03 July 2009

Blackened Grouper and an Oregon Pinot Gris

Yankees (a group that, due to my Southern upbringing, includes everyone north of Kentucky and west of Arkansas) typically don't understand that there are lots of different kinds of Southern cooking. For instance, I love Louisiana cuisine, but I've never been there, and it's not a strong part of my local culinary tradition. I appreciate the difference between Cajun and Creole even if I don't often cook much of either style. But I got a hankerin'* the other day for blackened fish...

I took things back to basics with the original Paul Prudhomme recipe. I consulted the 1982 New York Times article, as this was faster than digging up the family's first edition of Prudhomme's cookbook. Again, I feel the need to clarify for the sake of Yankee readers: blackened ain't burnt, it's merely seared at high heat.

The cooking method is pretty simple: heat a cast iron skillet to hellish temperatures, slop the filets through some melted butter, coat with spice mix, and throw in the skillet. Flip once, pull out before it's burned. If you're using filets that are thicker in the middle (like the grouper I had), you may want to transfer them to a warming sheet in the oven for ten minutes or so. For the sides I prepared some speckled butter beans and turnip greens, the latter of which benefitted from some pepper vinegar.

This is the kind of meal that would traditionally be paired with sweet tea or a really cold beer, but I felt it was appropriate to slingshot over to the other end of the country and pick an Oregon white. The 2007 King Estate Signature Pinot Gris is $17, 13% abv. Overall profile of Golden Delicious apples, with hints of lime and a full body. Stronger acidity than one would expect from a Pinot Gris. Wines like this are making me want to move to Oregon, home of a few of my ancestors.

The crisp acidity of the wine matched up beautifully with the buttery flavors of the wine and fish, and the Pinot Gris was strong enough to stand up to the peppers in the blackening spice and the vinegar. Oregon Pinot Gris might not work with every N'Awlins recipe, but I was quite happy with the experiment.

*hankerin': abbreviation of HANK•er•ing, colloquial term for craving or longing from the Dutch hankeren. My own favorite usage is related to someone or something that inspires such a craving. For instance, reading Peter Mayle's A Year In Provence could trigger a desire for roast lamb. I might then remark, "That book done flung a hankerin' on me for some gigot d'agneau."


Michael Hughes said...

I just got back from Oregon & the whites they are making are truly outstanding. The pinot gris was outstanding, yes. However, they are making some exceptional tocai friulano, gruner veltliner & riesling. Didn't make it to King Estate but maybe some other time.

So the butter is the secret? I just got a nice cast iron skillet so maybe I'll give it a try.

Nicholas said...

I need to pick up an iron skillet...

Great post -- I may stop by the local market this weekend and see type of white fish is selling at a reasonble price... the grouper looks delicious... from someone who is very hit or miss with fish... how "fishy" is this? I assume less than Salmon... but how does it stack up vs. flounder?

I've been meaning to pick up an Oregon Pinot Gris -- A to Z Pinot Gris -- I saw on WLTV a few months ago. What should I expect compared to a Sav Blanc?

Benito said...


Glad to hear you had a good time and I look forward to future posts from Camp.

This recipe flies in the face of everything you think of when cooking: a spice rub made mostly of salt and dried herb powders? Using butter--with its notoriously low smoke point--for a high heat application? Somehow it all just works. I can't wait to try it again with catfish, and to refine the spice mixture with things like allspice and smoked paprika.


I'm the last person to ask when it comes to "fishy" flavors. I'll eat anything that swims, crawls, or oozes in the ocean; raw, cooked, or dried. I love oily and full-flavored mackerel and bluefish and all sorts of weird little critters I had in Italy, sometimes mere hours out of the water.

Pinot Gris is lighter and more delicate than Sauvignon Blanc (in a general sense). It's a great wine for beginners, and Oregon makes some great examples. Also look for bottles from the Alsace region of France.


Samantha Dugan said...

I'm not a fan of really strong fish either, Grouper is pretty mild, least to my palate.

Michael Hughes said...

I'll throw my vote to the anything that swims camp. Strong, mild...whatever. Bring it.