Yo! The 1980’s are calling and they want that recipe back for blackened fish. The big problem is that our tastes have changed over the past 30 years and that old recipe needs an extreme makeover. I’ve been perfecting my own technique and ingredients for blackening fish, chicken, pork, and even steak with some high marks for taste. Hey, Hot Wings survived the 80’s – so why not blackening?
We first encountered Blackened Redfish when dining at K-Paul’s in New Orleans around 1985. Chef Paul Prudhomme literally invented this bold method for searing the flavor into fish fillet while keeping the flesh delightfully moist. To say the least, we were bowled over by his signature dish and flew home and bought his cookbook. Fast-forward 30 years and Chef Paul is no longer mentioning his ingredients and is instead selling little jars of the blackening spice for big bucks. That’s OK, because our tastes have changed and pure Cajun is just too one-note to compete for a place in our pantry. The ingredients used in Chef Paul’s original recipe (I haven’t tasted his bottled product) were a little heavy on the Thyme and Oregano. Besides, our horizons have widened to encompass Latin and Asian influences.
Without further ado, here is our take on a modern spice rub that will tip you back in your chair —
Select a firm fish like Mahi Mahi, Snapper, Ahi Tuna, Marlin or (Hawaiian faves are Mong Chong or Moon Fish).
The small batch is enough for 4 to 6 servings. We always make the large batch as specified below and freeze the leftover, but you can certainly start with the single meal quantities until you have adjusted the taste and heat level to your liking. Go easy on the cayenne because you can always add a little more just before serving.
You will need a spice grinder, a cast-iron skillet with a lid, and tongs or spatula.
If you don’t have a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, select a non-stick skillet with the heaviest bottom.
Toast the whole spices in the skillet just until they are aromatic (white peppercorns, black peppercorns, and cumin seed). Add to your spice grinder and run until powdered. Place the powder and all the remaining herbs and spices into a zip lock bag or freezer container and shake well. It is now technically a spice rub.
Spoon the rub over dry fish filets just to cover completely. Dust off any excess. Don’t wait long for cooking or the rub will extract moisture from your filets.
Place your skillet on high heat and pour in 1 or 2 tablespoons of Canola Oil. Heat the skillet until smoking hot (yes, really smoking so have the exhaust fan on high or cook outdoors).
Use the tongs to gently place the fish without splashing.
Cook uncovered for one minute. Quickly turn the filets, lower the heat to medium, and cover the pan.
Set the timer for 4 minutes for most fish. Under two minutes for Sashimi grade. Longer than 4 minutes for a thick fillet like Halibut, Mong Chong, or Monk Fish.
Plate the fish directly from the pan, squeeze a wedge of fresh lemon, optionally top with a small pat of unsalted butter, and sprinkle with some chopped parsley. Serve immediately with side dishes of your choice.
Blackening Spice Ingredients
Small Batch or Large Batch
QTY Unit Ingredient QTY Unit
1/2 Tsp Dried Oregano 1/4 Cup
1/2 Tsp Dried Thyme 1/4 Cup
1/2 Tsp Dried Basil 1/4 Cup
1/2 Tsp White Pepper 1/4 Cup
2 Tsp Paprika 1 Cup
2 Tsp Garlic Powder 1 Cup
1 Tsp Onion Powder 1/2 Cup
1/4 Tsp Ground Cumin 1/8 Cup
1/4 Tsp Garam Masala 1/8 Cup
1/2 Tsp Smoked Salt 1/4 Cup
1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper 1/2 Cup
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper 1/4 Cup
1/2 Tsp Brown Sugar 1/4 Cup
1 Tsp Furikake Wasabi 1/2 Cup
You may substitute Kosher Salt for Smoke Salt, but you’ll want something else smoked like the Paprika. Feel free to add more Indian zing by toasting some coriander and cardamom. Also, Turmeric is an interesting addition of both color and flavor.
Later, try this rub with chicken, pork chops, or steak with the appropriate cooking time. We always finish in the oven then check for doneness so as not to overcook on the burner. A nice trick is to rub a bone-in pork shoulder with the spice rub and then place fat side up in a slow cooker or roasting pan. Don’t add any liquid, just cover and cook until the meat falls off the bone. Shred the meat with a fork and serve as pulled pork in sandwiches or over rice i.e. Hawaiian Kalua Pork. What a good idea for a Food Truck.
Our Cleaning tip for a seasoned cast iron skillet: Never use soap! Let the skillet go cold. Wipe it down with a paper towel. And again with a second paper towel. Now, put a tablespoon or two of table salt in the skillet and rub the salt with a third towel. Go in a circular motion, and refold the towel a few times. The salt will absorb the remaining oil, sterilize the surface, and buff it shiny. Discard the salt, and rinse with water then let air dry. If you don’t have a skillet reserved only for fish. Heat the skillet in the oven the next time you are preheating and the fishy smell/taste will be gone.
Blackened Fish Recipe
- Yield: 4 (4 Servings)
- Prep: 15 mins
- Cook: 5 mins
- Ready In: 30 mins
Blackening spice directions and ingredients plus details on blackening fish in a hot skillet.
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Basil
- 1/2 Teaspoon White Pepper
- 2 Teaspoon Paprika
- 2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1/4 Teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Smoked Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper Fresh Ground
- 1/2 Teaspoon Brown Sugar Light Brown
- 1 Teaspoon Furikake with Wasabi