Savor: Give A Man a Fish
BY Meghan Barnes
August is one of the best times for eating out in Wrightsville Beach with local fishermen bringing in fresh-caught fish daily. One of the most popular is mahi-mahi a mild but sweet fish that has the versatility to be cooked many different ways.
Give a chef that fish and he has a blank culinary canvas. With dishes that will put their hooks in you the recipes will have you trying them at home.
Rooted in Carolina Low Country cooking and Cajun/Creole styles 22 North executive chef Brent Poteat serves a menu that changes daily. Poteat only uses fresh locally-sourced ingredients building his menus around what is available that day inspired by his culinary background Poteats mahi is blackened and served over Spanish rice.
Because it is so mild mahi allows for a wide choice in seasonings Poteat explains. We tend to prepare it a little on the spicy side as our customers have come to expect bold flavors.
His mahi is garnished with a tropical fruit gazpacho and crispy tortilla strips and paired with a side of grilled summer squash. The gazpacho created by sous chef Jason Lilley is inspired by Lilleys Texan roots and familiarity with Southwestern cuisine. It was one of the dishes selected during the 2010 Taste of Wilmington Food and Wine Festival for Best Overall Flavor.
We love to juxtapose opposites Poteat says. The spicy with the sweet as well as the hot temperature of a freshly seared fish and a cool gazpacho ladled over the top. We feel this layering of flavors textures and temperatures adds to the complexity of the dish without making it terribly difficult for the home cook.
Tropical Fruit Gazpacho
1 cup each diced mango and pineapple
1/4 cup diced cucumber kiwi red onion and bell pepper
1 seeded mild chili (poblano or jalapeno)
2 t dry cumin
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T each coarsely chopped cilantro and mint
1/4 cup each of orange juice and pineapple juice
2 T key lime juice
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Let mixture sit at least 4 hours and overnight if possible before use.
The Oceanic serves a more traditional version of blackened mahi-mahi. Chef Matt Wivel prepares this fresh dish daily.
There are several reasons I love to use mahi-mahi Wivel explains. Mahi is a very popular fish due to its mild flavor non-oily consistency and ability to handle all kinds of flavors. Mahi is also available year round which makes it a common fish people are used to eating.
Using a house-made blackening seasoning featuring local sea salt the Oceanic chef pairs his mahi with a bed of chilled cilantro-lime rice noddles over chilled chipotle gazpacho. By garnishing the dish with wedges of fresh cucumber Wivel is able to balance both the hot and cold elements of the plate.
Chilled Cilantro-Lime Noodles & Chilled Chipotle Gazpacho
4 ounces vermicelli rice noodle
Juice from 3 limes
2 T rough chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces tomato puree
1/2 cup skinless seedless cucumbers
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 diced chipotle pepper
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup diced carrot
Juice from 2 limes
1/4 cup sugar
2 T cilantro roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
*must let sit overnight
The Bridge Tender
The Bridge Tender executive chef Tori Lehman puts a contemporary spin on traditionally prepared mahi.
Its locally available its well-received and our guests enjoy what we can do with the fresh mahi. Its very versatile says Christopher McCray general manager.
With the Bridge Tender serving 40 to 60 pounds of fresh mahi daily Lehman has become an expert on various ways to prepare this fish.
One is a ginger-seared mahi over brown rice pilaf garnished with poached pears and fresh shrimp.
The first thing you will notice about this dish is that it is aesthetically pleasing McCray explains. Then you notice how well the flavor profile matches the appearance of the dish. The ginger-seared mahi and the components of the fresh fish are paired nicely together to give you the idea of depth both in flavor and in appearance. The poached pears are cut into fours and fanned around the sides of the dish and topped with large shrimp.
In pairing the sweetness of the pears with the port wine reduction and the sharpness of the ginger sauce Lehman was able to create a complex dish that plays up to the strength and versatility of the fish itself.
South Beach Grill
Although many restaurants reserve their mahi for dinner dishes chef James Rivenbark Jr. of South Beach Grill creates a daily burrito special around his fresh locally caught mahi that can be enjoyed any time of day.
Normally a dinner entre would have a more complex dish Rivenbark explains. But we wanted something more versatile for the menu and its a homerun for what it is.
With his mahi burrito Rivenbark caters to lunch diners and patrons who simply want a quick bite to eat before or after a day at the beach.
Although the mahi burrito changes weekly the most popular is the Bang Dang Mahi-Mahi Burrito which features fresh-grilled mahi on a 12-inch flour tortilla covered in bacon rice tomatoes and lettuce. It is flavored with South Beach Grills signature sweet and creamy bang pow sauce that also provides a nice kick. Its rolled and topped with sour cream and freshly diced green onions.
The beauty of mahi Rivenbark explains is that it doesnt need to be the star of the show. The fish is versatile and delicate at the same time which allows you to pair it with almost anything. As for the seasoning on the fish itself it never needs more than a little salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice to truly shine. Its what you pair it with that makes or breaks the dish.
By pairing the fish with simple yet fresh and delicious ingredients Rivenbark creates a following for his weekly mahi burritos.
I dare you to come try it he says. I guarantee you wont be disappointed and youll walk away wanting the recipe for our bang pow sauce.