This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com.
January usually leaves us feeling a little heavy and overfed. With resolutions to eat lighter and exercise more, the first month of the year is a great time to try out new healthy seafood options for dinner. This post features one of my favorite saltwater fishes, Mahi Mahi. Unless you’ve spent time on the west coast, Mahi Mahi may not be a familiar fish, that is, until now. If you love Chilean Sea Bass or Halibut, you’re going to love Mahi for its versatility, mild taste and lower price point.
Mahi Mahi Defined
Mahi is actually a dolphinfish, not to be confused with lovable dolphins, which are mammals. This colorful, distinct fish has a long body and a blunt face, with a forked tail fin, and a dorsal fin that runs the length of its body. The name Mahi Mahi comes from the Polynesian language and literally means “strong strong.” It can also be referred to as simply dolphinfish or Dorado, which means golden in Spanish and relates to the fish’s color.
One of the fastest swimmers in the ocean, Pacific Mahi Mahi grow up to 7 feet and 88 pounds with an average lifespan of 5 years. They eat a wide variety of species, including small fish, juvenile tuna, billfish and jacks. Predators include large tuna, marine mammals, marlin, sailfish and swordfish, all pretty scary fish which is probably why they’ve learned to swim so fast.
Mahi Mahi Region
Pacific Mahi Mahi are caught from California to the U.S. Pacific Island territories, but most of the U.S. commercial harvest of this fish comes from Hawaii. U.S. wild-caught Mahi Mahi is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Mahi Mahi Taste Profile
When it comes to eating, Mahi has a lean, white flesh and a mild, sweet flavor profile much like Halibut or Sea Bass. It is low in saturated fat and a good source of vitamin B12, phosphorus, potassium, protein, niacin, vitamin B6 and selenium. Healthy and delicious, Mahi is also versatile as it is adaptable to countless flavor profiles and can be grilled, blackened, sautéed, baked, poached or steamed, giving you lots of options for tasty weeknight meals.
Mahi Mahi Preparation
Most wild Mahi will be flown in and not previously frozen, so it’s important to buy the freshest fish possible. The skin is usually removed from the 1 1/2 to 2-inch thick filets. They should be glistening and moist and smell of the ocean, never fishy. Mahi will always be best cooked the day you buy it. Also, if you are running errands and not heading home immediately after, it’s a good idea to ask that the fish be packed with some ice so that it doesn’t warm up. It’s amazing how the quality of fish nose dives when it warms, so try to keep it really cold and when you get home and put it in the fridge immediately.
Mahi is so delicious that it really only needs a little lemon and butter to make a spectacular dinner. For a simple sauté, start off with a hot, heavy pan like cast iron and a splash of olive oil to get. Simply salt and pepper the fish, place it in the blazing hot skillet and let the fish cook undisturbed for about 5 or 6 minutes. Flip the fish with a spatula and cook the other side for another 5 or 6 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Remember from previous columns that fish cooks an average of 7 minutes per inch of thickness (it will cook faster when steaming). When the fish flakes and feels firm to the touch, it’s done. A squeeze of lemon and a pat of butter is all Mahi needs, but other additions could be a sprinkle of paprika, capers, chives or parsley.
Mahi Mahi Dinner Inspiration
I’ve offered you three recipes and three ways to cook Mahi for dinner tonight. One is a simple saute of Mahi with Miso Glaze and a Warm Cabbage and Apple Slaw. It’s a healthy spa-like meal that always satisfies, and the colorful purple cabbage slaw with peanuts and crispy apple are a bright spot on a gray winter day.
The next recipe is a sheet pan supper of New Baked Potatoes, Artichokes, Roasted Red Pepper and Mahi with a Parmesan Pesto Sauce. I love the ease of baking the entire dinner on one sheet pan for an easy clean up.. Lining the pan with foil means you may not even have to wash it! I call that a weeknight win.
The third recipe is an Asian-Inspired Mahi Poached in Five Spice Broth with Baby Bok Choy and Udon Doodles. Homey and fresh, the steamy broth cooks the fish perfectly while the chewy noodles and bright, fresh vegetables round out this dish with texture and color.
These belly-warming meals are a welcome change after December’s holiday excesses. Light but satisfying, Mahi is the perfect foil for January dinners and these three recipes should get you started onto healthy and delicious 2020. Happy New Year!
Miso-Glazed Mahi Mahi with Wilted Asian Red Cabbage Slaw
Start-to-Finish: 30 minutes
Hands-On Time: 25 minutes
We all have times when we want a simple, light meal with clean, fresh flavors and this is a meal for those times. Blending the miso glaze is a snap and it flavors the flaky Mahi almost effortlessly with just the right mix of savory and salt. The crunchy slaw is really the star of this show with colorful red cabbage, carrot, peanuts and tart apple tossed with rice vinegar, brown sugar and salt. You asked for it. Here it is. Light, healthy and delicious all in under 30 minutes.
It’s that easy: Dense cabbage and carrot usually need some time in the vinegary dressing to tenderize, but heating up the dressing helps it to penetrate the crunchy vegetables and flavor them quickly. If the slaw doesn’t wilt a little when tossed with the hot dressing, just remember to cut everything a little thinner the next time.
- 1 large carrot
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 3 cups red cabbage, very thinly sliced
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- 1 fresh serrano chile (check to see how hot it is and add it accordingly)
- 1/2 cup peanuts
- 1 Tbsp. dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp. white miso (fermented soybean paste)
- 2 tsp. brown sugar, divided
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp., plus 2 tsp. vegetable oil, divided
- Four 6 oz. Mahi Mahi fillets
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Peel the carrot and apple, slice into matchsticks and transfer them to a medium bowl. Slice the cabbage and green onions very thin and mince the cilantro and chile. Reserve half the green onion for garnish and add all of the vegetables and peanuts to the bowl of carrot. Measure the white wine, miso, 1 tsp. brown sugar and soy sauce in a small bowl and stir it with a fork to create the miso glaze. Combine the remaining 1 tsp. brown sugar, rice vinegar, salt, and 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in another small bowl to season the slaw.
- Arrange the oven rack on the second highest position and preheat the broiler.
- Heat a 12-in oven-safe frying pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 tsp. vegetable oil. When it shimmers, add the Mahi fillets to the pan, skin side down. Cook the fish for 4 minutes without moving them and carefully spoon the miso glaze over the top of the fish being careful not to spill any on the bottom of the pan (it will burn, but if some drips down you can scrape it out of the pan later).
- Transfer the pan to the broiler and broil the fish for 5 minutes or until it is cooked through and the top is golden and glazed.
- Transfer the fish to four heated plates and scrape out any burned black miso with a spatula. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the rice vinegar mixture and bring the dressing to a boil. Quickly pour the hot dressing over the slaw and toss it for about 1 minute to thoroughly combine the flavors and wilt the cabbage. Taste and add more salt and black pepper as desired. Serve the slaw on the side with the Miso Glazed Mahi and sprinkle the remaining green onion over the tops.
Extra Hungry Kids? Add steam-in-the-bag microwave rice, either brown or white, for those hungrier-than-usual nights.
In the Glass: Look for a lean, crisp Pinot Gris from Oregon. You might be more familiar with its Italian cousin, Pinot Grigio but a bottle from Oregon will satisfy with apple, pear and melon flavors…perfect with the slaw.
Mahi Mahi with Artichokes, New Potatoes and Pesto Drizzle
Start-to-Finish: 45 minutes
Hands-On Time: 25 minutes
Lean and firm-fleshed Mahi is a member of the dolphin family. It can be cooked any number of ways, but its real claim to fame is its ability to pair with sauces and sides, making it the perfect fish for this pesto drizzle. Bottles of marinated artichokes and roasted bell pepper add zip and color to the potatoes (shhh, don’t tell anyone), making this dish way easier to assemble than it looks.
It’s that easy: Pesto comes a few different ways. You can buy it jarred on the grocery shelf, but the refrigerated tubs are better quality and color. The jarred versions can be kind of gray, but they do taste okay. I guess I’m saying that if you can’t find it refrigerated, its fine to buy the jar, but if you can find the refrigerated version, buy that.
- 1 lb. new potatoes
- 1 onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more for sprinkling.
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 12 oz. marinated quartered artichokes
- 4 oz. chopped, roasted red pepper
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/3 cup prepared pesto
- Four 6 oz. Mahi Mahi fillets
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Line a sheet pan with foil and preheat it in the oven.
- On a large cutting board, thinly slice the potatoes and onion and chop the garlic. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper.
- Arrange the potato mixture on the heated sheet pan, spreading it out so that it cooks evenly. Roast for 15 minutes.
- While the potatoes roast, strain the liquid from the jar of artichokes, reserving 1/4 cup in a medium bowl. Stir in the Parmesan and pesto to combine the sauce well. Set it aside.
- Salt and pepper the Mahi.
- Scatter the artichoke and drained roasted pepper over the potatoes. Make space for the fish directly on the pan and roast another 15 minutes or until the fish flakes and the potatoes are tender.
- Serve the fish and vegetables on heated plates and drizzle with the pesto sauce. Serve hot.
Extra Hungry Kids? Add a salad of thinly-sliced cucumber tossed with a few tablespoons of yogurt, a squirt of lemon, salt and pepper.
In the Glass: Sancerre is a French term for Sauvignon Blanc. When you’re not sure what to drink with seafood, Sancerre is a good bet.
Mahi Mahi Filets Poached in Five Spice Broth with Baby Bok Choy and Udon Noodles
Start to finish: 25 minutes
Hands-On time: 20 minutes
I could eat a meal like this almost every night. It’s light and fresh with vegetables and flaky fish poached in a perfumed broth. Five Spice is a Chinese spice blend combining equal parts cinnamon, star anise, clove, fennel and Szechuan peppercorns and can be found in most grocery stores. A spa meal without the sacrifice, the chewy Udon noodles and bok choy soak up that brothy flavor and round out this quick meal perfectly. Who said eating well was hard work?
It’s that easy: Cutting vegetables on the diagonal is an Asian technique that exposes more cut surface to heat, helping the vegetables to cook faster. They also look prettier cut that way. Just angle your knife and slice away. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.
- 6 heads of baby bok choy
- 2 carrots
- 2 green onions
- 1 thumb-to-knuckle-size piece of ginger root, peeled
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 2 Tbsp. dry Sherry
- 2 tsp. soy sauce, plus more
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. Five Spice powder
- 2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
- 2 tsp. sesame seeds
- Four 6 oz. Mahi Mahi filets
- Salt for sprinkling
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 6 oz. Udon noodles
- Slice the baby bok choy, carrot and green onion thinly on the diagonal, keeping the leaves of bok choy separate from the stalks. Mince the ginger root and cilantro on a large cutting board in separate piles.
- Combine the broth, sherry, soy sauce, sugar, Five Spice and sesame oil in a small cup. Measure the sesame seeds separately.
- Pat the filets dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
- Heat a 12-in frying pan with a lid over medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil shimmers, add the baby bok choy stems, carrot and ginger root and sauté until the baby bok choy turns bright green and the ginger root is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the broth mixture and bring it to a simmer. Add the noodles and give them a stir to keep them from sticking. Once the noodles come up to a simmer, top them with the fish, baby bok choy leaves and green onion. Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer the fish and noodles until all are tender and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Taste the broth and noodles and add more soy sauce or pepper if needed.
- Transfer the fish and noodles to 4 heated shallow bowls and pour the broth and vegetables over. Garnish with the cilantro and sesame seeds.
Extra Hungry? Serve a bigger piece of fish. About 8 oz. should do it.
In the Glass: Try a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand such as Kim Crawford or Pomelo for tropical fruit and a zesty finish.