Quite a number of years ago I ordered blackened catfish in a restaurant and after one bite thought my taste buds had been ruined forever. The spices used on the fish were so hot that I couldn't taste anything for a week. That singular experience has kept me from being even mildly curious about Blackened Anything up until now. But George Stella just changed all that. Now, I know if I'd found a recipe somewhere else or if I'd ventured to order Blackened Whatever in another restaurant, I'd probably have had an altogether different experience from my first. Be that as it may, George's recipe for Blackening Spice and the Blackened Chicken that I made tonight has made me realize that not all Blackened Somethings are created equal.
First, the spice: 5 tablespoons kosher salt 5 tablespoons paprika (I used sweet) 1 tablespoon dried thyme 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (I used 1/4 tsp because I'm a weenie) 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (I left that out) Mix it all up and store in an airtight container.
Next, the chicken: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded with a meat mallet until uniformly 1/2-inch thick 2 tablespoons blackening spice 2 tablespoons oil for the skillet Wedges of lemon (optional, but I'll do it next time)
Coat the chicken on both sides with the spice mixture. Place the oil in a cast iron skillet and place over high heat just until the oil begins to smoke. Place the breasts in the skillet and sear for about 3 minutes. Flip the breasts over, turn the heat to medium, and continue cooking until done, about 3 minutes more. (I was careful to not let the meat actually get charred as I don't like it that way.) Place on paper towels for a few minutes to drain and then plate (with the lemon wedges, if using).
Sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with diced fresh mozzarella and drizzled with a black fig vinegar/walnut oil dressing rounded out the plate. This was sooooo good. Thanks George.