This is for and about home cooks - the women all over the the world (and through the centuries) who put dinner on the table every night. They know how to cook quickly, easily, economically, healthily and satisfyingly whether for one or a dozen.

Part memoir, part diary of shopping, cooking, reading and thinking about putting supper on the table, by a former fashion/design writer/consultant whose secret love has always been food.  


Easy Mackerel with Onions & Capers


From "60-Minute Gourmet" Pierre Franey,  New York Times, July 17, 1985

 Pierre Franey and Craig Claibourne were the food heroes of my youth (along with Julia Child and James Beard).

 Their joint, weekly articles on food and restaurants in The New York Times were both practical and inspirational, opening my then thoroughly unsophisticated eyes to a world I so desperately wanted to join.

 And then I moved to London. I do not think anyone now can imagine the food desert the city was then. My first shock was olive oil. Growing up in New York with a first generation Italian American mother, this was a staple in the kitchen, like salt and pepper (and garlic).  Here it was sold in tiny bottles in the pharmacy to clear wax from your ears and only a trip to the wonderful Italian delis in Soho provided the real thing. Happily the first immensely fashionable Italian restaurants had begun to open in Chelsea and Knightsbridge and the rest is, as we say, history.

 But Franey and Claibourne. How I missed them. Friends sent clippings aka care packages and I treasured and cooked from each one. When Franey’s “60-Minute Gourmet” column was launched in the mid seventies (followed by the book) more clippings followed and several of these recipes became basics in my repertoire. Among the simplest and most interesting, this mackerel with onions and capers from July, 1985, which Franey says he was first served at the home of a Spanish friend.

NOTE: See this in the New York Times' wonderful Cooking section, in which you can find an archive of Franey recipes, and also Craig Claiborne recipes.

Mackerel With Onions and Capers - Pierre Franey


 4 mackerel fillets with skin left intact, about 1 1/2 pounds (680gr)

Salt to taste if desired

Freshly ground pepper to taste

¾ pound (340r) small white onions, peeled

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup corn, peanut or vegetable oil

4 tablespoons butter

cup (60ml) dry white wine

2 whole cloves garlic

¼ cup (60ml) milk

¼ cup (32gr)  flour

1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

¼ cup (about 40r) drained capers


 Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cut onions in half lengthwise. Place each half cut side down on a flat surface and cut onions into very thin slices. There should be about 3 cups.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil and one tablespoon of the butter in a saucepan. Add onions and cook, stirring fairly often, about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add wine and cloves and cover closely. Bring to the boil and let cook over low heat about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the milk in a flat dish and add salt and pepper. Put the fillets in the milk and turn. Let stand until ready to use.

Sprinkle the flour on a flat surface. Lift the fillets from the milk, one at a time, and shake off excess milk. Do not pat dry. Dip the fillets in the flour to coat well on both sides. Shake off excess.

Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet large enough to hold the fillets in one layer and when it is quite hot add the fillets, skin side up. Cook on one side over moderately high heat 3 minutes. Turn the pieces and cook on the other side about 3 minutes. Tilt the pan and baste the fillets occasionally as they cook.

Arrange the fillets on a serving dish and spoon an equal portion of the onion mixture over each fillet.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet and cook, shaking the skillet vigorously around and around until the butter starts to brown and takes on a hazelnut color.

Add the vinegar and pour the mixture over the onion-topped mackerel.

Sprinkle with parsley and capers and serve immediately.


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