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Blackened Redfish

The sudden and huge popularity of blackened redfish in the mid-1980s created a shortage of redfish, especially outside the American South. Fortunately, this recipe can be used with many other types of fish, as long as they have strong connective tissue and are no thicker than 2 cm/ ¾ inch. Red snapper, tilefish, sea bass, pompano, salmon and catfish fillets all work well. Most recently, I used a New Zealand sea bass that was delicious.
This method uses an extremely hot frying pan and will set off your smoke alarm. Open a window, turn on the ventilation system and keep a tight-fitting lid close at hand to smother any flame-ups - they are common. For that reason, don't try this if you have an above-stove microwave oven. You must use a cast-iron frying pan: the high temp¬erature will ruin any other. A charcoal barbecue will not get the pan hot enough.
• In spite of all these warnings and instructions, blackened fish is an easy and quick dish, and the results are delicious. I recommend getting one small, extra fillet the first time you try this, and experimenting with it, just to get a feel for the method.
• This dish requires all your attention. You may want to have an extra pair of hands in the kitchen to make side dishes and the butter sauce just before serving. Otherwise, make your side dishes and butter sauce before you begin cooking, then reheat the sauce (preferably in a microwave) to melt the butter at serving time.
• Use onion and garlic powder and dried herbs instead of fresh in this recipe because the high cooking temperature gives fresh herbs and garlic an unpleasant burned taste. The fish can be from 100350 g/4-12 oz each, depending on appetites, but no more than 2 cm/ ¾ in thick, and the more uniform the thickness, the better.

Image of Blackened Redfish

6 fish fillets
175 g/6 oz unsalted butter, melted


7.5 ml/1½ teaspoons salt
15 ml/1 tablespoon paprika
5 ml/1 teaspoon onion powder
5 ml/1 teaspoon garlic powder
5 ml/1 teaspoon dried thyme
2.5 ml/½ teaspoon dried oregano
2.5 ml/½ teaspoon black pepper
5 ml/1 teaspoon cayenne


100 g/4 oz unsalted butter, melted
15 ml/1 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2.5 ml/¼ teaspoon cayenne
2.5 ml/¼ teaspoon salt


Serves: 6


Put a cast-iron frying pan over high heat and heat until the pan begins to smoke and white ash forms on the bottom, at least 10 minutes. If after 20 minutes, there is no ash, your stove may not produce enough heat. Sprinkle a few drops of water in the pan. If they dance, the frying pan is hot enough to do the job, but cooking may take an extra 30 seconds a side.

Combine all the ingredients for the seasoning mix and set aside.

Combine all the ingedients for butter sauce and set aside.

Dip the fillets in plain melted unsalted butter, then sprinkle the seasoning mix on both sides and pat into the butter. The butter will congeal on the cold fish and may flake off. If it does, put it in pan with the barest side up and spoon some melted butter over the bare spots. But be wary: the butter is likely to flame up during cooking. If it does, put a lid on the frying pan to smother the fire, then continue.

When the pan is ready, put 2 fillets in, moving quickly and cook until the bottoms are blackened, up to 2 minutes. (The fish will not be solid black, but ridges, edges and grains of seasonings will be blackened.) Turn over. If the thickness is not uniform, you may wish to press down gently with a spatula during cooking. Again, cook until ridges on bottom arc blackened, up to 2 minutes. The interior of the fish should be opaque but juicy. Keep warm in a low oven while you repeat with the remaining fillets.

Reheat the butter sauce if necessary and pour over the fish. Serve at once.

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