Thursday, June 13, 2024

Why we love Mexico, reason #127: the fresh fish, such as dorado

Periodically I post pictures on my Facebook page about my life in Mexico: a gorgeous sunset, rows of beautiful Talavera pottery, fabulous carne asada tacos. I do it because I’m still at times incredulous at all the beauty and joy to be found here, but also to make my friends north of the border jealous. I often title these posts “Why We Love Mexico, Reason #xxx” just to rub it in.

Because I live on the coast, many of the posts have been about the fresh seafood — camarones, ostiones, dorado, atún, marlin ahumado — and I’ve grown accustomed to the abundance, affordability and freshness of what’s available here.

Dorado, called mahi-mahi or dolphinfish outside Mexico, is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s list of sustainable fish, depending on how it’s caught. The firm, mild, white-fleshed fish lends itself easily to many styles of cooking, and is just as good grilled simply with a squeeze of lime and some salt and pepper as it is in more complex recipes.

“Dorado” means golden in Spanish, and the fish do indeed have a glowing yellow belly and sides. An adult dorado can be six feet long; the ones I see at my local fish market are smaller, usually about four feet, down to 12-inch young ones. All have the signature weird square head and more or less golden colored sides.

My go-to easy dorado dinner involves a quick grilling and some sort of salsa or sauce. I add some rice or potatoes and a salad and that’s it. Chefs say one of the secrets to getting a nice crust on fish is to use a really hot pan and dry fish.

You also want to sear more on the first side; start skin-side up, and let that side cook longer, then flip and cook for 1-3 minutes more, depending on the size of the fillet.

Dorado, also known as mahi-mahi or dolphinfish.
Dorado, also known as mahi-mahi or dolphinfish.

Ginger Glazed Dorado

  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 4 (6 oz.) dorado fillets
  • Salt and pepper

In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, mix honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ginger, garlic and 2 tsp. olive oil. Season fish with salt and pepper, then place into dish skin side down. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to marinate. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove fish from dish, reserving marinade. Fry fish for 3-5 minutes on each side, turning only once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fillets and keep warm. Pour reserved marinade into skillet and heat over medium heat until mixture reduces to a glaze. Spoon over fish and serve.

Grilled Dorado with Avocado-Chile Salsa

  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into small chunks
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup minced red onion
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • ½ cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1½ lbs. dorado, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Make salsa by combining first seven ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, mix olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper; marinate fish for 20-30 minutes before grilling. Grill or cook under a broiler 3-5 minutes per side. Top with salsa and serve.

Grilled dorado with an avocado and chile salsa.
Grilled dorado with an avocado and chile salsa.

Garlic-Lemon Grilled Dorado

  • 1 lemon
  • 4 (4-6-oz) dorado fillets
  • 1¼ tsp. salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley leaves

Cut half the lemon into round paper-thin slices. Juice the remaining half to get 1½ Tbsp. of juice; set both aside. Pat fish dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet or nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until just starting to smoke, 3-5 minutes. Add the dorado (skin-side up if there’s skin) and sear undisturbed until well-browned on the bottom and the sides are cooked just past halfway up the fillets, about 4 minutes. Flip the fillets and continue to sear until just cooked through and the flesh flakes easily, 2 to 4 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fillets. Transfer to a serving platter.

Turn heat to low and add lemon juice and garlic and remaining ¼ tsp. salt to the same pan. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Add the lemon slices, then stir the butter in, one piece at a time, waiting until each piece is almost melted before adding the next. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in the fresh herbs. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if needed. Pour over the fish and serve immediately.

Bobby Flay’s Fish Tacos

  • 1 lb. dorado fillets
  • ¼ cup olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 Tbsp. ancho chile powder
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Toppings as desired

Preheat grill to medium-high. Place fish in medium size dish. Whisk together oil, lime juice, ancho, jalapeño and cilantro and pour over fish. Marinate in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Remove fish from marinade and place onto a hot grill, flesh side down. Grill 4 minutes on the first side, flip and cook 30 seconds more and remove. Let rest for 5 minutes, then flake the fish with a fork. Heat tortillas on the grill. Divide fish among the tortillas and garnish as desired with shredded white cabbage, hot sauce, sour cream, red onion and cilantro.

Janet Blaser has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to be able to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at

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