To the axiom “you break it, you own it,” I add this corollary:

You catch it, you eat it.

The husband and young son went fishing last week in the Gulf Stream off Ocracoke Island. After seven-plus hours, they returned to the Silver Lake docks with 175 pounds of fish.

One hundred seventy-five.

fish on dock

They caught mahi mahi and bluefish. Vermillion snapper and tilefish. Spanish mackerel and black-fin tuna. It took the mates two hours to clean and fillet all that bounty.

It took me just a fraction of that time to realize the “what’s-for-dinner” question is moot.

I love that my husband and son share a passion for fishing. I love that they spent an entire day together without the buffer of a laptop or cell phone. But I’m conflicted about their catch.

fish frozenIt’s so big. Dinner-size packages of gorgeous fish fillets (packed in water so they don’t turn) spill from my freezer. To waste this bounty would be profane. A living creature gave its life to us. I don’t want that sacrifice to be purely for sport.

So we’re eating fish. Almost every night.

So far this week, we’ve had breaded and fried bluefish. A veggie-heavy mackerel chowder. Pan-seared tuna. Oven-roasted snapper.

And my favorite: Last night’s spiced mahi mahi.

Mahi mahi from the store can be tough. It’s usually quite firm; it often has a fishy smell and taste.

Not so mahi straight from the ocean. It cooks up white and pristine, with a creamy flake and delicate flavor.

The husband wanted his blackened; the boys wanted theirs grilled. But I feared heavy spices and heat would overpower our fillets.

So I came up with a compromise: Gentler spice and cooking. The rub satisfied the man; the use of a cast-iron pan kept the boys happy.

I love the ease of this dish. And the unexpected novelty.

Which is a very good thing. I have a lot more fish to fry.

fish hanging

Spiced & Roasted Mahi Mahi

This rub requires some unusual spices. All are worth adding to your collection.

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 5-6 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 4 mahi mahi fillets, about an inch thick, blood line removed
  • Juice of half a lemon

In a small bowl, combine the coriander, thyme, sumac, mustard seeds, salt and pepper. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed.

Pat the fish fillets dry. Rub the spice mixture on both sides, then let the fish hang out in the refrigerator (uncovered) for an hour or so.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and lightly grease a cast-iron skillet with olive oil.

Place the skillet over high heat and let it get very hot.

Add the mahi mahi to the skillet and cook the fillets for 4 minutes. Gently turn them over, then place the skillet in your oven.

Roast for 10 minutes, checking the fish’s doneness after 5 minutes. You may need to remove thinner fillets.

When done, transfer the fish to a platter. Squeeze the lemon juice into your skillet and stir with a wooden spoon to loosen any spices and fish that have stuck. Pour the resulting sauce over the fillets and serve immediately.