spicy caribbean mahi mahi
I’ve mentioned that my grandparents on my Mom’s side are from the Caribbean, right? Martinique. A little French island in the Lesser Antilles. Much of what our family eats has been influenced by the regional fare from that little outpost plopped in the middle of an azure blue sea.
Spicy Caribbean Mahi-Mahi is a prime example of that influence. It’s a standard for us — like mac and cheese or chicken fingers for most families.
Actually, that’s not even what we call it. In our family this dish is referred to as Court Bouillon. (Pronounced cooh-booh-yahn.) But if you actually look up Court Bouillon online or in cookbooks, you’ll find recipes for a poaching liquid infused with wine, herbs and aromatics for gently cooking fish, shellfish and other proteins.
I guess the translation makes sense, this is a poached fish recipe, but with the spicy tomato broth it eats like a meal. I’ve been making it since I was about 20 and maybe I’m biased, but it’s my favorite way to make Mahi-Mahi.
And it couldn’t be simpler. Start by very gently sweating the shallots, green onions and garlic until they are practically translucent. Then add some good quality tomato sauce and thin it out with a bit of water. Red pepper flakes add heat — though my grandfather would make his own scotch bonnet pepper sauce to add to the simmering liquid. You can add a few bay leaves while the sauce simmers too.
Then it’s time to add the Mahi. Gently place the fish in the broth, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and poach for 5-6 minutes until it’s about halfway cooked. Gently turn the fish and continue the spicy tomato bath!
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of parsley right before serving will add a bright pop of flavor. Serve this over sticky white rice – not the Uncle Ben’s converted rice – you want a starchier variety that will soak up the goodness.
If you don’t have access to Mahi-Mahi (and I’m so sorry if you don’t) you can use another firm-fleshed white fish. In fact – I made this for Scott once while I was visiting him in Minnesota. There was no Mahi – so I used Walleye fillets. Who knew?
- 1 pound mahi mahi fillets, cut into four portions
- 5-6 green scallions, thinly sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 8-oz can good quality tomato sauce
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on your tastes)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2-3 grinds of black pepper
- 3/4 cup water, divided
- juice of half a lemon
- chopped parsley for garnish
- cooked long grain white rice - you want the rice to be sticky -- NOT converted rice.
- In a 9" or 10" skillet with a lid add the olive oil and heat over medium low heat. Add the scallions, garlic and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes. (Don't crank up the heat - you don't want these vegetables to brown).
- Add the tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine and continue cooking, uncovered until sauce has thickened somewhat, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup water and place the fish fillets in the poaching liquid. Put the lid on securely and poach the fish on low to medium low heat for about 8 minutes. Using tongs or a spatula, flip the fish over and continue to poach an additional 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat. Squeeze lemon juice over the fish and chopped parsley. Serve on top of sticky white rice. A cool cucumber salad is really good with this to take the heat off.
- Poaching liquid should be looser than a typical tomato sauce. If its too thick, stir in two to three tablespoons of water to loosen it up. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as needed.