In Mexico, mahi mahi is called dorado, and it’s served all over that country’s coastal regions, especially in the Pacific. This is a simple dorado recipe with a cilantro sauce you can use whenever you happen to have some.
And I suppose the sauce would be perfectly fine with other fish, too, like grouper, pargo, seabass, wahoo, etc. What makes this dorado recipe so easy is that it’s basically pan seared fish fillets with a simple cilantro sauce that can be made ahead.
The sauce consists of roasted white onions, garlic and green chiles like Anaheim or Hatch or poblano, lots of cilantro, some lime and water. You can add Mexican oregano if you want. Buzz it in a blender and you’re good to go.
You can cook the sauce in some oil, as I did in the picture, or leave it raw; the vegetables will have been cooked anyway. Cooking deepens the flavor but turns the cilantro sauce a little darker.
I cook the dorado in this recipe exactly the way I do in my pan seared mahi mahi recipe, which is served Cuban style with black beans, rice and a salsa.
Short version: Get a pan hot, get high smoke point oil hot (canola, rice bran, avocado, peanut, safflower, etc.), set the piece of fish down and jiggle the pan the moment it touches — this is important, otherwise the dorado will stick to the pan.
Sear hard only on one side, basting the other with the hot oil to cook it. If you have really big dorado, you can flip and sear both sides; “really big” means thicker than about 1 1/2 inches.
Rounding out this dorado recipe is some rice — and I often put some cilantro sauce in there, too — slices of avocado, and pepitas. If you’re not familiar with pepitas, they are hulled pumpkin or squash seeds. Easy to find at convenience stores or supermarkets.
Dorado with Cilantro Sauce
- 1 to 2 pounds dorado fillet, or similar fish
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil, or other high smoke point oil
- Black pepper to taste
- 1/2 white onion, cut in half to make quarters
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 Anaheim, Hatch or poblano peppers,
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional)
- 1 bunch cilantro
- Salt and lime juice to taste
- Take the fish out of the fridge and salt it well.
- Make the cilantro sauce. Char the cut edges of the onions, the garlic cloves, and the skins of the peppers. Set the peppers in a plastic or paper bag to steam for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the skins, seeds and stems. Peel the garlic and roughly chop the onions. Put all of these, along with the cilantro, oregano if using, about 1/2 cup water, and a pinch of salt in a blender.
- Puree the sauce, adding enough water to give it the consistency of cream. Add more salt, and some lime juice to taste.
- Get a large sauté pan hot. Add the oil, swirl it around until it's hot. Pat the fish dry. I generally do 2 fillets at a time. Place a fillet down and immediately jiggle the pan to prevent it from sticking. Do the same to the other fillet. Let them sear for a solid 3 to 6 minutes, depending on how thick they are. You want the sizzle to sound like bacon, so not ragingly hot. Baste the exposed side of the fish with the oil by tipping the pan and spooning it over. Do this until it turns opaque.
- When you see a line of nice, caramelized fish where the dorado meets the pan, carefully try to lift the fillet. If it comes up easily, you're done. If not, let it keep cooking. It's OK if the fish sticks in one or two little spots, but don't scrape it up.
- Move the fish to a cutting board and grind black pepper over them. Do the other two fillets. If you're working with larger fillets and are worried the first ones will get cold, set them on a baking sheet in a warm oven, seared side up.
- To serve, pour some of the cilantro sauce on a plate, add the fish seared side up, and garnish with whatever you want. I like roasted pepitas and some avocado slices. Simple rice mixed with some sauce is a good starch.