There was a deathly calm over the whole boat as we drifted past the kelp paddy. After a day of trolling and searching, we had finally found the huge floating mass of sea weed; and its hidden promise of fish. There was the initial flurry of activity. As soon as the boat revved down baits were grabbed and lines were cast, along with elbows and curses. But now nothing, just quiet.
I gently thumbed the reel as my lively sardine torpedoed out into the vast blue freedom before us. The two of us were connected figuratively in our strandedness in the expansive sea, and literally by a length of 20# test monofilament. A veritable gossamer thread in the realm of deep sea monsters. Up in the bow of the boat, away from the crowds and protective shade of the wheel house, I felt the sun beating down on my neck. Drops of sweat collected on my temple and slowly rolled down to my chin.
The quiet persisted and persisted on; building tension all the while. But ever so slightly, the calm began to give way to the subtle buzz of the Captain and deckhands, growing restless on the bite-less drift. I just began to sense that they were moments away from calling, “Reel ’em in, let’s move out!” When suddenly my line began peeling out; ripping, ripping, ripping. I took a breath, counted, “one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand.” I flipped the reel in gear, the line went taught, and a beautiful gleaming blue-green dorado came leaping out the water, 100 yards out. “HOOK UPPPP!!!!”
What ensued was one of the most thrilling fish fights I’ve ever had. The whole boat sat and watched as I reeled on this fish. He leapt several times a minute, each time showing his metallic sheen. The captain himself gaffed the fish for me, and on the way to the kill box, stopped to take a photo. (If you haven’t been on this type of fishing trip, you may not realize this is a rare occurrence indeed.) Suddenly the dinner bell rang. Everyone got bit and the boat exploded in a flurry of excited yells, tangled lines, and flopping fish.
An exciting, tropical fish deserves an exciting tropical preparation. In contemplating my Mahi, my mind turned to Coconut Shrimp; a delicacy I’ve always enjoyed. I was also thinking about a side dish I recently ate at a wedding. Baked yams topped with coconut, brown sugar, and walnuts. I repeated the dish at home and loved it. So this plate is a mish-mash of these inspirations. Serves 2 people
Coconut and Macadamia Crusted Mahi over Mashed Yams
10 oz of Mahi Mahi fillets, cut into 2-3 oz pieces
1/2 cup unsweetened, dried, shredded coconut
1/2 cup Macadamia Nuts
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
Salt and Pepper
2-3 tbsp oil (coconut is awesome, but olive will do)
2 garnet yams (or other similar)
2 tbsp butter
Start with the potatoes. Just plop them in a large pot and cover with 1-2″ of water. Add about 1 tsp of salt to the water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a medium boil.
Set up a breading station for the fish. Spread the flour on a plate. In a large flat bowl beat the egg then beat the milk into the egg. Grind the nuts into a course power and add them to a shallow casserole dish with the coconut. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the flour and the nut mixture, then stir both well to combine.
Hopefully the yams are getting close. They are ready when they slide off a fork stuck into the middle. When ready, remove from the boiling water and give a quick rinse with cold tap water. Then peel and mash with the butter. Set aside in a covered bowl.
Lastly the fish. Get a pan nice and hot and add the fat. Run the fish through the flour, then the eggs. Make sure you shake off excess flour and let the eggs drain down a sec along the way. Then really crust them up with the nut mixture. This is the flavor department. Don’t be afraid to push them in a bit. Finally go straight into the oil. Try one piece first and makes sure you get a good sizzle. If not, the oil’s not hot enough yet. Fry up the fish about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on thickness. With Mahi I’m going for well done but still moist.
While I was ‘artfully’ smearing the yams I let the fish go a little too far. It got very brown but thankfully didn’t burn. With a little care you can do better. I served mine over a quick corn-fava bean succotash, along with a cold Belgian Saison (home brewed, of course). It was fantastic. The coco- and macadamia nuts give the fish tons of flavor, richness, and crunch. Even though it got dark, it wasn’t burnt and the flavor was toasty and delicious. The fish came out perfect, with a moist firm flake. The yams give a buttery sweetness that makes a perfect bed for this fried delicacy.