Blackened Whole Reef Fish | Smithey Ironware
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Blackened Whole Reef Fish


These days, Wayne Samiere, CEO of Honolulu Fish Company, supplies sashimi grade fish to some of the best restaurants in the United States, but he started his company in 1995 out of his garage because of an intense passion for fish and the oceans. A trained marine biologist, he understands quality sourcing, sustainability, and freshness when it comes to fish, but as a saltwater enthusiast, he still loves to fish then sometimes cook what he catches. And for that, he looks no further than the grill and cast iron.

Although he doesn’t climb the treacherous black lava rock cliffs above a crashing seashore like many local Hawaiian fishermen, he’s inspired by those who may spend hours climbing to their fishing spot, and once there, they stay. They use the elements they have on those barren cliffs, natural sea salt on the rocks, sea water and the open air, often in the dead of night, to cook the small reef fish they catch while they wait for their prized Ulua fish to hit.

“I love blackened fish made popular back in the 80s by chef Paul Prudhomme from New Orleans. I use Cajun and Creole seasonings in everything I cook, and here I’ve adopted techniques from two of my worlds, the kitchens of New Orleans and Hawaii,” he says. “The size that these reef fish are — one to five pounds — you lose 70 percent of the yield if you fillet them. Cooking whole is best, and it’s hard to beat a cast iron skillet in getting that crust on a whole reef fish.”

No need to climb the cliffs to have a great meal. The grill and a cast iron skillet (and a friend who fishes or a good fishmonger) are all you need.

Plan on one fish per person

Wayne Samiere

Blackened Whole Reef Fish

what you need

4 1-1.5lbs whole fish

Hawaiian salt

1.5 cups salt-free creole/cajun seasoning

4 Tbsp cumin

4 tsp garlic powder

4 Tbsp chili powder

4 Tbsp butter

4 TBsp Olive Oil

Sesame oil for drizzle

*Note: any barramundi, small snapper, sea bass, or other variety of fish works

servings: 4


For each fish: remove the gills and guts, and remove scales from the body and the head.


Make 3-4 45° cross-cuts, dorsal to ventral and make cuts down to the backbone. Rinse inside and outside thoroughly.


Use a paper towel to dry inside and outside of the fish. Wrap the fish in paper towels and let sit until skin becomes tacky and sticky.


While fish is drying, mix ingredients for dry rub and set aside.


Once fish is dry, remove paper towels and rub Hawaiian salt or sea salt or Alaea salt in the body cavity, the head cavity, and in the sliced areas of the body.


Next, rub dry mix over fish, head and body completely (as much as will adhere to the tacky skin). Let seasoned fish sit for a few minutes before cooking.


While dry rub is setting, heat cast iron skillet on grill to searing temperature.


Drizzle sesame oil over both sides of the fish.


Add one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon olive oil to hot pan, enough to coat pan quickly, then add fish immediately so oil and butter will not scorch. Don’t overcrowd pan, so no more than two fish per pan.


Cook completely on each side before turning to the next side, 3-4 minutes for each side depending on the size of the fish. (Fish is ready to flip when it’s formed a nice crust that has released from pan.)


Turn off the heat, and let fish finish in the skillet and settle. Serve immediately.

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