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8 & $20: Blackened Snapper with Spicy Mango Salsa

Caribbean flavors bring the tropics—and the heat—to this festive fish recipe, quenched with a Portuguese white wine
Photo by: Samantha Falewée
These bright colors and flavors will kickstart any spring get-together.

Samantha Falewée
Posted: May 9, 2017

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

Grab a jalapeño pepper and dig out the jerk seasoning: We’re throwing off the drudgery of this rainy spring with a colorful mix of festive flavors. This mouthwatering blackened snapper gets a burst of brightness from the accompanying sunglow-yellow mango fruit, sweet and sharp red onion, a spicy kick of minced jalapeño and a splash of lime juice.

The mango salsa can be prepared ahead of time, but it's best made fresh with the fish, which takes almost no time at all. The mango's flavors can gradually be overcome by the jalapeño and cilantro, so made-to-order salsa is ideal for this recipe.

Jerk spice has rich layers of flavor. It’s aromatic and woody, surprisingly sweet but enduringly spicy. Allspice, the dried unripe berries of the tropical Pimenta dioica tree, is traditionally the core element of jerk seasoning, but recipes also incorporate a varying mix of red and black pepper, thyme, paprika, salt, cinnamon, cayenne—the list goes on. There’s evidence that jerk dates as far back as the 1600s, when African slaves who had been brought to Jamaica adapted their food-smoking methods to those of the indigenous Arawak population.

In this recipe, the warm spice notes of the jerk seasoning elevate the fish without clashing with the salsa. Dredge generously when it comes to seasoning the fillets—jerk-style cooking is not for the dainty.

This recipe is a wonderful escape while many of us still wait for warmer days to come, but it'll be an even bigger crowd-pleaser when alfresco dining season opens, shared on the patio with good friends and great wines.

Speaking of wine, choose wisely with this dish. The heat from the jalapeño and jerk seasoning builds up, and you'll end up reaching for your glass again and again to soothe that burn. High-alcohol wines will only fuel the fire, so look for low-alcohol whites with a round, creamy mouthfeel. A touch of sweetness can also counterbalance the heat. My palate favored a lush Portuguese white with green apple and creamy peach notes that carried its own weight in the face of the bold blackened snapper and bright salsa. (It also represented an unbeatable value at just $9.) But my dinner guest favored an Italian white from Umbria with bright acidity that seemed to soar even higher with the pairing. With flavors that practically jump off the plate, it's never a bad idea to offer a pairing for every palate.

Blackened Snapper with Spicy Mango Salsa

Pair with a lush white like Quinta de Cabriz Dão White 2016 (87 points, $9).

Alternative pairing: Santa Cristina Umbria White 2016 (86 points, $13).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25

  • 2 ripe mangos, cubed
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • Splash of lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 snapper fillets (about 1.5 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons jerk seasoning (or more, if desired)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro

1. Mix mango, red onion, jalapeño and splash of lime juice. Cover and set aside. Keep cool.

2. Rub approximately 1.5 tablespoons of butter over both surfaces of the fillets, and coat heavily with jerk seasoning.

3. Set a pan on the stovetop over medium heat with the remaining butter until it melts; reduce to low heat and set in fillets. Cook for two minutes, flip and repeat.

4. Plate and add the mango salsa, sprinkling cilantro over the salsa. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

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