Mackerel & Cinnamon Cake

Ten Tables

Holy mackerel—chef Eric Cooper of Ten Tables puts a wintertime spin on the fish with a recipe thats one part appetizer and one part dessert. Mackerel fillets are quick-pickled with the classic cold-weather cranberry, then matched with a seasonal cinnamon cake for a sweet and briny dish that hits all the palate high notes.


Servings: 4-6


For the mackerel:

  • 2 pounds Boston mackerel fillets
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thin-sliced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, peeled and think-sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole white pepper
  • 4 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sherry
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 bay leaves

For the cinnamon cake:

  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in pieces
  • 1 quart milk
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups cinnamon milk, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of one orange


For the mackerel:

  1. Split the mackerel fillets lengthwise and remove the bloodline. Lay them in a single layer in a nonreactive pan. Scatter the onion, carrot, cranberries and thyme over the top.
  2. In a sachet, combine the allspice, mustard and white pepper. In a separate pot, bring the vinegar, sherry and water to a boil. Add in the sugar, salt, garlic, bay leaves and spice sachet. Reduce to a vigorous simmer until the flavors have infused. Return to a rolling boil, remove from heat and pour the boiling liquid over the fillets and vegetables.
  3. Lay a sheet of parchment or plastic wrap directly on the fillets to keep them submerged. Cover the pan tightly and allow to cool to room temperature, then remove the spice sachet and refrigerate at least 24 hours.

For the cinnamon cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Gently heat the milk and cinnamon and cook until the flavor is quite strong. Strain and set aside cinnamon milk to cool.
  3. Grease a 1/2 sheet pan with olive oil and line the bottom with a circle of greased parchment. Combine the dry and wet ingredients separately, then mix together until smooth.
  4. Bake until firm. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan before inverting and unmolding.

To serve: 

  1. Carefully remove two pieces of fillet and arrange on a plate. Cut a wedge of  cinnamon cake, roughly one inch wide by four inches long, and lay it across the fillets. Scatter some of the vegetables and cranberries around the plate as well as a little of the pickling liquid. Splash the plate with olive oil and sprinkle with chives.

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