It’s mid-October in Georgia. The days are getting shorter. The ridiculous heat of the summer has given way to mornings and evenings that are (to a southerner) downright nippy. Autumn is officially here — not just outside but in our kitchen as well.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of autumn, visions of seafood don’t exactly go bouncing around in my head. So, when I decided to pair Brussels sprouts, bacon, and apples with Mahi Mahi, I was more than a little skeptical about the flavors working well together. But I was at a loss as to what to make for dinner and staring blankly at the contents of my refrigerator wasn’t moving things along any. Why not give it a shot?
LET’S GET STARTED
I started by cutting several strips of bacon into lardons and cooking them until crisp. After removing the bacon to a paper towel, I used the same pan and half of the rendered bacon fat (reserve the other half for searing the fish) to sweat some red onion. After several minutes of cooking the onion, I added sliced Brussels sprouts to the pan and cooked for several more minutes.
Cabbage and bacon both go so well with sweet and sour flavors so I decided to deglaze the pan with a combination of apple cider and apple cider vinegar. Not so much that reducing it would cause the Brussels sprouts to turn to mush, but just enough to add another layer of flavor. This seemed like a good time to add the bacon as the addition of the liquids would help to further marry the bacon flavor into the Brussels sprouts.
After the liquid had mostly evaporated and the Brussels sprouts were tender, I added the diced apples and cooked for just a couple minutes longer. I wanted the apples to retain some of their texture and the Stayman apples I was using had proven (when I made applesauce) that they gave up their texture and turned to mush rather quickly. If you use a more firm apple, feel free to add it a bit earlier but be sure to avoid it overcooking and separating from its skin. Before removing the mixture from the pan to a waiting side dish, I seasoned it with kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.
I then turned up the heat to sear the fish. Once the pan was good and hot I added the remaining reserved bacon fat and swirled the pan to coat it. After seeing the first sign of smoke it was time to add the Mahi Mahi loins that I had seasoned liberally with kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.
In order to get a good sear, there are a few things you must do:
- Keep the pan hot with enough fat to coat its bottom.
- Keep the protein as dry as possible (otherwise it will steam) by drying thoroughly and not salting until right before the protein goes into the pan (as salt will draw moisture to the surface).
- Keep yourself from peeking! Once the protein hits the pan, don’t keep peaking to see how the sear is coming along, just be patient and don’t disturb the process.
- Cook 80% of the total cook time on one side of the protein. This will be the beautifully seared “presentation side.” If you try to get this sear on both sides of the protein, you will surely overcook it.
If you do each of those things, this is what your fish will look like when you flip it over… delayed gratification at its finest!
Once cooked, remove the fish from the pan and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Resting is hugely important to any cooked protein. Do it! Don’t skip it! Do a little cleaning up, warm your serving plates, call the troops to the table… anything! Just buy that fish a little time to relax before it goes on the plate. As you can see, I plated this very simply: Mahi sitting atop a mound of the Brussels sprouts mixture; sliced apple for garnish. Viola, you’re done.
As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about, the ingredients worked REALLY well together. The dish felt like it was on a balance beam between health food and comfort food. It could have easily gone either way but instead struck a satisfying balance between the two. As a matter of fact, the Brussels, apple, and bacon concoction was so good, I think it would work well with just about any protein. Seriously, it almost didn’t make it onto the plate as I just kept eating it from the pan! And to think, it’s Whole30 compliant!
- For the Brussels sprouts:
- 4-6 strips of bacon, cut into lardons and cooked crisp, fat reserved
- 3-4 tablespoons bacon fat
- ½ of a medium red onion, diced
- approx. 2 cups of Brussels sprouts, stemmed, outer leaves removed, an thinly sliced
- ¼ cup apple cider
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 large apple, diced
- kosher salt
- freshly-cracked black pepper
- apple, thinly sliced, for garnish
- For the fish:
- 2 Mahi Mahi loins
- 3-4 tablespoons of bacon fat
- kosher salt
- freshly-cracked black pepper
- Cut bacon into lardons and cook in a large skillet until crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve half of the rendered fat and leave the other half in the pan.
- Add diced red onion to pan and sweat until translucent; approximately 5 minutes.
- Add sliced Brussels sprouts to onions and toss to combine. Cook for approximately 5 minutes and until Brussels sprouts have brightened in color.
- Add the apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and cooked bacon. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the Brussels sprouts have become slightly tender.
- Add the diced apple and cook for just a few more minutes or until the apples have heated and softened but still retain most of their shape and texture.
- Season with kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper. Transfer to side dish and set aside.
- Return the pan to stove and increase the heat.
- While the pan preheats, season the Mahi Mahi loins with kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.
- Once the pan has preheated, add the remaining bacon fat.
- At the first signs of smoke, carefully add the fish to the pan. Cook, without disturbing the fish, for approximately 5-7 minutes or until you can see browning on the edges of the fish.
- Carefully turn the fish over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Remove from the pan and rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Plate the fish sitting atop a mound of Brussels sprouts. Garnish with thinly sliced apples.