Confession: My first experience with blackened fish left a bitter taste in my mouth for a very long time. Too long, in fact.
I might’ve been 13 or 14 when my father decided he’d try his hand at the popular Chef Paul Prudhomme brainchild. He cleaned the fish (you couldn’t buy catfish fillets back then at the grocery store), mixed up his spices and fired up our built-in outdoor grill. The end result resembled an ash-coated version of a Stretch Armstrong toy. I was hardly hooked.
Fortunately, I’m all for second chances.
When cooked properly, blackened fish fillets offer a flaky smoky bite. The key is to have your pan hot — not iron-melting hot — and to have the right combination of spices. While catfish works, a thicker meatier fillet such as red snapper seems to hold up better. The following recipe is mainly a technique. If you’re thinking about using commercially available blackening seasoning, please reconsider. Many of them contain a lot of salt and MSG. Ocean fish is inherently salty (you can salt at the table if need be). And MSG? Why? — The Mango Salsa is just as basic recipe that contrasts very nicely with the bold fish. Feel free to add some avocado chunks.
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Blackened Fish w/ Mango Salsa
- 1 – Ripe Mango, cubed
- ¼ cup – Purple onion, diced
- ¼ cup – Fresh Cilantro, chopped
- 1 – Jalapeno pepper (optional), minced
- Juice of one lime
- 2 TB – Paprika
- 2 tsp – Kosher salt
- 1 tsp – Onion powder
- 1 tsp – Garlic powder
- 1 tsp – White pepper
- 1 tsp – Black pepper
- 1 tsp – Ancho chile powder
- ½ tsp – Cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp – Dried Oregano
- ½ tsp – Dried Thyme
- 6 – Firm-fleshed fish fillets (red snapper, cod, mullet, mahi mahi), about ½-inch thick
- Vegetable oil
- Combine all ingredients between 30 minutes and 1 hour before serving.
- Combine first 10 ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Pat fish dry with a paper towel. Coat all sides liberally with spice mixture.
- Heat a skillet (cast iron works best) to medium-high. It should be lightly smoking. Add about 2 TB vegetable per batch (2-3 fillets); carefully place fillets in pan and cook about 3-4 minutes, turning once or twice.
- Repeat with remaining fillets, wiping the pan with a paper towel and adding new oil between batches.
- Serve over Mango Salsa.