Blackened Fish With Quick Grits
Blackening is a cooking technique that uses high heat and lots of seasoning to develop distinctive flavor by nearly charring the food in a cast-iron skillet. It’s particularly good for firm, lean white fish, such as catfish, snapper, trout or redfish. The fish is traditionally dipped in melted butter, then cooked in a dry skillet, but that can create billows of smoke. This smokeless method cooks seasoned fillets in oil to create a lovely texture. The cheese grits cook in just under 5 minutes, but are extra flavorful from cooking in chicken stock and still creamy as a result of added milk and butter.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ¼teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 ¼teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 ½teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 ½teaspoons kosher salt (Diamond Crystal)
- ½to 1 teaspoon ground cayenne, depending on heat preference
- 4(5 to 6-ounce) skinless white fish fillets, such as snapper, catfish, trout or tilapia
- 1tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1tablespoon unsalted butter
- Sliced scallions, for garnish
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- 3 ½cups low-sodium chicken stock or water
- 1teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal), plus more to taste
- 1cup quick-cooking grits
- ½cup whole milk
- 2tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1cup grated sharp Cheddar, plus more for garnish
- ½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Step 1Prepare the fish: In a small bowl, whisk together the sweet paprika, black pepper, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, salt and cayenne. Pat the fish fillets dry, then sprinkle enough seasoning over both sides of the fillets to completely coat. Reserve remaining seasoning for another use. Allow the fish to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.
Step 2While the fish sits, make the cheese grits: Bring the chicken stock and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high. Add the grits while whisking and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Allow the grits to thicken, about 5 minutes or so, then stir in the milk, butter and cheese. Season with black pepper and more salt to taste. Keep over the lowest heat possible until ready to serve.
Step 3Meanwhile, cook the fish: Heat a large cast-iron skillet with the olive oil and butter over medium-high. Add the fish fillets, and cook until the spices are darkened and aromatic, and the fish flakes easily with a fork, 2 to 4 minutes per side.
Step 4Divide the grits among serving dishes and nestle the fish on top. Garnish the grits with more shredded cheese and the whole dish with the scallions. Serve immediately with lemon wedges for squeezing over the fish.