Mahi Mahi: Tis the Season

What to do with the finest fish as our culinary thoughts turn to spring.


Modern life affords us access to many seasonal foods year-round, but the truth is there remain peak times for certain items, particularly if you’re going to go about harvesting them yourself. Take Mahi-Mahi for example. We’re in the peak fishing season for mahi right now, particularly in the Caribbean and off the coast of Florida, and the timing couldn’t be better. With winter in our rearview mirror, adding a lighter meal to one’s days just seems natural, and mahi is simply a superb fish for the season.

Meaty, easy to prepare and pair with wine while remaining relatively forgiving to the typical pitfalls of preparing fish (i.e. overcooking), Mahi-Mahi is one appealing fish. Perfect for the lighter fare of warmer months, it’s supremely adept at supporting spring's bright flavors that take advantage of the coming bounty of seasonal fruits and vegetables. I was perusing some recipes recently and came across a few that I can’t wait to try, all drawing influence from the coastal regions—home to some of the most productive Mahi-Mahi fisheries. So sit back and start thinking about dinner, and the lovely meals you’ll be preparing as temps warm up.

Mahi-Mahi with Fresh Cilantro Chutney

Let’s start with something simple, like this pan-seared mahi recipe that uses an inventive kiwi fruit chutney to great advantage. The fish remains center stage, but the chutney brings fresh, bright flavors to the recipe along with a bit of sweetness from the coconut milk and some nice heat from the jalapeno.

With such a simple recipe, you’d think wine pairing would be easy. Truth be told, this is probably quite a wine-friendly recipe, but at the same time there’s a lot going on here and we should be careful not to overpower the nuance of the chutney with our choice of wine. To me, this looks like a job for a lightly barrel-aged Sauvignon Blanc. Barrel-ageing adds some spice to a wine, but also contributes a touch of sweetness as well, while the basic citrus and herb flavors of many Sauvignon Blancs would pair up very well with this recipe. Lucky for us there are plenty of suitable Sauvies out there, like the fortuitously named Mahi(!) from New Zealand and one of the many Fumé Blancs from California, like the original, produced by Robert Mondavi.

Find the Recipe Here


Cumin-Spiced Mahi Mahi Tacos

I am crazy for fish tacos! Seriously, I love the complex blend of flavors that one gets with fish tacos, as well as the general lightness of the dish—not to mention eating with one’s hands is always a definite plus in my book. This recipe delivers plenty of complex flavor and spice, as well as richness from the sour cream and avocados, resulting in a blend of flavors and textures that makes wine pairing a touch challenging.

Once again, going for wine with a little wood is a good way to build a flavor bridge with the spice elements of this recipe. That’s the easy part. Pairing it with the avocado and sour cream, on the other hand, is a bit of a challenge, and then there’s the nectarine. Wow. Lots of competing interests here, so where can we turn for pairing? How about Pinot Gris? Spicy, a hint off-dry at times, as well as rich and not terribly high in acidity, Pinot Gris could be the perfect fit. You can look to Oregon for a lighter version, something with a touch of wood for added spice, like the Lange Pinot Gris Reserve. Or stick with a spicier style from Alsace, such as the basic bottling from Zind-Humbrecht


Middle Eastern Rice Salad

A recipe is not a meal. Pairing one of these fine mahi recipes with a light, fresh side dish is easy, and this recipe for Middle Eastern rice tabbouleh from RiceSelect is the perfect side that will make any of these fine recipes a lovely meal. Fresh and bright, it’s a playful twist on an old classic, easy to prepare and the perfect foil for the bold flavors of each of our Mahi-Mahi recipes, and many more. This spring, complete your meal with RiceSelect.


Sesame-Crusted Mahi Mahi

Sesame seeds are little umami explosions waiting to happen, and as such can be tricky to pair with wine. But when you happen upon the right pairing, the match can be simply stunning. There’s a lot of sesame in this recipe, but otherwise it’s a relatively simple dish, using the cucumber and watercress salad as a palate-refreshing foil. Since the recipe gains freshness from the salad, it’s best to chase down some umami-rich wines to compliment that sesame flavor.

So-called orange wines (a.k.a. white wine fermented as red wines, with extended skin contact) are the perfect solution. Rich with subtle spice and umami flavors, they are often difficult to pair with spring time dishes that rely on bright, fresh flavors. Here they will shine, so take a look at something like the Attems Pinot Grigio Ramato or the Pheasant's Tears Rkatsiteli from the Republic of Georgia. 


Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Escabeche Sauce

I’ve actually made a dish like this for years, and it’s freaking delicious no matter what type of fish I’ve used, whether it’s Mahi, Tuna, Swordfish or even Mackerel. I’ve served this hot off the grill, but it’s even better after a few hours—that time allows the sauce to soak into the fish and really permeate each bite with flavor.

With a high acid marinade, this type of recipe demands a high acid wine, yet one that is deeply flavored and able to handle the rich layering of flavors the sauce contributes to the dish. While there are several suitable options available for use here, I fall back on two, Fiano di Avellino from Italy and Grüner Veltliner from Austria. Both tend to be bright, juicy wines with moderate amounts of fruit, but tons of savoriness that stands up to the olives, onions, capers and peppers in this dish. Try Terradora’s Fiano or Brundlmayer’s Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Terrassen for a spectacular pairing. 

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  • I am from the Big Island a fisherman and a wine lover. As you know Mahi mahi is the Hawaiian name for Dolphin fish and is a staple over here. However a better fish ; arguably the best in the world is Ono...Wahoo from those outside Hawaii. It is a lot better fish all around and with the Cilantro Chutney...fantastic. Add in the Monkey Bay Sav. Blanc and you have a meal and a half.

    May 25, 2013 at 11:13 PM

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