This food memory and Blackened Salmon with Heirloom Tomato and Two-Olive Salsa recipe come from Scott Leysath, cookbook author and cooking show host better known as “The Sporting Chef.”
Back in the late 80’s, I had my first taste of blackened fish at the place where it all started, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. The line to get in the New Orleans culinary mecca was at least forty people long, but those in wait were in great spirits. Perhaps they had spent some time on Bourbon Street or maybe they were just giddy about trying out Paul Prudhomme’s classic dish.
Several years before the Food Network changed the way we look at what we eat, there was only a handful of television cooking shows. We received the latest in food trends mostly through magazines and the Wednesday Food section of our newspapers. No internet, texts or instant anything, yet “blackened redfish” was familiar to most, at least in theory. After experiencing the real thing, at the place where it all started, prepared by the legendary chef who created the dish, other restaurants’ attempts at preparing blackened fish fell short.
Blackened fish won’t happen in a non-stick sauté pan. A white-hot cast iron skillet is essential. Open the windows for ventilation or, if weather allows, fire up a high BTU burner outdoors. Blackening is basically burning seasoning on the outside of the fish. Seasoning ingredients include ground black, white and red pepper which will cause irritation to the eyes and throat when added to a hot skillet in a poorly ventilated kitchen. When it’s blackened on one side, flip it over blacken the other side. It’s fast, hot and delicious.
Blackened Salmon with Heirloom Tomato and Two-Olive Salsa
Oily fish like salmon are great candidates for blackening. After a generous coating of blackening spices, a little butter and enough time in a skillet to create a fiery crust, the inside is moist and just-cooked, not dry and overcooked. Some may prefer not to blacken their fish quite as much as mine. Perhaps it’s my personal protest over what is labeled as blackened today, but I like it black, really black, on the outside.
- Four 8-ounce salmon fillets, about 1-inch thick
- 2 cups assorted heirloom tomatoes, smaller ones halved, larger ones roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1/4 cup green olives, pitted and halved
- 1 Tablespoon capers, drained
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced
- pinch sugar
- pinch cumin
- olive oil
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon basil leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 teaspoons salt
Better known as “The Sporting Chef,” Scott Leysath has been an Executive Chef for more than 20 years and is the leading authority on the proper preparation of fish and game. He is the author of multiple cookbooks, the most recent being The Sporting Chef’s Better Venison Cookbook. As the Executive Chef for Sportsman Channel’s Hunt.Fish.Feed. program, he’s helped create the wild game menu the volunteers serve at shelters across the country. He is also the cooking editor of the Ducks Unlimited Magazine and writes for a number of other publications. Scott makes numerous appearances on outdoor television, radio programs, events and trade shows nationwide.
His current TV show, The Sporting Chef, airs on Sportsman Channel.