New Orleans Jazz Fest Anticipation: Making Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Fish at Home

The eighth post in a series about the New Orleans Jazz Festival covering food (restaurants and recipes), fun, music and travel tips.

In the run-up to our Jazz Fest trip in early May, we are building anticipation by looking back at past good times in New Orleans and sharing our travel tips. And also cooking some of our favorite Louisiana recipes at home to get in the right mood – yum! Last night, it was Paul Prudhomme’s blackened fish.  Actually, his recipe was for blackened redfish, but we use tilapia instead.

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Blackened fish is a perfect late spring meal by the pool

I usually tinker with recipes to make them my own, which you will know if you’ve ever taken a gander at my About page.  But some recipes cannot be perfected, because they are already there.  Chef Paul’s blackened fish is one of those. His blackened redfish was so popular in the 80’s that some called it the dish of the decade.  In a retrospective about Chef Paul, the New Orleans Times-Picayune says it almost wiped out Gulf Coast redfish population.

I can understand why!  We’ve created magic with the Chef Paul blackened fish recipe twice now, and it is downright spectacular.  Moist on the inside, crusty and just-right spicy on the inside…heavenly.

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My copy of this cookbook is over 30 years old and battered with use

The recipe in the cookbook has a marvelous spice mix that is juuuust right.  Beware: there’s a recipe online on the official Paul Prudhomme web site, but it is different than the cookbook version and uses a pre-made commercial spice mix from the Chef Paul brand.  Don’t use that one – use the one from the cookbook.  I wouldn’t normally publish the recipe from the cookbook because it is copyright protected, but the New Orleans Times-Picayune published it in their online article in NOLA.com, so I’ve included it below. My advice:  do not stray from these instructions. The result is a perfectly cooked blackened fish that is fine enough to serve to Sunday company.

From The Times-Picayune, April 5, 1984

“Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen” includes this note: Redfish and pompano are ideal for this method of cooking. If tilefish is used, you may have to split the fillets in half horizontally to have the proper thickness. If you can’t get any of these fish, salmon steaks or red snapper fillets can be substituted. In any case, the fillets or steaks must not be more than 3/4 inch thick.

Blackened Redfish

Makes 6 servings

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted in a skillet

SEASONING MIX:

  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
  • 3/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 6 (8- to 10-ounce) fish fillets, preferably redfish, pompano or tilefish, cut about 1/2 inch thick (note:  at Glover Gardens, we use tilapia)

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over very high heat until it is beyond the smoking stage and you see white ash in the skillet bottom (the skillet cannot be too hot for this dish), at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour 2 tablespoons melted butter in each of 6 small ramekins; set aside and keep warm. Reserve* the remaining butter in its skillet. Heat the serving plates in a 250-degree oven.

Thoroughly combine seasoning mix ingredients in a small bowL Dip each fillet in the reserved melted butter so that both sides are well coated; then sprinkle seasoning mix

generously and evenly on both sides of the fillets, patting it in by hand. Place fish in the hot skillet and pour 1 teaspoon melted butter on top of each fillet (be careful, as the butter may flame up).

Cook, uncovered, over the same high heat until the underside looks charred, about 2 minutes (the time will vary according to the fillet’s thickness and the heat of the skillet). Turn the fish over and again pour 1 teaspoon butter on top. Cook until fish is done, about 2 minutes more. Repeat with remaining fillets. Serve each fillet while piping hot.

To serve, place one fillet and a ramekin of butter on each heated serving plate.

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Chef Paul isn’t with us any more – cooking blackened redfish for the angels? – but friends tell me that K-Paul’s is still just as good

I don’t know if we’ll have time to get to K-Paul’s while we’re in New Orleans for the Jazz Fest (in less than 2 weeks!!!!), but with this recipe, we can have a little bit of Chef Paul’s kitchen magic right here at home.

One last tip:  if you have any blackened fish left, it is marvelous the next day in a fish taco.  Just add a bit of pico de gallo or slaw and serve it up on a corn or flour tortilla.

Resources

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Found Recipe: Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip

I’ve blogged before about the Grill-Meister’s smoked salmon.  It is amazingly good.  He makes it for all major holidays and any time we have a party; I think there would be a revolt if the smoked salmon was not on the appetizer menu at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is expected.  (Did I say it’s amazingly good?)

fullsizerenderMy Sister-by-Choice sent me a text last month that got me to thinking that the Grill-Meister needs to start making a double batch:  “Not that there’s ever any leftover smoked salmon that Tom makes, and it’s delicious by itself, but saw this in the Bon Appétit Thanksgiving edition magazine and thought of you.”  She attached a picture of this recipe from Bon Appétit:  Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.

Yum!  I didn’t have to twist the Grill-Meister’s arm to get him to double up on the salmon, and the dip was as good as it looked.  The double batch thing will be permanent.

fullsizeoutput_321.jpegServed with Belgian endive and little toasts, this 7-layer dip is very festive and just right for a holiday or cocktail party.  Thanks for the tip, Sister-by-Choice!  What else ya got?

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Photo by Alex Lau for Bon Appetit, published online with the recipe

I published the Grill-Meister’s smoked salmon recipe and process as a gift to all cooks who have a smoker or want a reason to buy one.  Find it here:  Tom’s Smoked Salmon .

Grilled Tuna Burgers for Two

images-25We’re empty-nesters here at Glover Gardens now that the last millennial has gone off to college, so I’m trying to pare down the amounts when I cook.  It’s easier with some recipes than others.  These delicious tuna burgers are simple to make for two, or four, or more.  Just increase the recipe.

The tuna burgers benefit from what we call “Salad on a Sandwich”.  It’s a quick toss of baby spinach or other greens, red onion and tomato with a tiny bit of olive oil and a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar.  Salad on a Sandwich brightens up a variety of sandwiches and makes the everyday sandwich feel like a gourmet treat.  And it looks really beautiful.

Ingredients

  • Two 6+ ounce tuna steaks, about an inch thick
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or ground ancho or chipotle chiles
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large bell pepper or several small sweet peppers, sliced into 1-inch wide strips, seeds, ribs and stems discarded
  • Olive oil
  • Grill spray
  • Two buns (we like onion rolls)
  • Purchased or prepared remoulade (click here for a killer and super-easy recipe)
  • Salad on a Sandwich
    • 2 cups baby spinach or your other favorite greens
    • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 very ripe medium tomato, thinly sliced, or 6-8 grape tomatoes, halved longways
    • 1 tsp olive oil or a few sprays from an olive oil mister
    • 2 tsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions

Sprinkle tuna all over with salt, pepper and cayenne or ground chile. Toss peppers with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Assemble Salad on a Sandwich by combining and tossing all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  Prepare remoulade, if making your own.

Preheat gas or charcoal grill for cooking over high heat.

Wrap buns in foil.  Grill tuna and peppers on lightly oiled grill rack, turning over once, until tuna is pink only in center and peppers are just tender, 4 to 6 minutes total (peppers may take longer than tuna). In the last few minutes of cooking, put the buns in foil on the grill to heat them up.  Transfer tuna and peppers once they are cooked to a serving plate.

To serve, spread remoulade on buns (top and bottom), put a layer of grilled peppers on the bottom of each bun, and then top with a tuna steak.  Add a generous helping of Salad on a Sandwich, then cap the tuna burger with the top bun.  Enjoy!

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The Salad on a Sandwich and remoulade are ready, and the tuna has been seasoned in readiness for grilling.  Yum!
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Grill the peppers at the same time as the tuna; the buns can be warmed on the top shelf.
Grilled Tuna and Peppers
The tuna and peppers have been grilled and are ready for the sandwich.
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The remoulade and Salad on a Sandwich combine with the tuna and peppers to make a great burger with a variety of tastes, colors and textures.

This recipe works really well without the bun, too.  Just flip it – position the tuna steak atop the Salad (Not) on a Sandwich, then arrange the grilled peppers on the tuna and dress with the remoulade or serve it on the side.  It’s beautiful, healthy and low-cal.

Our other favorite seafood in a burger is salmon – click here for the recipe.

 

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Easiest Salmon Burgers Ever

Ever since I got out of the hospital and put that horrible food behind me (click here to read about it), I’ve been craving all of the healthiest foods in my comfort food category.  The Grill-Meister has been a great partner in this Healthy Comfort Food Quest.  He made his oh-so-wonderful Tom’s Smoked Salmon for me on Monday, the Labor Day holiday, and bought extra salmon for us to have salmon burgers.  Yum.

These salmon burgers are so easy they should be on the table at least once a month.  And they’re good, really good.

Made with fresh salmon, they’re so good that you might be able to convince an innocent child that they’re actually chicken burgers…that little white lie is between you and your conscience.  But hey – how is it different than Santa Claus?

Ingredients (Makes 6 Burgers)

  • 1 1/2 pounds (24 oz.) fresh (never frozen) salmon filets, skin removed
  • 1/8 cup minced red onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 cup capers, drained
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • Six buns
  • Red onions slices
  • Sliced very ripe tomatoes
  • Baby spinach or arugula
  • Condiments:  mayonnaise, fancy mustards, or (my favorite) remoulade (click here)

Cooking Instructions

Cut the salmon in big chunks and add to the food processor.  Pulse until it is ground, but still a little chunky.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.

Mix first with a spoon, and then with your hands.  Divide the salmon mixture into six parts and form burgers with your hands, first by making a ball, then by pressing it flat onto a plate or cookie sheet.  Be careful not to overwork the patty, which will make it tough.  Put a dimple in the middle of each patty with your thumb, which will help it keep its shape.  Add another quick grinding of fresh pepper and salt.

Spray the gas or charcoal grill with grill spray, and heat it to high.  Grill the salmon for about 5 minutes on each side, or to your desired degree of doneness.  While the salmon is cooking, place the buns on a less hot part of the grill in foil to heat them up.

Serve the patties with the buns, tomato, onion, baby spinach or arugula and your desired condiments.

Variations

You can serve these patties without buns atop the greens with the fresh veggies and condiments.

If you’d like to sauté rather than grill them, measure one more cup of Panko after making the patties, add a 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper to the Panko and mix well, then dredge each patty in the Panko mixture.  Add a small amount of olive oil to a skillet and sauté the patties over med-high heat, a few minutes per side, until they are done.

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Pulse the salmon in the food processor until it is ground but still a little chunky – this amount of salmon is for a half recipe, since we are empty-nesters here at Glover Gardens
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The ingredients for a half recipe (3 patties)
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Put all ingredients in the bowl, then mix with a spoon, and finally, your hands
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The patties (half recipe) ready to grill
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We also had our grilled asparagus that night; click here for the recipe
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The salmon burgers are lovely as an outside meal in late summer / early fall

Copyright Glover Gardens Cookbook, 2016.

Spring is Here: Grilled Asparagus and Salmon

It’s a gorgeous spring-came-early evening here in southeast Texas and the Grill-Meister and I are celebrating it by making dinner in the outdoor kitchen. Nothing fancy, just dishes that remind us of spring that we’ve made dozens of times and have already been captured here in the Glover Gardens Cookbook.

Our spring dinner is below – click the links if you’d like the recipes:

The birds are chirping, wind chimes are chiming and flowers are blooming.  Simple pleasures…life is good.

 

 

Tom’s Smoked Salmon

This salmon makes a welcome appearance for parties and holiday meals at Glover Gardens.
This salmon makes a welcome appearance for parties and holiday meals at Glover Gardens.

The Grill-Meister is also a Smoke-Meister.  His wood-smoked salmon is truly awesome.  He started making it years ago with a recipe that came with his first electric smoker and then experimented with different variations.  The White Zinfandel in the brine is a must, he says, having been disappointed when he used other wines or liquids.  (I think he may have found the world’s only good use for White Zinfandel, but that’s another story.)  Tom’s Smoked Salmon is a holiday and party appetizer staple at Glover Gardens, year-round.

Even people who don’t like fish think Tom’s Smoked Salmon is awesome.  It’s just that good.

This recipe is based on the use of an electric smoker that uses wood chips.

Tom’s Wood-Smoked Salmon

Start with 1-2 skinless and boneless fillets this size
Start with 1-2 skinless and boneless fillets this size

1-2 long boneless and skinless salmon fillets; about 3 lbs.

Note:  have the fishmonger remove the skin for you; it’s much easier than doing it yourself and makes for a cleaner and more attractive finished product

Brine:

⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup salt
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup white zinfandel wine
1 cup water
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco

Note: Tom’s spice mixture is amped up from the recipe he started with, and we like it that way.  Dial it back a bit if you want a milder flavor, or increase the amounts for an even zestier kick.

Cut salmon horizontally across the fillet into chunks that are about 2-3 inches wide. Combine all of the brine ingredients in a large bowl, then add the salmon, ensuring that all of the pieces are immersed in the brine by putting plastic wrap directly on top and then placing a plate on the wrap to push the salmon into the brine and keep it there.

Refrigerate the bowl of salmon in brine for eight or more hours or overnight.

Prepare the smoker and set it to 180-185°F, following the instructions to add wood chips (preferably hickory, alder or cherry) during the pre-heat.  Remove the salmon from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Lightly spray the wire racks with non-stick spray.  Arrange the salmon pieces on the racks, ensuring that the pieces on each rack are similar in size and thickness.  When the smoker is ready, place the thickest salmon pieces on the bottom rack and the thinnest ones on top.

Smoke for 2-3 hours, depending on the thickness of the salmon, until it is firm (but not stiff) to touch. Thinner pieces may be removed first, then you can reduce the temperature to ~150-160°F and smoke thicker pieces an additional 1-2 hours. Times and temps may vary depending on smoker, salmon thickness and individual preference.

Tip: If the chips stop producing smoke, crank the temp back to 180+, and then lower it again after the smoke re-starts. Keeping the temp as low as possible creates smokier salmon without drying it out.

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Tom’s Smoked Salmon is a marvelous appetizer in any season.

The Little Chief is a great first foray into wood-smoking.
The Little Chief is a great first foray into wood-smoking (their photo).
This is the current smoker the Glover Garden Grill-Meister uses to create smoky goodness.
This MasterBuilt is the current smoker the Glover Garden Grill-Meister uses to create smoky goodness (Amazon photo).

Tom started his wood-smoking journey with a Little Chief electric smoker.  It’s a little workhorse and is still going strong 20 years later at our cabin in the Rockies. The current smoker at Glover Gardens is a MasterBuilt version with a window and electronic controls (click here to see the exact model; he recommends it).  Another blogger shared some good information about electric smokers:  click here.

There probably won’t be any leftovers, but if there are, you could make our Smoked Salmon Spread (or dip) or try this recipe for a next-day salad.  Or you might want to make a double batch, so that you can use a pound of the salmon to create Bon Appetit’s Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.