Amberjack season is now open through the end of the month. I know that’s not very long, but you’ve got better than two weeks to go out and keep a legal-sized fish every day if you want to. I think if you actually did that, you wouldn’t need a gym — they fight like a Sawzall.
I think someone must have recently caught an amberjack, because my publisher asked me to write a recipe for this fish. I told him I’d have to do some research, because amberjack isn’t a fish I usually offer to clients. So after a bit of research and asking some fellow chef friends for some advice, I came to the conclusion that amberjack has to be treated carefully and cooked as soon as possible.
Now really, I believe all fish should be cooked as soon as possible. Fresher is definitely better, unlike aged beef which can be improved by several weeks of ripening. But while I might leave grouper or snapper in the refrigerator for a couple days, I wouldn’t keep amberjack in my fridge very long at all.
When I asked a few of my chef friends about amberjack, they all said to blacken it and eat it right away. I also found that it can be eaten as sushi, and are especially good when they are smaller. It seems that the best sushi restaurants in Japan want only the smaller amberjack during the summer months.
I tend to lend towards the blackening seasoning when it comes to fish with a lot of texture and oil content — species like amberjack or kingfish. Another common suggestion for these types of fish to make fish dip. I thought about that for a minute — I do have a smoker, after all.
But this fish is going to get the blackening seasoning for one really good reason: It’s May and mangoes are starting to hang in the trees around my neighborhood. A cool mango salsa would be an amazing complement to the spicy seasonings in this recipe.
Mango is one of my favorite flavors, so I love this time of year. From what I’m seeing on the trees, it looks to be a good season. When you combine mango with the other flavors of salsa you will find that it adds a wonderful new dimension of flavor. If your mango is just a bit under-ripe, that’s OK — you can just add a small amount of honey or sugar to the salsa and it should be just fine. If you find that it’s too sweet, then a shot of hot sauce and a squirt of lime juice will dial it back.
This fish will be seasoned with blackening seasoning but it won’t actually be blackened. It has to be cooked with melted whole butter if you want it to appear black in color. It’s the milkfat in the butter that turns black when introduced to high heat. This fish will be cooked in oil because I don’t want it to appear dark in color. Blackening seasoning is red, and when cooked in oil, it stays red.
When I make salsa, I prefer to remove all the seeds from the tomatoes and peppers. In this one there will be a smaller amount of spice will be added because there is some heat in the seasoning. Normally I would have added more jalapeño and hot sauce if I were planning on having this as an afternoon snack with some corn chips (which I suggest you try, and if you do, you might even toss some fresh avocado into your salsa to make it even better).
Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.