Blackening Isn't Burning

Unlike charring, which can occur while grilling or roasting foods at high temperature, or burning, which renders food inedible, blackening is a technique that relies on a good seasoning crust that comes together as a darkened crust on any number of foods, although fish and chicken are really very popular choices. And apart from usually having a slightly smoky kitchen when you're done, it's a technique that can be easily done at home without much fuss. And with the quick-cooking nature of fish, it can mean a very flavorful dinner on the table in about 20 minutes!

Sandwiching a seasoning later between a coating of butter on the fish and your cooking fat in the pan means a darkened, tasty crust gets to form on your fish and actually help to keep the fish itself moist and flavorful. I know many folks who love making their own blackening seasoning and recipes for that abound, but I'm a fan of the cajun seasoning offered by Penzeys. And, while I will focus most of my seasoning efforts on the top of a fish fillet, always rub at least a bit of your seasoning into the skin as well. And yes, sear that skin until it's delightfully crisp. It's delicious and doing so will help the interior of the fillet cook evenly.

I love serving blackened fish with fairly light, fresh foods. A creative salad mixed with corn kernels, black beans, and diced tomatoes helps offset the heat and depth of the fish. Even a lightly seasoned rice dish will do the trick. And a cool, refreshing beverage is a must. And maybe open a window or two to help clear the kitchen after assembling such an amazing meal.

Blackened Trout

  • 1 (over 1 lb. and less than 2 lbs.) large trout fillet, skin on
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. cajun seasoning
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 T. cooking fat of your choice (butter or bacon fat are both great)

Make sure the fish is clean and fairly dry. If needed rinse it well and allow to dry on a rack before beginning further preparations.

Coat the dried fillet with the melted butter and then dredge the fish in the seasoning. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

Heat the cooking fat of your choice in a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the fish, skin side down, and allow to cook without moving it for 2 minutes. Using a spatula, slide the fish around a little to release the skin from the cooking surface. Lift an edge of the fillet to see if the skin is crisp. If it is, carefully flip the fillet and repeat on the other side. If not, allow it to continue cooking until the skin is crisp. This may take up to 5 minutes per side. Once both sides are blackened, drop the skillet temperature to medium-low and continue cooking the fish until it's fully cooked through.

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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