Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 14, 2014

Kay's Cooking Corner

To burn or to blacken – that is the question ...

Last week, hubby and I decided to take a break from the cold and head for the ocean. We didn’t have long, so we decided the closest place would be Orange Beach, Ala. While it was only in the mid-sixties there, and “cold” to the locals, it was a heat wave for us! We really enjoyed the break. But on the way back, we ran into a torrential downpour and then – you guessed it – snow and ice.

One of the first places we scoped out was a restaurant, of course. Bubba’s Seafood House  happened to be one that was close, so we chose it. We weren’t disappointed. Bubba had it all!

One item we both fell in love with was the Blackened Mahi Mahi. It was really good. I’m doubting seriously that it was a fresh catch-of-the-day, but even if not, it was good and it tasted fresh, which is all that was important. Maybe it was just the ambience and the fact that we were at the beach!

There are a million or so “blackened” recipes floating around on the Internet, and it’s really hard singling one out, but I did find one that I liked a lot. Hubby said it was the best he’d ever eaten. Last night, he said the red beans and rice I’d made were the best he’d ever eaten. He says that after every meal, so ...

What does the term “blackened” mean, since it doesn’t mean you’ve burned it?

Blackening is a cooking technique used in the preparation of fish and other foods. Often associated with Cajun cuisine, this technique was popularized by chef Paul Prudhomme. The famous chef made blackened foods hugely popular in the mid- to late-1980’s. The food is dipped in melted butter and then dredged in a mixture of herbs and spices – usually some combination of thyme, oregano, chili pepper, peppercorns, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. It’s then cooked in a very hot cast-iron skillet, or grilled on a grill. Blackened foods are spicy, smoky, charred, and delicious.

The characteristic brown-black color of the crust results from a combination of browned milk solids from the butter and charred spices. Blackened meat can be served with a variety of side dishes and made with all kinds of meat or poultry. As long as the meat is relatively thin and has the same consistency, it should be a good candidate for blackening. Blackening fish is a technique that can also be used for seafood and vegetables.

Blackening chicken and fish can be a lot of fun, especially if you like smoke and flames. Most of the time, you hear of blackened chicken, blackened salmon, and blackened catfish. That’s because they’re a tender meat that will still hold together under the intense blackening process.


Use a cast iron skillet.  These are the best for blackening. They can stand the intense prolonged heat and provide excellent flavor for your chicken or fish, whereas other pans might warp. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet and still want to blacken your meat, don’t use a non-stick pan; instead, use a thick-bottomed pan meant for higher heats.

Keep your food cool before blackening. Butter and oils will stick better to a cool piece of chicken or fish.

Open your windows and turn on the fans. Blackening food creates a lot of smoke, and sometimes a few flames.

Keep your filets around 1/2-inch thick. If they’re any thicker, they might not cook all the way through.

Make sure you use a thick oven mitt or thick hot pads because your pan is going to get intensely hot.  

Blackened Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa


1-1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon of ground red pepper

6 tablespoons of butter, melted

4 Mahi Mahi fillets

1 can (14.5 oz each) of Hunt’s Stewed Tomatoes, drained, chopped

1 medium mango, peeled, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped

1/2 cup of chopped red onion

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon of ground cumin (in addition to the cumin mentioned above)

1 teaspoon of minced garlic

1 lime, juiced

Combine the 1-1/2 teaspoons of cumin, the garlic powder, the dried oregano, the ground ginger, the smoked paprika, the salt, and the black and red peppers in a small bowl. Set aside.

Prepare the salsa by combining the drained tomatoes, the mango, the jalapeno, the red onion, the cilantro, the one teaspoon of cumin, the garlic, and the lime juice in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Melt the butter and pour it into a dish large and flat enough to dip fillets. Dip the fillets and then coat them with the spice mixture.

Heat the pan to high heat. When hot, add the fish and cook three to four minutes per side, turning once.

Remove the fish from grill once it flakes easily with a fork. Brush the remaining paste on the cooked fish. Serve with the mango salsa.