Netherlands or Luxemburg) preferably aged. Spatlese means late harvest, and trocken means dry. Because of the overripe grapes, the ‘dry’ wine will have just a touch of residual sugar, which works very well with the sweetness of the beets and the balsamic vinegar. The acidity of the riesling will work well with the balsamic, and finally the creaminess of a spatlese riesling, especially if it is aged, works well with the mackerel.