When it comes to landing dinner on the table on a weeknight, fish fillets are among the very quickest dishes you can prepare, rarely requiring more than five minutes to go from raw to ready to eat. And given the relative mildness of a fish's flavor, they're a natural canvas for a vast palette of seasonings (and acid, too), meaning they turn out just about exactly as flavorful as you make them.
For Spicy Sauteed Fish with Pineapple Mango Salsa, white fish fillets are dusted with flour spiked with Creole spice mix, after which they're crisped up in a skillet. The famously potent spice mix — spearheaded by cayenne and black pepper — is built into the DNA of Louisiana cuisine. Virtually all of New Orleans' Hall of Fame chefs — including Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse — developed signature versions of this mix and used it liberally and to great effect in just about everything they cooked. Fair warning: If you're not a fan of blazing heat, you won't be a fan of Creole spice mix. Unless, of course, you balance it with one key ingredient — sugar. Sugar will balance any spicy dish. If you dig into a bowl of chili and discover that you've overdone the hot sauce, just sprinkle in a little brown sugar. If your barbecue sauce sets your mouth on fire, tame it with a dab or two of honey. Conversely, if you've added too much sugar to one of your savory dishes, even it out with some heat. The goal is to add just enough of sweet and heat so that you're not bowled over by either of them.
In this recipe, the fiery Creole spice mix is countered by the natural sugars built into the pineapple mango salsa. The additional herbs and fresh lime contribute some festive end-of-summer flair to this weeknight entree.
Spicy Sauteed Fish with Pineapple Mango Salsa
Start to finish: 35 minutes
3/4 cup finely diced pineapple
3/4 cup finely diced mango
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion, soaked in ice water for 20 minutes and patted dry
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or cilantro or a mix
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons creole spice mix (recipe below) or store-bought, such as Zatarains
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Four 6-ounce firm-fleshed white fish fillet pieces, such as tilapia
In a bowl combine the pineapple, mango, onion, lime juice and herbs; add salt to taste.
On a piece of parchment, combine the flour and the spice mix; stir well. In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Dip the fish in the flour mixture, coating it well on all sides, shaking off the excess, and add it to the skillet. Cook it until golden brown, about 2 minutes a side and transfer a portion to each of 4 plates. Top each portion with a heaping spoonful of salsa.
Creole Spice Mix
2 teaspoons hot paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together well.
Nutritional information: 328 calories; 106 calories from fat; 12 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg cholesterol; 573 mg sodium; 21 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 36 g protein.