Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yucatecan-Style Grilled Mahi Mahi and Rice with Roasted Poblanos, Spinach, and Goat Cheese

Following the Tuna Tostadas and wheat beer tasting, the meal continued with marinated and grilled mahi mahi with habañero-tomato salsa and a poblano and spinach rice dish. I have to brag a little about some backyard harvesting for this meal. Even though our banana plants aren’t doing so great in the drought this year, I stole one leaf for wrapping the fish. I was rather proud to put an ornamental plant to use for culinary purposes. I follow organic gardening practices throughout my yard whether the plants are edible or not, so the leaf was not only fresh but also free from any chemical sprays or fertilizers. I also have a small, sad-looking, heat-abused Mexican oregano plant, and I used a few fresh leaves from it rather than buying the dried herb.

The fish fillets were marinated, then packed into banana leaf cozies, with bay leaves from my very own tree, and secured with kitchen twine. The grilling time depends on the thickness of the fillets and the temperature of the grill. We left the packets on for about 12 minutes and turned them over for a minute or two at the end.

The mahi mahi was very pretty presented in the banana leaf, and the marinade delivered great flavor. But. Now, let me take a moment to attempt an explanation. I’m pretty sure that I like every kind of fish and shellfish out there. There really isn’t one that I dislike. Although, I’ve never actually tried eel, and there’s a good chance I’d hate it. That being said, I don’t dislike mahi mahi, but it’s just not my favorite fish. Mahi mahi can be very dry when overcooked, but this was cooked perfectly. I believe my issue with it could have something to do with the flake. Other fish flakes better, maybe? The meal overall was so fantastic, that this is really nitpicking, but I couldn’t give this dish more than four out of five stars simply because it was mahi mahi. If you feel the same, choose halibut or possibly swordfish and enjoy a five star dish.

The habañero-tomato salsa was very good. How could it not be? When I see these ingredients together in a bowl, I know it’s going to be good. The salsa and the earthy yet acidic marinade flavors made this a very good mahi mahi experience. The bright colors, the red from the achiote and tomatoes and the green of the banana leaf and lime, and the bold flavors produced such a spectacle it’s hard to believe a humble, little rice dish on the side could even be noticed.

The rice was not only noticed, it deserved a blue ribbon. It may be the most successful rice dish I’ve ever made to date. This was taken from Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless. After the rice had cooked and then sat for 15 minutes, I turned it out into a large mixing bowl to fold in the goat cheese. This allowed the moisture at the bottom of the saucepan to evaporate. The texture of the rice was perfect, and the poblanos and spinach were delicious additions. The poblanos were roasted on the grill before the fish was cooked, and I used goat cheese that was already in my refrigerator instead of queso fresco. I expected it to be a perfectly fine rice side, but it was far more than fine.

We chose a 2006 Albariño by Bodegas Viña Nora from Galicia, Spain for the main course, and it was just right for this meal. The meal was light yet very fully flavored and kind of thrilling. The simple, white rice rested calmly next to the exuberant mahi mahi and held its own with the flavor of mild poblano chiles and the tangy bliss of goat cheese. This Latin American cooking challenge was a definite success.


  1. This is a fantastic idea, and it looks delicious! Banana trees are taking over my backyard, and this is a great way to put the leaves to good use. Also, there's always mahi mahi available at the grocery store, and it tends to be free of toxins and environmental concerns.

  2. Very nicely done! Cooking fish in banana leaves is a great way to keep them moist.

  3. Thanks! I'd like to try banana leaf tamales next.


Blogging tips