This recipe is another Marie original in which I had a hand creating success. The dish is to die for great.
I have included this recipe mostly as a matter of nostalgia, for I haven’t seen any Louisiana Redfish for sale in supermarkets since the late 1980’s. Red Snapper is not Louisiana Redfish. The Redfish was mostly fished out in the 1980's due to popularity and ultimately destroyed by pollution from the Mississippi River. That was a horrible environmental tragedy no one wants admit was caused by business greed and long term environmental stupidity in river pollution leading to Gulf of Mexico "Dead Zones", caused both by fertilizer runoff and industrial pollution far north of Louisiana. Since that time the water quality has improved and there are now some Louisiana Redfish there but mostly it is a protected species from commercial fishing ... but read on.
If you can find a suitable variety of fish instead of Louisiana Redfish you can approximate the goodness of the original dish but never quite equal it. Redfish had a fairly high fat content, which made it ideal for very hot grilling. Today you might try swordfish or a few other varieties. I suggest you search the Internet for information about the fat content of various fish and pick one that appeals to you. According to a few websites I have visited recently the Redfish is commonly caught by sport fishermen off the west coast of Florida today, but I repeat my earlier thought ... have you seen any Redfish for sale in any fish market? I doubt it. Moratoriums imposed to stop commercial fishing for the Redfish are likely still in effect.
While visiting Jackson, Mississippi in 2012 I did find a fish wholesaler who has a source of Louisiana Redfish, for it is caught off the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Florida in small quantities commercially. I leave it to you to seek a source for yourself.
Some words about very high temperature skillet cooking are in order. Do it outdoors on a charcoal grill or smoker where the clearance between the large cast iron skillet and the outside edge of the charcoal grill is about ½ inch to ¾ inch all the way around. The typical kitchen stove, even with natural gas and a large burner, will simply not provide sufficient heat for making this dish.
Even the charcoal grill, unassisted, will not do the job regardless of how many briquettes you use. The secret is to provide a high volume of air to the underside of the briquettes via a pipe into the bottom vent of the charcoal pan that is connected to a blower of some sort. You can use a hair dryer or the blower end of a canister vacuum cleaner taped to a length of copper or iron pipe to connect the air source to the charcoal pan vent hole. The introduction of extra air through the bottom of the charcoal pan is the secret. It will cause the briquettes to turn white hot via a continuous bellows effect. Thus, do not do this over any flammable surface like a wooden deck unless you have a large fireproof pad underneath the grill.
It sounds crazy but I used the canister vacuum cleaner approach. I simply connected/taped the vacuum cleaner hose to a ¾" diameter copper pipe, which was in the form of an elbow with one end about two feet high such that the end of the pipe entered the bottom vent of the smoker grill that I used. I had a Brinkman® Smoker with a diameter about one inch larger than the largest cast iron skillet Marie owned. The charcoal pan for the smoker had a bottom vent hole slightly larger than ¾".
What I achieved was a powered air bellows effect by connecting the hose end to the blower end of the vacuum cleaner. I turned the vacuum cleaner on and off as needed to maintain the very high skillet temperature required. Each time I turned it on a puff of ash would blow out from the grill. Out of curiosity I left the system on with hot charcoal and no food in the skillet, and within two minutes the bottom of the heavy cast iron skillet was cherry red. That lets you know how the bellows approach feeds so much air to the hot charcoal that it literally turns white hot. That, my friend, provides all the heat you need, and more. Yes, you can do this stuff at home if you are determined to win. You could even become a blacksmith!
You must keep safety in mind at all times and do not let any children or adults near your cooking area. Burns and/or fire from white hot charcoal briquettes will turn joy into tragedy in a heartbeat.
4, 7 to 8 oz. boneless skinless Redfish fillets
½ cup melted butter to hold seasonings on the surfaces of the fillets
½ cup melted butter for basting while cooking
1 tbsp. paprika
½ tsp. each of ground red, white and black pepper
½ tsp. of dried minced onion
¼ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Mix the dry spices together.
Rinse the fish fillets under cold water and dry them with paper towels.
Pre-heat a large cast iron skillet over very high heat, but not high enough to turn the iron orange in color. In short, the skillet should still be black in color.
Dip both sides of each fish fillet in the melted butter and then sprinkle both sides generously with the dry spice mixture, patting it to help it adhere to the fish.
Place the seasoned fillets on a plate individually as they are seasoned.
Pour a small amount of melted butter on one side of each fillet and put the fillets butter side down into the hot cast iron skillet.
Do not be alarmed by the rapid and intense smoking of the butter and the seasoning at the beginning of the cooking. It is part of the experience, thus, do this only outdoors.
Cook for three minutes on very high heat, then pour melted butter on the top surface of each fillet and flip them over with a long handled metal spatula and cook them for an additional three minutes.
Serve the fish immediately while the blackened fillets are hot. That means the other items for your meal had best be prepared prior to cooking the fish.
Enjoy the superb flavors, texture and juiciness, for the very hot grilling seals in moisture by rapid searing, and the high fat content of the fish makes the texture perfect. Now you understand why a lean type of fish flesh won’t work as well in this recipe.