Blackened red snapper, from America’s Test Kitchen, is a healthy yet utterly sumptuous weeknight dinner. Chockful of flavor from lots of spices, tangy yogurt sauce, and flaky red snapper. And that gorgeous black rice? It makes your whole plate Instaworthy.
Blackening fish is a scorching-hot situation and it’s therefore easy to pay little attention to what you serve with it. Yogurt sauce provides cooling contrast to the spiced fish and extra flavor to its worthy pairings. You can substitute halibut, mahi-mahi, striped bass, or swordfish for red snapper.— America’s Test Kitchen
☞ Table of Contents
Blackened Red Snapper
- 1 1/2 cups black rice* or brown rice
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt plus more for cooking rice
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon juice preferably organic
- 3 tablespoons garlic oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 18 ounces (18 cups) fresh baby spinach
- 4 (4 to 6 ounce) skin-on red snapper fillets, or other firm white fish, 3/4 to 1 inch (18 to 24 mm) thick
- In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Add rice and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. If using brown rice, it may require a few extra minutes of cooking.
- Drain rice, dump into a bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogurt and lemon zest and juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- In a small microwave-safe bowl, microwave 1 tablespoon oil, paprika, coriander, fennel, cayenne, cloves, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Let cool slightly.
- In a large covered microwave-safe bowl, microwave spinach and 1/4 cup water until spinach is wilted and decreased in volume by half, stopping the microwave to stir once, 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, you can use do this in two batches in a smaller bowl, using 2 tablespoons of water per batch and reducing the cook time to 2 minutes.)
- Remove bowl from microwave and keep covered for 1 minute. Carefully remove the cover and dump the spinach into a colander. Using the back of a rubber spatula, gently press spinach against the colander to release excess liquid.
- Adjust oven rack 4 inches (10 cm) from broiler element and heat broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Pat the red snapper fillets dry with paper towels and brush flesh side evenly with the spice mixture. Arrange snapper skin side down on the prepared sheet. Broil until snapper flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and registers 130°F (54°C), about 4 minutes. Arrange the snapper on individual plates or on a large serving platter.
- Meanwhile, in a 12‑inch (30-cm) skillet over medium heat, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering, about 1 minute. Add spinach and toss to coat. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and continue stirring with tongs until spinach is glossy green, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve spinach with snapper, rice, and yogurt sauce.
*What is black rice?You’ve likely tried brown rice. It’s just rice that hasn’t had the outer, fibrous bran polished off. Black rice, on the other hand, has a deep black color through and through. It turns a deep purple color when cooked, that dark purple color is primarily due to its anthocyanin content—and that’s good for you. It’s also called “forbidden rice” because it was once regarded as so special that only aristocracy were allowed to eat it. It’s high in fiber, protein, and antioxidants, as well as having a chewier texture and more flavor than other rice.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This blackened red snapper turned out incredibly delicious. The fish itself (I swapped in Mahi Mahi for the snapper), with its redolent blend of pre-bloomed spices, was one of the most flavorful blackened fish recipes I've ever made—it's certainly the easiest and least messy.
I've always dreaded the halo of grease involved in blackening fish so I rarely make it, but THIS method, smearing the fish with the spice paste and sticking it under the broiler, was just brilliant. I don't think I'll ever make blackened fish another way again. (I'll also try this exact spice blend for blackened shrimp—I know it'll be great!)
We also thought the yogurt sauce was perfect to tame the heat of the spices. The spinach was tasty (freshly picked from my garden this morning) but the method was overly fussy; I don't believe there's any reason in the world to steam and then sauté baby spinach since it wilts in the pan in about 15 seconds anyway. Just extra things to clean up the way it was written here.
I couldn't get black rice so I used a Lundberg brand blend of black, red and wild rice. It was a nice nutty, earthy blend that balanced the spice of the fish and the tang of the yogurt sauce. I started the fish and the spinach about 20 minutes before the rice finished cooking so it was all ready at the same time. This was pretty much a perfect weeknight dinner!
“Fish Friday” is quite a regular recurrence at our dinner table. There’s no other reason for this day other than knowing that there’s millions of people around the world also enjoying fish dinners. It also removes the task of deciding what protein to serve. Procuring fresh fish and having an animated repertoire for at least 20 Fish Fridays a year, often requires the use of frozen fish.
When I saw this recipe for blackened red snapper, I was excited for all the alternative fish fillets that could be used. My excitement didn't end there. Yes, this meal required an hour of hands-on time and a modicum of organizational skills. However, this recipe is written in such a way that the hands-off cooking time can be seamless with hands-on preparation. Each step as written minimizes the feeling of time expense and also commits the cook to being organized.
Moreover, when one considers that there are four food components that can actually be stand-alone dishes, it’s a pretty fast execution. (Unless, of course, you are competing on Master Chef). Stick to the order of the steps as written and you’ll be fine.
The black rice cooking method created perfectly nutty and fluffy kernels. The yogurt sauce was tangy and lemony and refreshing. The microwaved spinach was genius! The only thing I changed in the recipe was substituting the baby spinach for more mature succulent leaves and stems. Although this was by necessity, as the baby spinach available to me was very fragile looking, I would encourage this change in the recipe. The finished spinach was glossy and hearty and not at all overpowering. The texture combined wonderfully with the smooth sauce and uniform rice. I did interrupt the microwave cooking at 2 minutes to mix up the larger leaves, then resumed another 2 minutes. My colander draining time was 10 minutes with only 2 tablespoons of drained liquid and nicely dried spinach.
The fish I had available for this particular “Fish Friday” was thawed skinless mahi-mahi fillets. I thawed these using my usual method of placing the individually wrapped fillets in a bowl of ice water and changing the water every 15 minutes for 45 min. Once the packages are open, I dry the fish in paper towels and place the fish over a rack on a baking sheet filled with crushed ice and refrigerate for no more than 1 hour before cooking.
Because my fillets were skinless and I do not usually use foil in cooking, I used an extra 1/2 tablespoon of the garlic oil. I brushed what would have been the skin side to prevent the fillet from sticking to the foil. While the fish in this recipe can be substituted, attention needs to be given to the thickness of the fillet. My fillets were on the thinner side so I only needed 4 minutes of broiling time.
The fish was supple and juicy with an aromatic and flavorful blackened spicy crust. Not overly spicy but still welcoming of the bright and tangy flavor of the yogurt sauce. The finished dish was a tableau of color and texture with visible flavor. There’s the option of presenting the plate in a rustic or more formal configuration. The photo in the recipe was a true depiction of the flavor possibilities. This promise was fulfilled. Go ahead, create your own plating. Then savor the flavors and textures knowing that you also have a plateful of healthy offerings.
Originally published July 08, 2021