Aug 23, 2011

Burn, Baby, Blacken

Do I have something tasty for you today?  Mais, yeah!

Doesn't come without mixed feelings though.

I used tasso.  Again.  There were leftovers from when I made the shrimp & tasso pasta a few weeks ago.  There it was.  Burning a hole--which is definitely not something I want going down in my freezer, I tell ya.  I feel a little guilty using such a localized ingredient.  Again.  (Ok, so all guilt was forgotten while I was eating.)  If you have access to andouille sausage, sub that.  I also think a (very) smoked sausage would work.   Guilt eased.
A little.

See, I'm on the fence because blackening is so...I don't know. 

Chef Paul Prudhomme, bless his heart, started burning blackening redfish in the early 1980s.  And it spread like smoky, spicy wildfire across the country. 

You know two sides to a coin, every rose having its thorn and all that? 

Well, this human feeding frenzy on reds is thought by some to have caused depletions in redfish populations.  So much so that the Louisiana legislature had to pass fishing restrictions.  Although the LSU AGCenter notes that redfish populations were declining slightly before the blackened redfish trend.  We all know through various newsworthy events (and may even be tired of hearing about them) the kind of damage humankind can do to our beloved Gulf of Mexico.  And I'm not normally one to rant and beat my chest over terribly serious topics here.  But I can't help but find it unsettling--the idea that the proverbial "we" pigged out on blackened redfish so much that it may have been destructive to their populations.

My big issue with blackening, though--all about image, baby.  When the blackening craze was at maximum, people far and wide thought that this is what Cajuns eat.  Everyday.  All the time.  People started blackening everything under the sun--tuna, tilapia, shrimp, chicken, venison, each other.  People thought that this was real Cajun food, cher. 

Black, burnt-looking, super spicy food indicative of Cajun cooking?  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  If you've been around here for a while, you know it gets under my skin how people equate Cajun with taste bud killing spiciness.  Or food becomes "Cajun" just because it has some hot sauce on it.     

But, doggit, the proof's on the plate.  And the truth is: plates get cleaned when something blackened is on them.

Important: Blackening should be done outside.  Unless you want every smoke detector in the place whining at you and every scrap of fabric smelling like a spice factory fire for days afterwards.

I don't know.  Maybe you're into those kinds of things. 

Also important: Blackening requires super high heat.  So you'll need to use a pan that can tolerate it.  Cast iron is best and is traditionally used.  (Although, let me stress again: blackening is not traditional.)

This was my inspiration for the sauce, along with my leftover tasso.
I use Creole mustard in as many things as possible.
Saute some onion, bell pepper, garlic, and finely diced tasso.  Add Creole mustard & cream.  Season to taste and allow to simmer.

On to the blackening seasoning.  Sure, you can buy it.  I won't judge you either.  But I like to control everything things.  I also like to make use of what's in my spice cabinet rather than cramming another jar into it.

This is a standard blackening seasoning.  I'll tell you a little secret.  The secret behind how/why blackening seasoning works.  It's all in the paprika.

Set a pan over high heat while you work on the chicken. 

Important too: whatever you're blackening, it can't be too thick.  The outside will burn before the inside is cooked through.  I sliced the chicken breasts into tenders to make sure this wouldn't happen.  You could also halve them horizontally.
Brush the chicken on both sides with melted butter and dredge in blackening seasoning.  Press the seasoning into the chicken.

My pot has been sitting over high heat getting white hot.  Well, as white hot as a black cast iron pot can get.  Ideally, a skillet would be better.  I'm thinking Christmas, maybe?

Drizzle a little melted butter where you'll place the chicken pieces and have at it.  But step aside quickly.  Two words: smoke inhalation.

Cook the chicken on one side until nice and blackened and flip.  Repeat on the second side.  If you have to cook in batches, keep what's cooked in a warm oven until serving.

Plate up, sauce up, allons manger!

Printable Version
Blackened Chicken w/ Creole Mustard Tasso Sauce

For the sauce:
1 Tbsp olive oil
about 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
about 1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
heaping 1/4 c diced tasso
1/4 c Creole mustard
3/4 c whipping cream
salt & pepper

Saute vegetables & tasso in olive oil.  Stir in the mustard.  Stir in the cream.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Simmer to thicken.

For the chicken:
1 lb chicken, sliced no more than 1/2" thick
blackening seasoning (recipe below)
5 Tbsp melted butter

Outdoors, begin heating up a pan over high heat.  While the pan heats up, brush each piece of chicken with melted butter.  Dredge in blackening seasoning and press the seasoning into the chicken.

When your pan is super hot, drizzle melted butter where you will place the chicken.  Add the chicken to the pan and cook until blackened.  Flip and blacken the second side.  If you need to cook in batches, place the chicken in a warm oven while you cook additional batches.

Plate up the chicken and spoon the sauce over the top.

Standard Blackening Seasoning
1 Tbsp paprika
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano

Combine all spices.  Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 1/3 cup.

Linking up this week with:

Food On Friday: Mustard @ Carole's Chatter
Make a Food-"e"-Friend Monday @ The Saturday Evening Pot
Tuesdays at the Table @ All The Small Stuff
Tasty Tuesday @ Naptime Creations
Hearth and Soul vol 62 @ Mom's Sunday Cafe
Delectable Tuesday @ Home Sweet Farm
Let's Do Brunch @ The 21st Century Housewife
Turning the Table Thursday @ Around My Family Table
What's Cooking Thursday @ Feeding Four
Simply Delish @ KB & Whitesnakes Home
Potluck Friday @ EKat's Kitchen
Fresh Food Friday @ la bella vita
Friday Food @ Mom Trends


  1. That is a very informative and great tutorial! I never knew the diff between the blackening and just plain burning it......but I am not southern so was never exposed to blackening. Like it though, never attempted it :-)

  2. I never realized there was so much to know about blackening!

  3. No matter what you call it, I call it just plain delicious looking!

  4. This look fantastic. i will have to give the recipe a try. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today. It's always nice to "meet" someone new!

  5. This sounds wonderful! I love learning about new ingredient options even if they aren't readily available to me. The internet has made it much easier to acquire ingredients from other regions. Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe with the Hearth and soul Hop.

  6. I tried blackened fish and loved it.

    Thanks for sharing with us at
    Simply Delish Saturday

  7. Well, I forgive you for making this dish that I can't possibly recreate in my kitchen. But only because it looks so good. :P

  8. I love the detail you have gone into with this recipe, and your wonderful photos. Also the spice mix and your mustard sauce sound just fantastic. Thank you for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul blog hop.

  9. This blackened chicken looks scrumptious and the mustard sauce is "over the top" Thanks for the great recipes and tutorial!

  10. Hey MM! Thanks for sharing this outstanding chicken recipe last week. I loved it so much that I featured it today on Fresh Food Friday. I know that you've already stopped by, but I hope you can come over again and if you haven't already (I haven't checked who brought what today), please share 2 or 3 recipes. I'm sorry that I got this thing up so late today! Hugs, Roz

  11. Is it bad that this Cajun has never tried to blacken anything?

    As a kid, when blackening was starting to become all the rage, I got a blackened dish that just tasted burnt. I think that is where my cooking block is coming from.

    How do you keep it on the edge of flavorful without tipping over into burnt?

  12. Erin-it is a fine line. Mostly a matter of watching things closely.

    My dad taught me a couple of things too.
    Keep the pieces thin so they cook through quickly. I was worried about the chicken not cooking through. My back-up plan was to finish them in a low oven if need be.

    Instead of melting butter, brushing it on, and drizzling it in the pan, my dad softens it. Then he coats his fish with the softened butter. He says this keeps the butter from burning in the pan, keeping the fish (or whatever) from burning as well. I don't have the patience (or time) to let butter sit out until it gets just the right consistency like he does.

    Some seasoning recipes include sugar. Not sure about commercial ones. I avoid adding sugar--I think I'd end up with burnt lumps otherwise.

    Chef Prudhomme now talks about bronzing rather than blackening--cooking until a bronze color is achieved and cooking at a lower temp.


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments.