One Fish, Two Fish {blackened grouper}

Red fish, black fish. Grouper. Blackened black grouper to be exact.

I’m always looking for new ways to cook fish at home and it occurred to me that I had been forgetting a pretty obvious contender for favorite fish-preparation. In Florida, when you order fish at a restaurant, you get to choose if you want it grilled, sautéed, broiled or blackened. I’m not sure how it didn’t occur to me to do the same at home until Sunday morning but the important thing is, occur it did (eventually).

It was a lot tougher to dig up recipes for blackening spices than I thought it would be which got me thinking: is blackened fish really as regional as my efforts would lead me to believe? Scouring my cookbooks at home, I was shocked to find that not only did my New Orleans cookbook lack a recipe for blackened anything, but none of my other north Florida/southern cookbooks had any either.

Good thing my goofy grilling buddy Steve Raichlen had some ideas for me in his indoor grilling book despite the fact that this is not a grilling recipe (in my estimation). This is a cast-iron skillet recipe. And not one for the faint of heart. There will be a lot of smoke. A lot of smells and a lot of very dark crustiness. But good crustiness. You need to have a sturdy fish. Redfish works great. Grouper certainly proved to be a champ and was very inexpensive at the Farmer’s Market which is pretty exciting.

The rub for this recipe looks a lot (and smells a lot) like the spicy shrimp recipe that I like to make. And if you’ve made that before, then you have most of the spices in your pantry that this recipe calls for too.

Here are your ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 8 oz. grouper filets
  • Lemon wedges

Before we do anything else, we have to put together the rub. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, sweet paprika, oregano, thyme and peppers.

This makes enough rub for three-dinner’s worth of grouper. You’ll be able to put the rest in a jar and save until next time. Take a few minutes to clean up your fish (debone, skin if necessary) and to melt your butter. You should also grab your cast iron skillet and get it on the stove over medium high heat so it can come to temperature.

Time to get your hands dirty. Pour the melted butter over the fish and give it a good slathering to make sure everything’s coated. Now it’s time to add the spices. You’ll use about 1-2 teaspoons of the rub per filet. Rub the blackening spices over the fish until the grouper is completely coated.

Now is the time to open the back door and station your sous chef with a towel/fanning mechanism near the smoke detector. Make sure your skillet is nice and hot and place the fish directly in the dry pan. Set your timer for 5 minutes. Once you’ve made it through the first five, flip the grouper and leave cook it on the other side for 4-5 minutes.

Squeeze some lemons over the fish and serve immediately.

You may want to serve with something cool to even things out. I chose that corn salad again since Dad and Suzanne sent us home from the mountains with nine really tasty ears. I can’t get enough. I implore you to try blackening something. It’s now permanently part of the repertoire, even if it means my house smells for a day and a half.