Blackened Mahi Mahi

I’ve been away for a glorious week, teaching and relaxing at gorgeous Rancho La Puerta in Baja California. More about that next post….can’t wait to tell you all about it!

In the meantime, I promised to give you something to do with that beautiful blackening spice blend, didn’t I? Then got too caught up with packing and prepping for my trip. Well, here it is. The polenta in question is a comforting and creamy with butternut squash and brown sugar. I realize it’s not what you want right now. Hardly seasonal. But still very, very good. So blacken the fish all the same. Serve with a more traditional polenta (milk and cheese) instead…or with my tangy garden slaw or even polenta fries!

There’s that spice blend pressed onto one side of the filet.

You’ll have a bunch of the blend leftover, so save it in an airtight container, and don’t forget to label it. I label everything because my memory is not reliable. Not anymore. What was I talking about?

The sundried tomato vinaigrette whips up in no time. It’s good. Cuts the heat and smoke of the spice blend nicely, brings some mouth watering acid along for the ride too.

Spice side down in a hot pan, with hot oil. Watch it…just a minute or so…you want it crusty, “blackened” but not burnt.

Here it is again, with the polenta, but whatever way you have this, you will love it. Soooo easy, sooo quick, sooo much flavor.

Blackened Mahi Mahi with Butternut Squash Polenta
adapted from Seven Stars Cookbook, Chef Brian Fairhurst, Harrah’s Las Vegas 


For the Butternut Squash Polenta:
2 cups diced butternut squash
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups quick cooking grits or polenta
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette:
2 cups drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the Blackened Mahi Mahi:
1/4 cup olive oil
Six, 5-6 ounce Mahi Mahi fillets (or similar dense, somewhat fatty fish that will hold up to searing)
1/4 cup or more as needed of blackening spice
Asparagus spears, trimmed and  lightly blanched (optional)


For the polenta:

1. In a medium sauce-pan of well-salted boiling water, cook the squash until just tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain.

2. In another medium saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a boil and gradually stir in the grits/polenta. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add additional liquid (water or stock or milk) if needed to achieve desired consistency (should be creamy and smooth, thick but still “flowing”. More like cream of wheat than oatmeal.)

3. Stir in squash, mutmeg, brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm over a double boiler or in a warm water bath over a low flame. Prepare vinaigrette and fish.

For the Vinaigrette:

1. In a food processor or strong blender, combine all the ingredients except for the oil, and puree until smooth. With the machine running, gradually drizzle in the oil until emulsified. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. (Can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a month. Oil may separate and become solid, so the dressing may need to be brought to room temp and re-blended for serving.)

For the Fish:

1. Place blackening spice on a flat plate or shallow bowl. Press the top side of each fillet into the blackening spice to cover/coat the surface evenly. Heat a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat, then heat the oil over medium/high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the fish to the hot oil/pan, spice side down, and then cook for 2-4 minutes without moving or touching the fish so it can properly sear. It should release from the pan easily once seared. If the pan seems too hot, turn down the flame after you’ve introduced the fish to the pan…but not too low that the surface won’t sear properly. Flip the fish and cook on other side for 3-4 minutes. Carefully transfer the fish to a plate and hold.

2. Add asparagus to the pan, and cook for 2 minutes, shaking pan or turning the asparagus to coat evenly and lightly caramelize.

3. To serve, spoon polenta in the center of each plate and top with asparagus. Place fillet of fish on top, drizzle with the vinaigrette. Or, serve family style on a large platter.