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Cooking with Lake Tahoe Mackinaw

Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I challenge anyone to that point. It is also one of the deepest lakes in the US (#2 to be exact). Its stunning beauty has brought many visitors to its shores mainly to bask in the bright sunlight and breath in crisp mountain air… but it hasn’t brought many to
fish. Lake Tahoe is filled with Mackinaw, a fresh water fish that is closely related to Salmon and Arctic Char. It has light pink meat, abundant in delicious fat and a taste that is very delicate and not too ‘fishy.’

Recently, I was very fortunate to run into my friend Jess who invited me over to help them prepare an abundance of local Lake Tahoe Mackinaw. Her and a few friends had been out on “Captain Chris’ Fishing Charters” and caught a large number of the local treat. Needless to say, I was excited. Armed with a few ideas, we hit the kitchen with what seemed like 20 pounds of fish and goofy grins on our faces.

The dinner was to pan out in three dishes; deep fried mackinaw for tacos (I mean, we had too, we are from California!), a thick Mango-cilantro marinade, and a ham covered fillet that would be grilled. Jess took to the deep frying, by preparing a simple buttermilk-beer batter, and I took to the mango-cilantro sauce and the ham preparation. The mango sauce went something like this; fresh mango, cilantro, limes, honey, salt, and some additional spices. The fish was covered in the sauce and let to marinade for about an hour. This was then baked, sauce and all, for about 20 min @ 400* attempting to bake in all that delicious citrus. To accompany this dish, a slaw was constructed of napa cabbage, green apples, radish, cilantro, and crispy tortilla strips, dressed with a very light vinaigrette. The side dish was a keeper.

The ham preparation actually took a few twists and ended up being the talk of the night. The fish was lightly seasoned in salt (note: next time, I’m using Dijon mustard) then covered in black forest ham, then placed on top of a bed of corn husks. This was grilled skin side down, until perfectly medium rare on top of the fillet, no turning necessary. This was served with a side of roasted corn on the cob. Which got the creative juices flowing for the next time: a roasted corn & shallot salad to top the fish.

This meal turned into more of an event than expected, and dance parties erupted in the kitchen. The fish was incredible, all preparations stirred a debate on which was everyones favorite. We still talk about the fish and we are now two months out from this dinner. Now a term of endearment amongst us, the names of the dishes became Mangonaw & Haminaw. I can’t wait to put this on my menu!!

Thanks to Jess, Johnny, Danielle, Capn Chris, Darcy, Amy, Ashley, and anyone else I’m forgetting!!