Last weekend we were invited to a friend’s house for a Thai dinner. The wife half of this couple has a Thai sister-in-law who has schooled her well in her home country’s ingredients and assembly. I stood by sipping a beer and watched as 8,000 piles of mise en place were skillfully pulled together. They resulted in a wonderful range of intensely spicy to sweet dishes all built with what amounts to a complex depth of flavors. The finely chopped beef dish (laab?) had an eye-opening heat that spread slowly but intensely until it was cooled and elevated to a new level with the coconut chicken curry. Most surprising was how very good the fried rice was and I am determined to add that recipe to my repertoire.
When we were getting ready to leave this lovely dinner, the hostess handed me a huge pile of Thai basil she had left over. So of course that meant I spent the next day and a half listening to a mumbling meal-planning dialogue in the back of my mind.
I had some Mahi Mahi and decided to make a dish that used to be a summer staple for us– pan fried, crusted in almonds and topped with a mango salsa. Basil was a natural pairing with these flavors and I thought of making a potently basiled coconut sauce that could be puddled on the plate and topped with the crisp fish. My vision and outcome were not quite in sync, but the overall dish achieved what I was after and it was quite good….even if my plating arrangement does not prove it.
2 pieces mahi mahi fillets
1 cup crushed almonds
1 mango, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
splash of lime juice
Basil Coconut Sauce:
1 medium shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 cup packed basil, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Mix mango, jalapeno, cilantro, lime and a pinch of salt.
Saute the shallot until just starting to brown. Add garlic, ginger and zest and cook another minute or two until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients, stirring for a minute, then blend to desired consistency. Return to pan and heat slowly until sauce thickens. Add sriracha or chili sauce if desired.
Heat some oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium high heat. Press fish into almonds, flipping over and pressing again to get a good coating. Cook fish in pan flipping once about 7-8 minutes depending on size. Be careful not to burn the nuts and reduce heat if necessary.
Spoon sauce onto plate, top with fish and mango salsa. Serve with a side of rice.