Add wow to a fish night with Blackened Red Snapper topped with a zesty fresh mango salsa. The tender fish fillets are rubbed with a fiery Caribbean spice blend, then quickly seared in a hot pan, for a fantastic dinner done in minutes. It only takes the time needed to dice the salsa ingredients, and dinner can be on the table. (Skip to recipe.)
(Warning: lots of photos ahead. If you’re looking for the blackened red snapper recipe, skip to it here.)
I’ve been off lollygagging. I won’t shout out too loudly that I was away enjoying a tropical vacation while the snow came down and the chill settled in to all the rest of the world that had to stay home and tough out the cold spell. Just a short week ago I looked out to this:
But don’t worry – reality settled in pretty quickly the minute we arrived back to our wintry world and we had to deal with this:
We were off on a bucket list trip-of-a-lifetime – a sailing adventure in Antigua. (I get a shiver just typing those words!)
Raymond and I were thrilled to be part of a six-person crew, with friends old and new, aboard a 42-foot sailboat exploring the waters around this beautiful Caribbean island; stunningly blue waters in every shade of azure and turquoise, wild tropical winds and massive ocean waves, pristine sandy beaches, memorable moonrises with the waves lapping the sides of the boat as we anchored in quiet bays, fun evenings drinking wine and playing dice by the light of a flashlight hanging from the decking, fantastic meals cooked on the tiny stove in the galley, snorkeling and swimming right off the back of the boat, sightings of flying fish, pelicans, and one sea turtle, suntanning on the deck of the boat as it gently rocked in smooth waters, getting washed by blasts of spray and hanging on as it plowed through rough waters and swells so big the horizon disappeared each time the boat dipped into a trough, falling asleep in our berths at night to the gentle rocking motion of the boat . . .
Tropical winds got so high we had to anchor in Mamora Bay for three nights to wait out the storms. How lucky there was the St. James Resort we could enjoy!
At the resort, I had a meal of the most fantastic, tender, moist and fresh snapper in a garlic butter sauce. I tried to recreate that beautiful texture in my recipe for blackened red snapper, below.
Then it was back on the boat for more adventures. We had high winds for most of our trip, so we did less actual sailing than we planned.
We had four days exploring Antigua at the start of our trip, ten glorious days on the boat, then four more fantastic days in a little beach cabin at the end of our trip. Oh, the memories I have to get me through these long Alberta winters now.
We rented a car during our last four days (driving on the left side of the road was an adventure). I’ll post pictures and tell about our cooking class and food tour adventures in another post!
In Antigua, I bought a beautiful cookbook featuring mangoes (The Magnificent Mango by Caroline Fabre). It inspired me to make this most delicious blackened red snapper with a fresh mango salsa (based on my recipe for mango pico de gallo). Tender, mild snapper fillets are coated in a fiery Caribbean-inspired spice rub, then blasted at high heat in a skillet for just seconds on each side, remaining juicy inside and fantastically caramelized with flavour on the outside. Top each blackened red snapper fillet with a fresh, zesty tangle of juicy mango, sweet cherry tomatoes, and bright lime for an island fiesta on your taste buds. It’s a fantastic dinner on the table in less than half an hour.
A little taste of the tropics on your plate.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: The key to perfectly blackened fish is to get your skillet as hot as you can possibly get it. Cast iron works best for this, since you can get it smoking hot. Also, using ghee (clarified butter) as your cooking fat allows you to bring it to a higher temperature before it burns, as it has a high smoke point.
This dish comes together very quickly if you have the salsa made and the Cajun seasoning mixed up (or purchased). The red snapper fillets take only minutes to cook, so prepare the salsa first and let it sit for the flavours to meld. If you’re serving the snapper with rice, set the rice to cooking before you start the salsa, and it will be done as the fish is done.
for the fresh mango salsa:
- 1 mango (~400gms/14oz), ripe but still firm
- 8 – 10 cherry tomatoes (½ cup, diced)
- 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- zest of one lime
- juice of one lime (~2 tablespoons)
- 10 – 12 stalks fresh cilantro (¼ cup, chopped)
for the fish:
- 4 red snapper fillets, skinless, boneless (~6oz/170gms each)
- 4+ teaspoons Cajun seasoning mix (see recipe below or use a favourite premixed blend)
- 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or oil
Make the Fresh Mango Salsa first so the flavours can mellow (you can make it several hours ahead and chill it). See how to cut up a mango here. Cut the ‘cheeks’ off each side of the mango, trim the peel off the pit and cut off any bits usable flesh. Peel the two shallow ‘cheeks’, then dice the mango flesh into small, pea-sized cubes. You should have about 1½ cups of finely diced mango. Put it into a bowl.
Dice the tomatoes into small pieces and add them to the mango. Add the minced onion and garlic, the lime zest and juice, and the chopped cilantro. Stir to combine everything and set aside to macerate until you serve the blackened snapper.
Sprinkle each red snapper fillet with a generous teaspoon of Cajun seasoning, covering both sides of the fish. Lay them on a plate.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee until it is very hot – almost smoking – in a cast iron skillet or heavy frying pan.
Lay two of the spice-coated snapper fillets into the pan, with the skin-side-up (top side, down). Cook them for 1½ minutes on the first side, then flip them and cook them for 1 to 1½ minutes on the second side. The thicker pieces will take the full 1½ minutes, depending on how hot you got your pan. Set the pieces aside on a plate, covered loosely with foil, and repeat with the remaining two fillets.
Serve with rice and extra lime wedges. Spoon some of the Mango Salsa over each fillet, and use the extra salsa as a fresh salad to eat alongside the fish.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: *I’ve included allspice as an optional add-in to this Cajun Spice mix; this is not traditional, but it adds a nice complexity to the flavour, and gives it a Caribbean vibe.
Cajun Spice Mix
- 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) sweet smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I use ½ teaspoon, but add more if you like it spicier)
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice – optional*
Stir all the spices together until well mixed, then store in a sealed small jar in a cupboard. Will last for at least 6 months.
Makes about ¼ cup (4 tablespoons).
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