As usual, I found myself needing to cook something, facing a mishmash of seemingly unrelated ingredients in the fridge, and completely without a plan. Some lesser men would turn to “recipes”, “instructions”, or “fear”. I returned, undaunted once again, to that deep, dark well of experimentation[i].
I’d been at a restaurant that had some sort of curried fish dish[ii], and thought it was an interesting idea. Since I had Mahi Mahi[iii] ready to go, and an array of curry bases[iv], I thought I’d give it a shot. At this point my sole[v] connection to an actual recipe was the knowledge that somewhere, at some time, the words “curry” and “fish” had been in close approximation[vi].
The general intent of the recipe was to come up with a sweetish-but-fiery red curry with some savory character to balance out the bland fish. As usual, I don’t see ingredient volumes in absolute terms[vii], so use your own judgment, even if that judgment is “there is no way in hell I’m trying this.”
Mahi Mahi – Which should be pretty obvious.
Orange juice – enough to marinade the fish in.
Lime Juice – just a dash or two for flavor.
Red Curry Base – to taste. I suggest a lot.
Fish Sauce – a dash, though I have no idea why other than it’s always in curries. Call it superstition.
Brown Sugar – to taste, if you want. Helps add sweetness to sauce, but may not be necessary.
Stock – enough to mix with the oj and curry base. I used vegetable.
Onions – I recommend sweet vidalias or other sweet white onions. Reds are too potent for this.
Yellow Bell Peppers – in small strips or half inch squares.
Mandarin Oranges – or pineapple chunks. Be aware pineapple will soak up more flavor and not be as sweet.
Rum – small bit for flavor, coconut rum works well. Larger bit for drinking.
Habanero or Jalapeno – small amount, diced. Not necessary; use sparingly ..especially the habanero. It has a taste that matches the dish well, but more than a little will overpower the flavors. Too much will create a critical mass.
1) Wantonly ignore the following instructions and do your own thing as your conscience dictates.
2) Pat thawed Mahi Mahi dry. Let sit in dish with orange juice and lime juice for a few minutes, but not long enough to ceviche-ize it.
2) In a large saucepan, sautee some onion in a little oil. When the onion begins to soften add in some yellow pepper and the mandarins. If you’re using pineapple, wait until step 5 to add.
3) Add the stock, half the rum, the fish sauce, and the orange juice/lime juice marinade from the fish. You want enough to cook the fish, etc in, but not enough to make it a stew. Add in the curry base and brown sugar bit by bit to taste when the liquid is hot. Stop when you’ve added enough, or throw caution to the wind and curry the hell out of it to teach the fish its place.
This is about the right amount of base
4) You’re halfway through; have a beer or other relaxing beverage to celebrate your culinary prowess.
Or for the truly daring, handmade pineapple daiquiri in a pineapple.
5) Seat the fish in the mixture with the onions/peppers/etc. around the outside. Turn once[viii].
7) Serve with fragrant rice.
[i] A fickle, fickle mistress. Ask my wife about the Valentines day fish with red strawberry sauce and avaocado hearts. Better yet, don’t. I’m sure she’s actively suppressing that. It might be like waking up a sleepwalker.
[ii] Though I hadn’t actually ordered it, which might have helped here…
[iii] There are some fish like Trout that are wonderful served by themselves or with only a little white wine, butter, lemon juice, etc. Mahi Mahi, however, while being a great choice in terms of cost and general sustainability, is more like cod; nicely textured but without a lot of flavor. While this means I don’t often make Mahi Mahi by itself, it makes it a perfect choice for recipes that involve sauces and bold flavors.
[iv] Curry bases are fantastic shortcuts, as much as I’m sure that statement just caused a disturbance in the force for foodies, somewhere. We can all pretend that spending hours recreating a curry base is somehow going to be perceptible in the final product, but honestly, it won’t. Or at least, there is a vast exercise in diminishing returns involved.
[v] No pun intended
[vi] This is actually a better foundation than some of my earlier gastronomic ventures; I was forearmed with the knowledge that, at least in some incarnation, this combination had not actively exploded or brought upon the world the attention of a wrathful elder god.
[vii] To me a recipe is more an idea than a dictate. It should give you an idea of the general shape of the world, but let you loose to do some exploring in that world. This is why I will likely never be asked to write a cookbook. My recipes aren’t scripts, they’re stages.
[viii] Turn the fish, not yourself. Because that would be silly, and cooking is serious business.