For one dinner last week, The Gourmand decided to recreate our wedding dinner. Just the main course really, Blackened Mahi-Mahi with Grilled Pineapple Salsa. It is my favorite dinner in the world and, when it was done and the smoke had cleared (literally) we were transported back to our beachside wedding last July.
I’m going to share the recipe, but first, I have to make a public service announcement: Do not try the following inside your apartment or home. I tried to explain this to G, but he was dead set on the idea and no amount of pleading would get him to agree to wait until we had an actual grill on which to cook.
I learned to blacken fish from my dad, who learned from Paul Prudhomme’s New Orleans Cookbook. Essentially, you take a firm filet of fish (mahi, striped bass, bluefish) something that will hold together on the grill, dredge it through a spice blend, fiery hot at best, and grill over hot heat, basting with melted butter, until the spice coat is charred and the fish is opaque.
Even Paul Prudhomme says grill outside, or under an industrial strength exhaust system with fire extinguishing capabilities. I got G to agree to close our bedroom door to keep the glorious cooking smells from permeating our clean laundry.
The Gourmand enthusiastically took from the freezer the mahi-mahi fillets we had purchased at Trader Joe’s, and the cajun pepper spice mix we brought back from the Virgin Islands. The label has two dancing chile peppers as illustration. Because it has been a hundred degrees in Brooklyn, the fish defrosted and The Gourmand lovingly dredged them in spices, reminiscing about our wedding and trips we’ve taken to the islands. When he pulled out the cast iron grill pan, I got really nervous.
Confession: It was I who bought him the grill pan. I was lobbying for a George Forman grill, which the Gourmand immediately vetoed and instead, bought a grill pan. A beautiful piece of engineering that, up until last week hadn’t actually been used for fear of smoking ourselves out of house and home and questions of how we’d clean it after cooking, as it takes up the entire sink.
I said nothing, and The Gourmand started with the pineapple. Canned rings laid in a single layer spit and sizzled their water and concentrated the sugars, caramelizing into perfect brown grill marks. However, it was smokey. And he was just getting started.
On went the fish, which immediately puffed great swirls of pepper smoke, some of which went up into our mediocre vent fan, most of which swirled around creating a pepper-spray-at-a-protest sensation in our lungs.
Within moments, my eyes were stinging and tearing and I couldn’t breath without dancing chile peppers exerting their hold on my windpipe and in my lungs. Did I mention that all our windows, save one, are painted shut? I went outside.
As I sat on the roof, I thought “would I hear a thud, if he gassed himself into unconsciousness?” As I decided to go back down and take a look, his face popped through the door, red, puffy eyes telling me dinner was served.
It was perfect. And I want to share the recipe with you, but proceed at your own risk: Mr. Prudhomme knows his shit.
Blackened Mahi-Mahi with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
For the fish:
4 mahi-mahi fillets (you could use striped bass, bluefish, halibut, anything meaty enough to flip on a grill)
Seasoning mix (we used a blend from the islands. Paul Prudhomme sells a bottled blackening spice mix in supermarkets all over the place, specific to fish, pork, etc. If you want to make your own, start with a generous amount of salt, garlic and onion powders, chili powder, pimentone, cumin, whatever looks good. Slap a label on it and call it your own!)
Olive oil for the pan
For the salsa:
1 can pineapple rings
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 small jalepeno, minced
1 T olive oil
1 T vinegar (We love Bragg’s)
Heat your OUTDOOR barbeque to very hot. Clean the grill very well and the oil it with vegetable oil. Place the pineapple rings on the grill. Once you put them down, don’t move them until you flip, about 2 minutes. This will give you those lovely grill marks. Chop the pineapple, and mix together with the rest of the salsa ingredients in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill until the fish is ready.
Clean and oil the hot grill again, put down each of the fish fillets. Like with the pineapple, don’t move them. (If you want to be fancy, and you are using a VERY hot grill, you can rotate the fillet 45 degrees halfway through cooking the first side. You don’t have to do this on the other side beacuse it will face the plate and no one will see it.) Flip and finish cooking. The fish in done when the flesh is firm, like the meaty part of your hand, where your plam meets your thumb. Serve with pineapple salsa.