Before I even begin to tell you about this sandwich, I’m going to suggest you stop what you’re doing, go directly to the nearest kitchen, and whip up a bowl of homemade miso mayonnaise. I wish someone would have given me this advice whenever this recipe was first invented because when I made it last weekend, I immediately felt all those years spent eating other mayonnaises had been squandered. If you’re someone who likes mayonnaise, then you probably already know the wonders of a homemade version. Now, imagine how good that homemade mayonnaise is, and then imagine it even better as if it’s been given a flavor boost. That’s miso mayo. This mayonnaise and the sandwich were in the second issue of Lucky Peach. In the magazine, the sandwich was made with bluefish, but I used Texas redfish. Really, there’s so much going on with flavors from the aforementioned, amazing mayonnaise and the blackening spice, just about any fish or tofu or even blackened bread would make a terrific sandwich here. I cheated in a couple ways in making this. I skipped the recipe for the homemade bread-and-butter pickles for the sandwich. It didn’t seem worth doing since cucumbers aren’t in season right now, and I have a preference for sour dill pickles with no sign of sweetness anyway. So, I used dill pickles from a jar. Next, I cheated with the blackening spice mix. I somehow blanked on the ground konbu in the ingredient list and didn’t even know I should have looked for it at the grocery store. Also, I miscalculated how little mustard seed I had on hand and failed to buy more for this. Oddly enough, I did, however, have the grains of paradise, whole allspice, and tomato powder, along with all the other ingredients, in my spice cabinet. Next time I make this, I will try to get the konbu for the umami it would have added to the mix. In general though, with so many different spices involved, if you add more of one item, less of another, or need to skip something, you’ll still have a great spice mix.
The full list of everything in the blackening spice is: three tablespoons grains of paradise, and I’ve gone on about grains of paradise once before, two teaspoons black peppercorns, one teaspoon coriander seed, four tablespoons mustard seed, one teaspoon cumin seed, one teaspoon whole allspice, one quarter cup ground konbu, three tablespoons onion powder, two tablespoons cayenne powder, one quarter cup tomato powder, and one half cup sweet smoked paprika. Note: in the magazine, the quantity for cayenne powder is six tablespoons, and I think that must have been a typo. I like things spicy, but that seemed like an extraordinary amount of cayenne. I used two tablespoons and tasted to see if I wanted it spicier. Two tablespoons gave it a good amount of heat even to my palate. The whole spices were toasted in a dry skillet, and then ground and mixed with the powdered spices. Fish fillets were seasoned with salt, dredged with the blackening spice, and seared in a hot pan with a little oil. The blackening spice was also used on some oven fries. Again, I cheated. In the magazine, the blackened potato chips were to have been fried. Now, for that amazing mayonnaise, you make a typical homemade mayonnaise and add one tablespoon of champagne vinegar and two tablespoons of white miso. I don’t seem to have the gene that allows one to make a mayonnaise with one egg yolk. Mine always breaks when I start with just one yolk, and I always start over with another yolk and mix the broken oil mixture into the second yolk. I also seem to have better luck with a hand mixer than with a food processor or blender. I’ve used a whisk as well, but a hand mixer is easier. The sandwich was built with toasted and buttered bread, shredded lettuce, sliced pickles, the blackened fish, and the wonder that is miso mayo.
The spice mix does exactly what it’s intended to do once it hits the hot oil in the pan. It blackens as quickly as the fish cooks, and that deepens the flavors of the spices. It was just as delicious on the oven fries, and the extra miso mayo makes a great dipping sauce for them. My mind is already swirling with thoughts of other ways to use that mayonnaise.