Blackening Spices Recipe - How to Make Blackened Chicken, Catfish or Anything Else!
Most of the time you’ll see the terms ‘blackened’ in regard to fish or poultry, and sometimes meats. It is credited with being an old Cajun cooking technique, but the fact is it was created in the early 1980’s by New Orleans Master Chef Paul Prudhomme at his restaurant, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. This was located in the French Quarter, and was co-owned by Chef Paul and his late wife Kay.
Blackening was immediately recognized as something special, and attained huge and nearly instant popularity. The dish which was served at K-Paul’s was Blackened Redfish. It was so popular it was cited as the reason Gulf populations of this sports fish were quickly declining, although the numbers of redfish in the Gulf had been dropping since the 1970’s.
Blackening is meant to be a quick cooking method. In this technique, a peppery crust is developed through the liberal use of butter and high heat, in combination with a spicy rub on a relatively thin, uniform piece of meat or fish. It can be done either with a grill, or a well seasoned cast iron pan. Note that I said the liberal use of butter – despite popular opinion, this is not a means by which to achieve a svelte figure (take a look at the inventor).
Although blackening something is not how to start a diet, it is extremely easy, and the results are out of this world. One bite and it’s easy to see how Chef Prudhomme achieved his fame. Or infamy – depending on how much you like spicy food.
A little note to keep in mind:
If your protein is too thick, it won't cook through before burning on the exterior. However, if it is too thin, or your fire isn't hot enough, it will cook through before attaining the crispy, dark reddish-brown exterior you're looking for. Remember: about 1/2 inch thick and a rockin' hot fire!
You’ll need four things:
- A blackening spice rub (recipe below)
- Protein! Either fish or chicken or some other meat. Just make sure it’s somewhat thin (think fish fillets) and even. About 6 ounces is perfect.
- Butter – enough that you can dip your protein into it two or three times.
- A very hot grill or rockin’ hot cast iron skillet.
The technique is easy – you’re going to make a breading station, although with somewhat different elements. You’ll need a couple of pie plates. In one, put the blackening mix. In another, the melted butter.
Make sure your grill or pan is very hot.
- Dip your protein into the melted butter, and let the excess drip off.
- Dip the food into the spice rub, patting in into the surface of the food.
- If you like you can repeat the first step – many people (me included) think if you’re going to eat butter, then you might as waller in it (That’s East Tennesseefor roll around in something).
- Onto the grill or into the pan. Give the food about five minutes per side. If you have a thinner cut, shorten the time. If you have a thicker cut – give it another minute or so per side. Don’t try it with something more than ½ inch or so thick, unless you plan to finish off in the oven. You’ll end up with the burned kind of blackened, and that’s not lovely.
- The combination of the butter, the herbs and the hot cooking temperature will give the crusty blackened exterior. You’re really looking for something that’s a dark reddish brown – like dark chocolate. The color comes from the charring of the butter and the thyme and oregano which are typical components of the blackening rub.
- One note – if you’re using a grill you’ll probably get flare ups from the butter. Watch it. If you are using a cast iron skillet, you can get some pretty wicked fumes from the spicy elements of the rub. Fumes will happen on the grill too, but I’m assuming you don’t have a charcoal grill inside. That’s not smart. The fumes can kill you and that would most likely ruin your meal.
Ok – onto the bread and butter of the article – the recipe. Or in this case – the spices and butter.
For the Spice Rub:
1 Tbl onion powder
1 Tbl garlic powder
1 Tbl paprika
1 Tbl kosher salt
1 Tbl freshly ground black pepper (I know that’s a lot of pepper to grind fresh, but do it anyway. It’s a major flavor component in this dish, and therefore you want the best possible taste.)
2 Tbl dried thyme
½ Tbl dried oregano
½ Tbl white sugar
½ Tbl cayenne pepper (if you like it really spicy, double this. Or more if you’re feeling brave. Or lucky.)
For the protein:
2-4 6 oz filets; fish or chicken, no more than ½ inch thick
1 cup of butter, melted and divided in half (If you’re using a skillet, you’ll need several additional tablespoons of butter).
2 tsp lemon juice, or 1 Tbl drained capers
- Place all rub ingredients in a jar, cover tightly and shake well to combine. Or use a whisk and a small mixing bowl. The jar works better with less work though. You’ll have more than you need for one recipe. Just keep the extra in the fridge.
- Make sure the meat or fish is patted dry. Preheat grill or cast iron skillet to medium high. Your skillet should be nearly smoking, if that’s what you’re using.
- Melt half of the butter in the microwave or in a second saucepan on the stovetop. Put melted butter in a pie plate or other relatively flat dish.
- Put about ¼ cup of the spice rub in another plate. Dip the meat or fish in the butter, then the spice rub, patting the rub in well to make sure it adheres.
- If using a skillet, put 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Move quickly so it doesn’t burn – immediately place the meat in the skillet. Flip it over to allow the butter to coat the second side.
- Cook the meat or fish for about five minutes per side. You’re looking for a dark red brown chocolate color, and a nice crispy texture to the outside.
- Once both sides have finished, set them aside, covered in foil, to rest. Now you can make a sauce. If you’re using the grill, you’ll have to use a fresh pan. If you have a skillet, make sure you retain the little crispy bits in the bottom. Those are called ‘fond’ and they mean extra flavor. Don’t get rid of them – they’re yummy.
- Pull the skillet off the heat, and add the reserved butter to the skillet. The skillet should be plenty hot enough to finish the sauce off the heat. If not – return to medium low heat. Melt the butter completely, scraping up the brown bits, stirring constantly. Finish with the lemon juice or capers, and serve immediately over the blackened fish.
There really isn’t anything wrong to serve this with. Try dirty rice and some great crusty cornbread (not the box crud!).
Crack open a couple of beers, throw a toast to Paul Prudhomme and enjoy!
- The Thrillbilly Gourmet
Combining classic technique with everyday food for spectacular results!
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