Welcome to Summer 2018. It isn’t officially summer until June 21, but after a winter that wouldn’t go away and a spring that couldn’t quite get here, summer will be welcome. The days have already gotten longer, and it makes it a perfect time to get out of the house and enjoy a meal on your patio or deck.
Most hunting seasons are over, but some of the best fishing is ramping up, good from mountain valleys to the depths of the Gulf Stream. One of the favorite fish of summer is dolphin; they are caught in good numbers from off Hilton Head to Nags Head. Mahi-mahi is the Hawaiian name and the listing on most restaurant menus, but on the boat or back deck, you can call them what we always have. Regardless of the name, they are willing biters, excellent fighters and palate pleasers prepared in a variety of ways
The first dolphin of the year are caught along a color change or temperature break at the edge of the Gulf Stream. Most of the ocean waters off the Carolinas have warmed to at least the mid-70s by June,. and dolphin are one of the first bluewater pelagic fish to break off and follow baitfish closer to shore, so they are in numerous areas closer to shore. This brings them within range of a wide variety of fishermen, and they are a favorite guest of honor for dinner.
The mild flavor of dolphin is excellent prepared in many ways, but the thought with this one was to have a light, fun meal that’s almost as much fun to prepare as it is to eat. Fajitas can be prepared as appetizers, snacks or the main course. Many people enjoy fajitas, usually chicken or beef, at their favorite restaurants and this is a suggestion to switch to the lighter meat of dolphin and prepare them at home with a unique twist.
Dolphin is a mild meat suited well for baking, grilling, blackening or other easy preparations. This recipe combines the Iemon and orange citrus juices and light garlic flavor of Mojo marinade with a shot of alcohol and cinnamon from the Fireball Whisky to prep the dolphin for a quick sear on the FireDisc Cooker. It doesn’t taste quite like anything one would imagine, and all who have tried it said they would gladly eat it again. That’s the best recommendation one could hope for and the recipe follows.
TIP: Don’t cook this inside unless you have restaurant quality exhaust fans and venting. There is a lot of steam.
Mojo fireball dolphin fajitas
Dolphin is one of my favorite summer fish; I enjoy it prepared a variety of ways. Last year, I was introduced to the FireDisc Cooker (www.firedisccookers.com) and have adapted some older recipes to this unique style of cooking and developed others specifically for it. This new recipe is ideally suited for the FireDisc.
A good, short description of the FireDisc Cooker is a “cowboy wok.” That describes fairly well this round-bottom cooker from Texas, made to be easily portable. As delivered, FireDisc Cookers are powered by a 1-pound propane cylinder but can be adapted to a larger propane tank.
The Mojo marinade penetrates the strips of dolphin to tenderize and flavorize them with a light, citrus-garlic flavor. Adding the Fireball whiskey seems to help this and gives a slight hint of cinnamon. I smell the cinnamon more in the steam than I taste it in the cooked food. A second shot of Fireball makes its cinnamon flavor a little more noticeable, and you can’t miss it with three shots. The alcohol steams out while cooking, so the flavor is what’s left. As with salt and pepper, this should be done to personal tastes. The recipe as written is mild.
Colored bell peppers are milder than green ones. They and the onions aren’t added to the marinade to keep them crisp, but cooked in it to add a little of the flavor. When sprinkling the peppers and onions with the fajita seasoning, black pepper and ground chipotle pepper, keep in mind that lighter will be milder and heavier will be spicier — especially with the ground chipotle. However, even those with the mildest palates should try a little of this, as its smoky flavor adds to the taste. Once the peppers and onions are cooked, they can be moved to the outer edge of the FireDisc to stay warm while the dolphin is quickly seared.
Be careful not to overcook the dolphin. The lemon and orange juices in the Mojo marinade get it going, sort of like ceviche, and it cooks quickly. If you see it noticeably browning, you’ve cooked it too long.
1 pound skinless Mahi-mahi fillet
1 medium sweet onion
1 large yellow bell pepper
1 large red bell pepper
1 large orange bell pepper
11/2 cup Goya Mojo Criollo marinade
1 shot Fireball Cinnamon whiskey
Coarse-ground black pepper
Ground chipotle pepper
8 Fajita-size flour tortillas (regular or whole wheat)
Butter flavored non-stick cooking spray
Your favorite hot sauce
Slice Mahi-mahi into thin strips and put strips into a quart Zip Lock bag. Barely cover Mahi with marinade. Add one shot of Fireball to the Mojo marinade. Close the bag, work all the air out, then work the bag to evenly spread the marinade, and put it in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 1 to 4 hours.
Slice the onion and peppers lengthwise into approximately 1/2-inch strips. Put the onion and pepper strips into a large bowl and season with fajita seasoning, black pepper and ground chipotle pepper to taste. Turn the strips to get them evenly coated. Cover the bowl and allow the onion and pepper strips to sit for an hour.
Spray the entire surface of the FireDisc pan with non-stick cooking spray. Heat the FireDisc cooker to medium. Pour approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of the liquid marinade into the edge of the pan and quickly dump all the onions and peppers into it. This will create lots of steam, so stand back a little. Sauté the onions and peppers in the marinade. There is a lot of heat with the FireDisc, and if it steams dry, add the remainder of the marinade. It will steam again. Just before the peppers and onions are finished, move them to the outer edge of the FireDisc pan.
Pour the Mahi strips into the pan. There is still a little marinade in them, and it will steam again. Sauté the Mahi strips for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Be careful not to overcook them. Remove the onion and pepper strips and Mahi to bowls for serving.
Lightly spray one side of four tortillas with the non-stick cooking spray and drop them into the FireDisc pan. Warm the tortillas for about 30 seconds and turn over for about 30 seconds, then remove. Spray and warm the remaining 4 tortillas. Have more fajita seasoning, ground chipotle, black pepper and hot sauce available so diners can assemble their fajitas to their personal preferences.
This is pretty much a meal by itself. A salad or lettuce wedge before the meal is a good start and a light dessert, like pudding, satisfies a sweet tooth at the end.